|Hitar Petar||Michail Liutzkanov|
|Nastradin Hodcha||Boris I. Christov|
It is not very appropriate for a person to write his own characterization. But this becomes unavoidable when it is necessary to explicate several things. I like strong humor and felicity and I believe them to be necessary for every person. After labor and tension, humor freshens, and makes a person livelier and hardier. This is why side by side with the symphonic poem, "Bloody Song," and the opera "Salambo," the cantata "Let it be day," the instrumental concerts and others, I have devoted a great deal of attention to humor. My first opera, "Womens Kingdom" is a comedy; the orchestral suite "Bai Ganio" is also of a grotesque character. The opera "Hitar Petar" is my third work of this nature.
What do I like about "Hitar Petar," the folktale character loved by young and old? He is cunning (clever like the common people), kind-hearted, witty, brave, and knows how to get out of every situation. Unfortunately, during the development of the plot, there were no other sources in our literature besides the folktales. This is why as authors of the libretto we were faced with many challenges during our first attempt to adapt Hitar Petar for the opera.
Who doesnt know of Hitar Petar, who doesnt already have a formulated opinion about the character? Will the opera adaptation cover all these various ideas? These are the questions that have troubled us, and trouble us today.
If the opera brings happiness and a couple hours of laughter to the laborers, I will be happy, and will have fulfilled my creative task.
Hitar Petar is a popular hero in Bulgarian folk tales and is found in hundreds of stories set during the Ottoman yoke (1393-1878). His "partner" is the Turkish hodja, Nastradin, who usually plays the part of the canny fool; the interaction between the two involves friendly jokes containing no malice.
During the twentieth century, a number of famous Bulgarian authors had adapted some of the stories about Hitar Petar into novels. He is a stereotypical representation of the poor Bulgarian villager, who always finds a way to ridicule the rich.
Premier 22 March 1958 - Sofia National Opera
The opera as playlist
At an autumn fair near a Bulgarian village, the people walk about, selling, buying and having fun. Nastradin Hodja appears, accompanied by the mayor, the village "big man" (chorbadjia) Ignat, and his son, as well "big Men" from other villages. Damian, who has caught sight of his love Iglika, daughter of Hitar Petar, wants to talk to her, but his father, Ignat, who despises poverty, scolds him, drives him away and then insults Iglika. Nastradin Hodja orates, but in reality is looking for his debtors, who have promised to pay him back during the fair.
Hitar Petar arrives, happily welcomed by the people. Iglika warns him not to meddle with Nastradin Hodja and the mayor, who gives him a malicious look. But Hitar Petar, true to his nature, entertains the people with his wit, and turns his jokes into arrows directed at Nastradin and the "big men."
Angered by the noisy revelries, Nastradin Hodja calls the debtors, who are friends of Hitar Petar, and tells them to pay off their debts with interest. The people, outraged by the Hodja's greed, stand behind the debtors. Hitar Petar also joins the argument, unmasks the Hodja and reminds him that even the fiercest wolf eventually gets caught in a trap.
Kera, Hitar Petar's wife, arrives unexpectedly. She scolds him for chatting instead of trying to make some money, and because his sack is full of food and drink instead of goods for sale
Nastradin Hodja and the "big men" laugh at Hitar Petar, who wants to give advice, but cannot handle a woman. The people feel for Hitar Petar, and Kera, angered by the derision, becomes silent.
Hitar Petar calmly and confidently answers Nastradin Hodja and warns him that he will not only make him part with the women and his wealth, but will also make him become human. In the confusion he manages to get the Hodja's debtors away. Mayor Ignat blames Hitar Petar for the rioting, and threatens to banish him. Kera, before following her husband from the fair, warns the Hodja not to deride Hitar Petar because he does not know his cunning. As the day ends, people go their own ways and the shopkeepers put their goods away.
Left alone, Iglitsa is saddened that Damian hasn't looked for her all day. Damian appears at this moment; he discloses his love and the two dream about their future.
In the back yard of Hodja's harem Hitar Petar appears on the high wall facing the road along with his helper Radoi Razumni [the last name meaning "reasonable"]. He has determined to steal the youngest of Nastradins women the beautiful Sanie. The Hodja has gathered all the men for prayer in the nearby mosque. Hitar Petar attempts to distract Radoi when approaching steps prompt them to hide where Hitar Petar can see the entire yard.
Sanie appears and heads towards the well in order to fetch some water, but the young Turk, Ben, the Hodja's groundskeeper stands in her way and begins to declare his love. Sanie, visibly angered, ignores Ben but even so she is not completely uncaring when it comes to his warm words. As Ben swears to her in the name of Allah, Hitar Petar throws one of his shoes at the two, frightening them off. The windows of the harem light up, and the two night thieves hide once again.
Fatime, Halide and Sanie enter the yard to enjoy the cool night air. Their conversation is cut off unexpectedly by the secretive voice of Petar Hitar, who, hidden in the well, begins to talk as if he were Allah, taking advantage of the women's faith. To the older Fatime and Halide, "Allah" prescribes deep sleep, and they, frightened and submissive, go back inside the harem. He bids the youngest, naive and trusting Sanie, to go to a certain crossroads and to put the Hodja's purse in the hands of the first person to tell her: "Be happy, Sanie."
Cheered by the happiness foretold by this secretive voice, Sanie obeys. Radoi Razumni, thinking that he might actually be a bit cleverer than Hitar Petar, decides to take advantage of Sanie's gullibility himself. He shuts the lid of the well to impede Hitar Petar, and leaves.
Hitar Petar yells, swears and pounds on the lid of the well until Ben hears him. Hitar Petar convinces Ben to open the lid of the well by telling him that he knows about his feelings for Sanie and that he could say something about it to the Hodja. Having Ben under his power, Hitar Petar comes out of the well and promises his help. Joyful, the two new companions hurry after Radoi and Sanie.
Late at night Damian nears the home of his love singing. Iglika appears, but their conversation is interrupted by the sound of footsteps. The two hide. Nastradin Hodja and his friend, the "big man" Ignat, appear frightened and cautious. They are searching for Sanie. The memory of Hitar Petar's threats leads them to his home. Hitar Petar follows, hidden in the shadows of the night. The two night heroes stumble upon a series of surprises set up for them by their clever opponent.
Nastradin Hodja is caught in an uncomfortable position under Kera's window, as she calls for help. Before a gathered crowd, Nastradin calls to Hitar Petar for help. Humbled by grief and shame, Nastradin begs Hitar Petar to return his Sanie. Hitar Petar graciously tells him that Sanie is far away and that "Allah the Wise" has bidden her to marry Ben. The Hodja faints.
Unwittingly and by pure habit Ignat runs to help him, but is unable to explain being at Petar's house. He denies that he has anything to do with the Hodja; to save himself from suspicion he tells the people that he is there in order to ask Kera and Hitar Petar for their daughter's hand in marriage to his son, Damian.
"A good idea," answers Petar. "A good idea," repeats his helper Radoi, whom Hitar Petar grabs by the collar, and takes from his pocket the Hodja's full purse. Hitar Petar throws the coins to the people in honor of the two young lovers, and gives his approval for the marriage. He invites the newly engaged couple and the guests to feast. He also invites the Hodja, but he pulls away.
With merriment and festivity, Hitar Petar and the common people give Nastradin Hodja a lesson in humanity, fairness and Bulgarian hospitality.