Opera from Bulgarian National Radio

The decades in which Bulgaria was rigidly embedded in the orbit of the Soviet Union inevitably controlled the programming in its opera houses. In addition to native works, some of which were included on AE 205, Opera from Bulgaria, performances were predominantly of the operas of Russia, Italy and France. German opera, in particular the works of Richard Wagner, were seldom programmed and the one selection here, Der Fliegende Holländer, and the one on AE 205, Lohengrin, were exceptions indicating how significant that loss might have been.

      Bizet: Les pêcheurs de perles
La Gioconda
Don Carlo
Der fliegende Holländer


  Notes from Frank Fischer:

Following Opera from Bulgaria (AE 205), Opera from BNR (Opera from Bulgarian National Radio - AE 210) presents broadcast performances that were typical of the time. The intent of these volumes is to present as complete as possible an audio documentary of the operatic life in Bulgaria. This project would not have been possible without the support of Bulgarian National Radio. They shared the vision of Mike Richter and myself in presenting the operatic culture of Bulgaria to the international world, where especially in the West the culture was relatively unknown, through the Audio Encyclopedia. It is our hope that other countries open their operatic cultures as we are doing here.

In completing this volume the help of the following has been indispensable to the finished product.:

For a special thank you I would like to mention Ganka Dilova, the sister of the late mezzo-soprano Penka Dilova (heard in AE 205). In memory of her sister Ganka has gone to great efforts to supply me with printed materials, out of print books and recordings that were far beyond my reach. I would like to finish now by quoting the final paragraphs of a letter sent to me by Ganka on 4 November 2002.

"So, I fulfilled all my promises up to now to you, I am overtired, not healthy, but glad to be still able to do something useful not only for my sister, but for the Bulgarian culture. It exists now with great financial problems and cannot use its enormous possibilities because of lack of money. Many talented people leave our Country, but we are still here, Bulgaria lives with its great culture as an inseparable part of the world culture.

I think everybody here must give from himself the maximum to support the pride, the national dignity of our people, neglecting the poverty, the difficulties in the life, caused not by the noble, good, talented people. It is a pity that the people suffers so much and the justice is hidden somewhere in the future. Dear Mr. Fischer, best regards to you, your family and your collaborators and sponsors with whom you realize your so necessary, noble, useful ideas to present the great Bulgarian opera art in the USA and the world."

Frank Fischer
939 N. Negley Av.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

  Notes from Mike Richter:

Native artists dominated the performances at all the Bulgarian opera houses and inevitably (considering the era), the Bulgarian language was chosen to communicate with the audience. Where major artists had achieved international standing, they would use the language in which they were most prepared, so that we have a curious combination of tongues on some of these recordings. For example, Nikolai Ghiaurov tried out his Filippo II first in Sofia, so we have that early effort by the great basso here in Italian, but the rest of the cast for that Don Carlo sings in Bulgarian. Admittedly, the language itself takes some acclimitazation and the mix is even stranger to modern ears, but it was quite common in Europe until recent days.

Many of the finest basses associated with Russian opera were, in fact, Bulgarian. Boris Christov, Nikolai Ghiaurov and Nikolai Ghiuselev have been among the great interpreters of the roles of Mussorgsky in particular. Bulgarian houses programmed a great deal of Russian opera, yet we have chosen to hold off on those works here and to concentrate on reasonably standard repertoire displaying the high quality of Bulgarian operatic art in works familiar to the general audience. Some Russian opera from Bulgaria is in independent circulation, notably a fine Monitor recording of Rachmaninov's Aleko; we hope to cover other titles in another volume.

Bulgarian National Radio served to spread the performances beyond the bounds of the cities in which the performances were heard. Similarly, its recordings here spread those experiences to the rest of the world. Through their cooperation, we can offer a cross-section of the programming heard there over more than a quarter of a century, from 1957 through 1983. Needless to say, the ten titles selected for this disc are only a fraction of Bulgarian National Radio's broadcasts and an even smaller sampling of the productions of the seven companies, but they do represent a fair cross-section of Western operas performed in Bulgaria in that period. For more information on Bulgarian National Radio, please see AE 205, Opera from Bulgaria.

On listening to these performances, one may well wonder why such remarkable artists as the dramatic soprano, Julia Wiener, were so little known in other countries. Of course, one factor is that they sang primarily or exclusively in Bulgarian, a language in little demand in the great houses where otherwise they would be likely to be heard as guests. Another explanation is the restriction on travel beyond the Eastern Bloc during that era, an understandable limitation when such stellar performers as Ghiaurov and Evstatieva were reluctant to return to their homeland 'after they've seen Paris', London, Vienna and New York. Similarly, such fine artists as Stoyan Popov chose to remain in their native land. Since talent is not confined by national borders and since excellent training was provided in Sofia and Moscow, many fine singers may be new to those who hear this disc. For that, we thank Bulgarian National Radio for their generosity in making these recordings available.

Many of the major artists in these recordings were featured on AE205 Opera from Bulgaria. You will find their names highlighted in the cast lists. Clicking on that highlight will link you to the biographical information and the pronunciation of the singer's name.

Michael Richter
2600 Colby Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064-3716

  Technical matters are dealt with on a separate page