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 Bulgarian Operas


Goleminov Ivailo

Sofia National Opera - 1964 - Marin Goleminov (c)

Character    Artist
Ivailo    Pavel Gerdjikov
Kremena    Katia Popova
Maria    Nadia Afejan
Andronik    Lubomir Bodurov
Terter    Svetoslav Ramadanov
Vihar    Traicho Vatashki
Godeslav    Boris I. Christov
Grudyu    Kosta Getzov
Efrosina    Siika Petrova
Teoktista    Jordanka Dimcheva
Duruguch    Pavel Manolov

What attracted me to the subject of Ivailo were the richness of the revolutionary pathos and the tragic battles of the period.

On the background of historical events, with the tragic fate of the common people and their moral greatness, I have attempted to underline the human psychological drama that arises from the conflict between two different worlds that of Byzantium and that of Bulgaria. The existence of these two worlds gave me the opportunity to place the music in a richer and more contradictory context.

I have used a leitmotiv technique in the musical-dramatic synthesis of the opera.

The theatrical material has almost no folk elements.

Marin Goleminov


Ivailo is a historical individual. It is debated whether he was an ordinary villager or a poor vassal. The latter is more probable because Ivailo demonstrated exemplary qualities as a military leader, defeating the invading Tatar armies during a series of consecutive battles, which the king in Veliko Turnovo was unable to deal with. Ivailos nickname is "Burdokva", or the Boar. This could have been a nickname (such as the Lion-heart, Blue-beard, the Eagle-eye, etc.) or it could be an indication of profession (i.e. a person who takes care of the swine.)

According to historical sources, Ivailo initially banished the Tatars and then headed for the capital, met the kings army, won the battle and then took the throne he became the "good king," but soon disappeared from the political scene. The story line of the libretto is entirely fictional. Ivailo leaves his mark as a national leader, fighting in the name of the poor and the underprivileged, a sort of Robin Hood.

Premier 13 February 1959 - Sofia National Opera

The opera as playlist


Scene 1

In a Balkan village, people scurry about distressed by the invading Tatar bands. Refugees have brought word that the Tatars are moving further into Bulgarian lands, burning and pillaging as they go.

The defenseless villagers, abandoned by the king and the boyars, cry: "From the north, invading Tatars; from the south, the Byzantine army!" But the minstrel, grandfather Prodan tries to calm the villagers with a song about Ivailo son of the people. Ivailo and his men have managed to thwart many Tatar bands, and his fame is spreading throughout the Bulgarian lands. It is not incidental that the people have gathered in front of Ivailo's home. Frightened women come screaming "The Tatars are invading!" Shepherds announce that the coming horsemen are not the Tatars, but Ivailo's men. The villagers greet their savior with shouts of, "Long live Ivailo!" Ivailo calls the people to action against the Tatars and the boyars, ordering a great feast before retiring to his home with his wife Kremena.

Andronik, a courtier and a favorite of Queen Maria, arrives and gives the Kumanian warlord Duruguch an order to enlist in the militia to kill Ivailo. They part after agreeing to fight against Ivailo and his followers in the name of the Byzantine queen.

On the way to the well, Kremena rejoices that the days of waiting are over and her Ivailo is once again home. But Mlada, the wife of Vihur, one of Ivailo's men, fills Kremena's heart with renewed unrest. Far off roads are once again awaiting Ivailo. Kremena's joy is shattered. She takes with heavy heart her friend's light prediction that she will one day be a queen. When Ivailo comes to her at the well, she begs him to stay at home with her. Ivailo tries to calm her by telling her that the struggle is near its end.

The people gather to celebrate, but are interrupted by a soldier running in to announce that the Tatars are coming. The people panic as fires can be seen from nearby villages. Ivailo tells the people to find shelter. Kremena, who until now has wanted to keep her husband with her, suddenly tells Ivailo, "People are dying there go to them, Ivailo!" As fires light up the horizon Ivailo and his men head to battle with the Tatars.

Scene 2

In a room in Ivailo's tower Kremena, Mlada and grandfather Prodan await Ivailo. Duruguci is seen walking on the balcony. He has gained Ivailo's trust and was been left behind as guard. Ivailo's horn is heard in the distance and everyone heads out to greet him. Andronic, who has just arrived, gives Duruguci a new order from the queen: Ivailo must not be killed, but his wife should be kidnapped.

Ivailo is happy because he is once again in his home and with his wife. But Kremena's heart is heavy for fear that her love will not stay long. Teoktista, a nun from Turnovo monastery, has secretly been sent by Maria in order to find out what kind of man Ivailo is. The queen is already making new plans.

Vihar rushes in unexpectedly to announce that the boyar Godeslav is conspiring with other boyars. Ivailo immediately gathers a hundred soldiers and heads towards the tower of Godeslav in order to stop the planned attack. When Vihar exits, Ivailo looks to Georgi Terter. Terter and some boyars are unhappy with Queen Maria. In order to satisfy their own ambition, they are ready to help Ivailo get to the throne. But they have one condition: Ivailo should leave his wife, a common woman, and he should marry a boyar. Kremena hearing the conversation is deeply hurt, but is willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the good of the people and Ivailo. Ivailo loves Kremena and refuses to abandon her.

Scene 3

The villagers are returning, having failed to find Godeslav. Over the distant chant of the monks, Ivailo has stopped at the monastery to visit his friend, the abbot Seraphim, and tells him about the plot. Seraphim sees that Godeslav, along with two other boyars, have entered the monastery. The abbot tells Ivailo to hide, but Ivailo refuses: "I will meet them with my sword!" until the monk's argument prevails.

Godeslav, Boril, and Grudiu enter. They have learned that Ivailo is at the monastery, but they have been unable to find him. They cannot come to peace with the idea that a shepherd will become their king or that a village woman should be their queen. They take out their swords and head out to search the area for Ivailo. All of a sudden, Ivailo jumps out from hiding and angrily declares, "Kill me, traitors!". The boyars are taken aback. Godeslav's people come in ready to attack Ivailo. But he stands bravely in front of them

   Hey, my brothers, are you Bulgarian?
   And who will you kill?
   I am Ivailo!
   I am fighting for you!
   I am a common man like you.
   Put down your swords!

The villagers stand shocked, hesitate, and then throw down their swords. The boyars are at Ivailo's mercy, but he will not spill Bulgarian blood. He needs soldiers, not corpses. Ivailo asks the boyars to come with him to Turnovo. The boyars realize their mistake and join Ivailo. An out-of-breath soldier arrives and announces that the Tatars have attacked Ivailo's tower and have kidnapped Kremena. Ivailo rushes out of the room with the others following him.

Scene 4

In a hall in the castle of Turnovo, Queen Maria is disturbed by the betrayal of Terter, Godeslav, and the other boyars. The rope around her neck tightens as she realizes that she is left virtually alone to fight her enemies. But the queen does not yet despair. She has her own schemes. Andronik reproaches her for not having killed Ivailo when she had the chance. He tells her to leave the throne and to flee from Bulgaria, but Maria refuses. In order to keep the crown for her son, she has made her final decision: she will marry Ivailo. Andronik is appalled she, a Byzantine princess, marrying a Bulgarian shepherd! Andronik loves her and cannot picture her in the arms of another. He leaves with the thought: Duruguch will kill Ivailo.

Kremena is now in Turnovo and thinks that she has been captured by the boyars. Not wanting to be an obstacle in Ivailo's way, she decides to become a nun. But Maria wants to rid herself of Kremena forever. She has brought Kremena here to tell her that Ivailo will be marrying a boyar's daughter. Kremena is too weak to handle this blow and becomes faint. Maria sees that this village woman and her love for Ivailo are dangerous for her plans. Instead of medicine, Maria gives Kremena poison and tells her maliciously that she, Maria, will marry Ivailo. The innocent young woman is crushed. She realizes that it was not the boyars that kidnapped her but the queen. Ivailo marrying Maria, stained with Bulgarian blood? No, she will not allow that! Kremena hurls condemnation at the Byzantine queen. Incensed, Maria leaves the room with sarcastic laughter. Kremena is crushed that Ivailo has forgotten her. Hearing footsteps, she hides behind a curtain. She overhears Andronik and Teodor discussing the Duruguch's intention to murder Ivailo. When the two men leave, Kremena is overtaken by terror. This is no castle; it is Hell! She has to save Ivailo, but she does not know how. There are no Bulgarians in this place and all the exits are shut.

Scene 5

At night in Ivailo's camp near Turnovo the walls of the Tsarevets castle can be seen in the distance. Ivailo cannot fall asleep for anticipating that he is to become king - it is both wonderful and frightening! Yet he doubts the boyars and sees the great danger when he is alone among them. If only Kremena was with him right now

Kremena enters, led by Vihar, barely able to stand. Ivailo cant believe his eyes. Unable to warn her husband about the threat to his life, Kremena falls on the ground dead. Ivailo before the body of his dead love, overtaken by pain and despair.

The sky outside begins to lighten. All of a sudden, the sound of trumpets is heard. This is the call to battle. Ivailo wakes up from his daze. The sound of the moving army can be heard. Vihar enters with the words "The army awaits you!" Ivailo grievingly leaves his wife and heads to his soldiers.

Scene 6

Mihail, Maria's son, hears Ivailo's approaching army. The courtiers are panicked. Maria, frightened but not defeated, prepares her son for Ivailo's arrival. She believes that she can overcome the warrior through her cunning, charm and treachery, thus preserving the crown for her son. Outside, the people rejoice as Ivailo enters Tsarevets. Maria becomes faint and loses her balance for a moment. She quickly comes back to herself and heads out to greet Ivailo followed by her servants and her son.

Scene 7 - 10:15

In the square before the castle, Maria and her courtiers, stand in festival formation awaiting Ivailo's arrival. He enters in triumph, carried by the people and his soldiers. The queen bows and greets him as a "welcomed guest." Ivailo answers her that here, he is not a guest but a master. Ivailo victoriously enters the castle as the people rejoice.