Perhaps one of the most important, but not well known, exports of Bulgaria is its opera singers. There are few major opera stages in the world that have not benefited from the artistry and voices of these singers. To many otherwise knowledgeable opera fans, these singers are perceived to be Russian rather than Bulgarian. There are a number of reasons for this: little understanding of the Slavic languages, limited awareness of Bulgaria itself, and possibly the political climate of earlier decades which restricted many Bulgarian singers to performing in the Eastern Bloc countries.
The interest in opera in Bulgaria dates only from the end of the 19th century. This was most likely due to the country being under the control of the Ottoman Turks until the liberation of 1878. The earliest operatic influences came from Czech bandmasters who set up orchestras in Bulgaria after the liberation as well as performances in the 1880's and 1890's by touring opera companies from Italy and Russia. That tradition is reflected in the opening music for this page, a fragment of the ballet from Tzar Kaloyan.
Our purpose in this project is to present an overview of the singers and operatic life in Bulgaria rather than an in-depth study. Anyone interested in more detailed information on a particular singer or subject presented here is encouraged to research more thoroughly. Meanwhile, we hope that this volume of the Audio Encyclopedia will both convey insight into the rich development of opera in Bulgaria and incentive to research the artists and music of the country. Note: the word "we" here is used to reflect that this disc is the result of the joint efforts of Frank Fischer, who conceived the idea and assembled the materials, and Mike Richter, who produced the disc. Notes from each follow.
After visiting Bulgaria I became aware of the beauty of the country and the great wealth of culture that was relatively unknown in the western world. This was a country, smaller than the state of Pennsylvania that had at one time ten opera companies.
Following repeated visits to Bulgaria, I felt that the contribution to the international world of opera by these world class singers should be given a permanent collective record that would document their accomplishments. This disc provides that document, highlighting in addition to the singers a brief history of the development of Bulgarian Opera, opera houses, composers, Bulgarian National Radio and the Boris Christoff Young Singers Competition. Complete opera performances are included not only of popular operas from other countries but operas written by Bulgarian composers. With the kind and enthusiastic support of Bulgarian National Radio, broadcast quality tapes have been furnished from which these transfers have been made. Additional recordings of varying quality have been obtained through the artists and their families. Please note that the limited sound quality on this disc is not representative of the fine, stereo source material available in many cases.
Due to the overwhelming number of Bulgarian opera singers who have recorded in and outside Bulgaria, (Bulgarian National Radio has well over 360 singers recorded in their archives), criteria had to be established for their inclusion in this presentation.
Most of the recommendations have come from educators, music critics, impresarios and singing professionals in Bulgaria. Due to the nature of creative art, there are some gray areas of value. In these gray areas, I have opted to make the final decision for inclusion in this work. A major singer not presented is because of my lack of knowledge of their career. As I become aware of them, they will be properly included upon meeting the established criteria.
A major difficulty has been in obtaining accurate biographic information. Unfortunately, other than international publications, minimal biographic information has been available in Bulgaria. In Bulgarian reference publications, data are brief, often inaccurate and lacking in the specifics required for a more complete biography. The major source of information, "The Encyclopedia of Musical Culture", was published in 1967 and nothing printed of biographic importance followed. Additionally, artists not in favor with the government were regularly eliminated from reference materials between 1944 and 1989. Many of the biographies had to be obtained through contact with the artists, their families or friends. Because of these difficulties any inaccuracies are asked to be excused and if brought to my attention, will be corrected.
Without the support and help from the following, the results to date of this project would have been impossible:
And, most importantly, Svetlana Dimitrova of Bulgarian National Radio, who in addition to sharing my interest in the project has kept me focussed on what recordings should be included.
Frank McD. Fischer
939 N. Negley Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15206
E-mail: operfrank@aol. com
It has been a pleasure to work with Frank in development of this disc and to enter it as the first national volume in the evolving Audio Encyclopedia. That project has been developing for a few years. Its scope and purpose are identified at my WWW site at http://mrichter.simplenet.com/
At this writing, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org ,
through http://mrichter.simplenet.com or at
2600 Colby Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064-3716
Macintosh users are urged to read macread.txt on this disc as well as the following.
The files on this disc are recorded in MP3 format. Players for such compressed audio are available for most platforms. Since most users of personal computers when this disc was published have 32-bit Windows installed on their systems, we include a licensed browser and a freeware player for their convenience.
Those running Windows who do not find that the browser begins automatically may start it by running I_VIEW.EXE from the root of the CD-ROM drive. Those running other systems, such as Mac and Unix boxes, will need both a browser and an installed MPEG player. Even Windows users may use their preferred browsers equipped with MP3 players. Operation with any browser other than the one on the disc requires that you point it to the CD-ROM and WELCOME.HTM as the URL.
Every effort has been made to ensure that all files are accessible to all users. The prototype of this disc was tested on a variety of computers and all reasonably modern ones have worked in the configurations tested. There is little that can be done if your computer has problems with these files short of upgrading the computer. As an indication of its modest needs, the disc proved fully functional on a Pentium 75 laptop with 8 MB of RAM and a 2x CD-ROM drive.
We have chosen to use the least possible processing of the sound which gives acceptable listening and preserves as much as possible of the original material. If you explore the features of the WinAmp player by right-clicking on it when it is active, you will find a Graphic Equalizer which lets you adjust the balance to your taste. Those controls must be set each time you start the disc. If you wish the changes to persist, you may prefer to adjust your playback equipment.
Those using their own browsers will certainly need no assistance. That is fortunate, since it would be difficult to cover all the options of browsers and MP3 plugins and helpers. If you are running the I_VIEW browser on the disc, you should find all operations familiar. Simply click on a link to access it. If you have trouble seeing everything in the browser, please ensure that the page is maximized by clicking the icon one to the left and one down from the top-right corner. Unfortunately, the browser does not 'remember' that setting and you will need to click the icon each time you start the program.
One easy way to integrate MP3 playback into a browser on your PC is to visit http://www.audioactive.com and to download and install the helper appropriate for your system. At the time of publication, they offered helpers not only for Win95, Win98 and NT, but also for Windows 3.x and Macintosh; however, the Macintosh player at this time does not handle our files and the Mac instructions should be followed instead.
The WinAmp player here is not the current version but a freeware release quite sufficient for our needs. We thank the developers at Nullsoft for permission to include this excellent program. WinAmp has been preset to the values needed for operation - which is fortunate, since those values cannot be recorded to the CD-ROM and therefore will return to the presets whenever the disc is first accessed.