TWO WORLD OPERA STARS TRIUMPHED IN “TOSCA”
The event occurred on 16 July 2021 on the stage of the Antique Forum “Augusta Traiana” in Stara Zagora. The pleasant surprises began at the moment when the audience entered. In the south and in the west of the stage there was an amphitheatrically placed a new auditorium, with new comfortable seats for the spectators. The other impression was produced by the huge stage-space of several levels. With the exception of the first act, the opera “Tosca” is almost a chamber opera, and these clear terrains promised unexpectable situations. Absolutely all the seats were taken + the “stones” as opera boxes. There were many guests from the country as well to satisfy their curiosity of the presentation by the two world stars – Zvetelina Vassileva in the role of Tosca and the best contemporary Verdi baritone Zeljko Lucic in the role of Scarpia.
The director of the production Ognyan Draganov and the chief conductor Prof. Ivaylo Krinchev PhD, presented in all of its brilliance one classical “Tosca”, but with many additional scenic details in order to reveal even more clearly the specific ideas in the tragedy, which inspired the genius composer Giacomo Puccini. I must share my impression of the lucid, but very functional scenography by Ventsislav Petrov and Ivan Gospodinov, accompanied by projections and effects, as well as the costumes, which are the work of Denis Ivanov.
When great names are guest-performing, the spectacles rise by several levels. This “Tosca” will be written with golden letters in the history of the Stara Zagora State Opera as a culmination achievement in every respect – orchestra, choir, supporting roles, magnificent soloists and of course the excellent presentation by the golden singer of Bulgaria Zveteliva Vassileva and the great Zeljko Lucic. I am in a hurry to mention the other soloists too, who lived up to the level of the stars – Cavaradossi – Ivaylo Mihaylov, Angelotti – Aleksandar Marulev, sacristan – Ivan Kabamitov, Spoletta – Ivaylo Yovchev and others. Zvetelina Vassileva recreated her character of Floria Tosca, as an actress as well, giving her entirely up to her without an effort, with immaculate vocal performance, with bright clarity and behavior… During the whole spectacle we were witnesses of the transitional embodiment of a delicate prima donna to a coquette with self-confidence, a beautiful woman in love, intelligent, sensitive and vulnerable, proud, strong, resolute, cruel. Her central aria in the second act “I lived for the Art” was not only a prayer to God, who at this crucial moment deserted her, but also a recapitulation of her life, of her broken dreams, of the upside downs of fate.
The Stara Zagora audiences love Zvetelina Vassileva – the golden singer of Bulgaria, who several times guest-performed in “Turandot”, as well again by Puccini. She has sung in the most prestigious opera theaters in the world such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera Theater Covent Garden in London, Staats Opera in Berlin, Brussels, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago, Tokyo, Moscow, Prague, and many others in Europe, USA and Asia.
Ah, this Scarpia, this Scarpia! As if when Puccini wrote the music, he had had in mind exactly Zeljko Lucic – an enormous colorful voice, a huge talent, a great artist! Everything which has been written about him “live” is multiplied many times. Yes, we really felt that “the whole Rome was shaken “ by the police chief Scarpia. Behind the beautiful appearance of a gentleman, there lurks a beast, a heartless killer, dishonest seducer, mean, immoral man and masochist. The Scarpia of Lucic will leave, in my opinion, a model, an example to be followed for years on end ahead for those who aspire to interpret this complex character. Since the moment he appears on the stage in the middle of the first act to the end of the second one, when Tosca stabs him with a knife, he was the ruler, who mastered the world around him.
Zeljko Lucic’s participation in “Tosca” is his debut on a Bulgarian stage. In his words, he remained in love with the green and sincere Stara Zagora and its charming and intelligent audiences.
During the new opera season, most probably for the Opening if the Festival of the Opera and Performing Arts at the beginning of November, he will again guest-perform in the premiere of “Un ballo in maschera’ by Verdi.
The spectacle continued with long ovations and repeated shouts; “Scarpia! Scarpia! “Tosca”…
The celebration of the spiritual continued with the marking of the 30 years on-stage activity of Zvetelina Vassileva. On this occasion, a celebrative address on behalf of the Stara Zagora State Opera was given by the managing director Ognyan Draganov. He wished her health and “three times as much” to give joy to us.” The actress received the Honorary Plaque of the Opera, which is awarded for special contribution to the great opera art.
“I have the exceptional honor and pleasure to present Zvetelina Vassileva with the most prestigious award of the Union of the Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers – Golden Lyre for her high artistic and creative achievements and on the occasion of her 30 years on stage” This was said by Stanislav Pochekinski, chairman of the Union. The audience again applauded most sincerely the deserved high award and recognition.
The great Zeljko Lucic also received the Honorary Sign of the Stara Zagora State Opera and a T-shirt with the text on it “I love the Stara Zagora Opera”.
Before the beginning of the spectacle the managing director of the Opera announced to the audience that the theater received a big gift – the new tribunes.
“ Now about 40% were made, announced Mr. Draganov. I most sincerely express my gratitude to our friends for their invaluable support for our audiences, for Stara Zagora: Slavin Yanakiev – executive director of “Progress”, Georgi Chahov – manager of “Chahov” Ltd., Zhivodar Terziev – manager of the construction company “Zara”, Dimitar Panev – manager of the firm “Platenik”, Kiril Mihaylov – manager of “Zheleznik-M, engineer Rumen Raykov – manager of the firm “VIK” Stara Zagora, Tsvetan Tsvetkov – manager of “Raztsvet” Ltd. and Dr. Stanimir Troshev.
Thank you, dear Friends! Everything you do, you do it for your city. In this way, you remain in the living memory of what art can build for the next generations. Thank you and have my deep reverence to you!”