|1st Ktitor||Svetoslav Ramadanov|
|2nd Ktitor||Kostadin Shekerliiski|
|3rd Ktitor||Nikolai Stoilov|
Zachari Zograph was a distinguished artist who lived during the first half of the 19th century and left behind a multitude of icons and frescos. The most valuable of these are the frescos of Bachkovo Monastery (founded during the 12th century). As an artist, Zachari Zograph broke the norms of the Byzantine school. The libretto is entirely fictional, as is the "competition" between the two brothers. Both of them were acknowledged masters, and left behind a number of frescos and icons, now housed within monasteries, churches, and art galleries.
Premier 17 October 1972 - Sofia National Opera
The opera as playlist
Before departing to paint icons on churches throughout Bulgaria, Zachari meets Christina and expresses his love. He asks her to be true to him as he keeps her image in his heart.
Deep in thought as he paints the face of the Holy Mother in a church, his hand always draws the face of his beloved Christiana. He questions weather he has the right to paint a common face on the church wall. His thoughts are interrupted by a group of wealthy patrons who wonder at his perfect iconography.
Before leaving they remind him to put their names on the wall. Mockingly he responds by questioning those who pay the painters to put their names on walls. Standing before the image of his beloved, he connects with her mentally for inspiration. His inner voice speaks with Christiana and he firmly decides to liberate himself through the religious canons of iconography. He will introduce in his art real life and truth. At the same time Christiana calls him to return to her.
Zachari returns home a wealthy and respected painter. Full of joy, he rushes to meet Christiana only to find she has married his brother, Dimitar. Neither the happiness of his mother nor the cordiality of his brother could calm him; he feels only Christiana's infidelity.
Zachari's mother suggests that it is his turn to marry and have a family. Angry and disappointed, he tells them about his beloved who now is dead to him. These words strike Christina in the heart; Zachari sees her reaction and boasts of the money he receives and the offers of marriage to the daughters of the wealthy men of Plovdiv and Turnavo.
Zachari asks permission of his brother Dimitar to paint Christiana. When they are alone Zachari tries to understand the reason she agreed to marry Dimitar. The painting does not go well. With his heart burning and his hand trembling, it is impossible to paint. He cannot paint Christina in person.
Zachari is painting in a large church when the sexton arrives and expresses his respect and admiration of the work Dimitar enters and looks at the icons with interest, but he questions Zachari's break with traditional rules. Zachari believes he should paint the common people, real life not boring relics of anonymous saints. His art is inspired by the love and faith in the people. Dimitar is not happy that the image of Christiana always appears in the icons. Angrily he reminds Zachari, "Once I permitted you to paint Christina and now you only use her image. This is laziness and lack of imagination." In pain, Zachari responds: "You robbed me." The retort prompts Dimitar to try to hit him, but when the sign of the cross materializes, Zachari understands that Christiana was the only inspiration for his art.
A human shadow is seen in the darkness. Zachari secretly meets Christiana and asks her to follow him. Christiana refuses, saying she is a faithful wife and her dignity will not allow her to commit such a sin. With a broken heart Zachari goes away without losing faith in his love for Christiana. He is convinced that she still loves him.
Accepting his fate, Zachari begins painting icons on the white walls of the monastery. Visitors from his home town tell Zachari of the plague that has devastated his town of Samokov. All of his relatives escaped except Christiana who recognized her illness and asked the others to save their lives by fleeing. Zachari rushes home where Christiana meets him with joy, remembering their first date and their silent love. At the end she confesses he is her only love. This confession evoked the artist in Zachari and he began to paint her portrait as her strength gives way. Silently, Christiana dies looking at her lover's masterpiece.