The fabulous Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria female choir. Conductor Vanya Moneva.
Bulgaria is the homeland of Orpheus. Bulgaria was the musical empire of ancient times. Bulgarian folk music is majestic, it has cosmic sound. The Thracians had knowledge of cosmic music, brought by Orpheus, who was born in the Bulgarian Mountain Rhodope. Furthermore, they were aware of the mathematical theory of sounds. This has all resulted in the wide variety of folklore sounds and music and the distinctive voices in Bulgaria today.
The pentagram is the distinction sign of the Orpheus. The word comes from the Greek words ‘pente’ (five) and ‘gramma’ (a letter or a line). The pentagram was used as a talisman – enchantments for love, music harmony and a spiritual link with the universe.
The pentatonics is the basis of the Rhodope songs – there are five basic tones. The heart of the Rhodope folklore melody is the local pentatonic. The song from the Rhodopes is related to the pentagram of Orpheus. Due to pentatonics there are people who find cosmic elements in Rhodopes’ song. The song “Delyo Haidutin” performed by the Rhodopean singer Valya Balkanska is included on the Voyager Golden Record on the US Space Probe Voyager 1 and 2 as part of the heritage humanity sent to the outer space to look for contact with other civilizations. This Rhodopean song was chosen as a brilliant piece of our Civilization's finest cultural heritage alongside with a symphony by Beethoven.
Travel to Bulgaria. Make a fantastic journey to Bulgaria and enjoy the mystery of Bulgarian voices.
Please have a look at our tours:
MUSIC TOUR OF BULGARIA http://www.magictours-bg.com/wagner-ring-cycle-opera-tour
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8 DAYS TOUR OF BU LGARIA http://www.magictours-bg.com/item/85-unesco-heritage-tour-of-bulgaria-2014
Traditional Bulgarian Folk music has had more international success than its neighbouring countries due to the breakout international success of Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares or the "Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices”.
A woman's choir that has topped world music charts across Europe and even further abroad. Bulgarian vocals are said to be "open-throated", though this is somewhat of a misnomer. Female choirs have always been popular in folk music because of their distinctive rhythms and harmony. Singers actually focus their voices in a way that gives the sound a distinctive "edge", and makes the voice carry over long distances.
Bulgarian choral singing in the folk tradition draws on a centuries-old practice of rich sonorities, complicated harmonies, and driving rhythms found only in this part of the world. The characteristic nasal sound of Bulgarian singing, the vocal ornaments and coloration, and the use of varied repetition are all distinctive, evocative qualities of this music.
The singers create a complex sonic tapestry by weaving together simultaneous and overlapping versions of the same melody. This is an ancient way of making music that, with its dissonant and modern-sounding intervals, seems amazingly contemporary.
Bulgarian voices need no special introduction. It is sufficient to mention some of the most prominent voices in order to be convinced of their splendor. Boris Christoff, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Nicola Ghiuselev, Julian Konstantinov, Ghena Dimitrova, Raina Kabaivanska, Anna Tomova-Sintow, Alexandrina Pendachanska as well as The Mystery of The Bulgarian Voices and Trio "Bulgarka," are names that have been synonymous with perfection and uniqueness for a long time. It is a well-known fact that Bulgarians, due perhaps to their facial structure, are very gifted singers - their oral cavity is perfect for the complete development of sound. Such is the claim made by Herbert von Karajan, who worked with Bulgarian singers throughout his career. Whether this is pure anatomy, a mystery, or simply a natural phenomenon, Bulgarian voices are and have always been a model for exceptional quality in vocal art.
Boris Hristoff is an exceptional phenomenon in the world of opera music – he is the Bulgarian who first in the world united the expressive means of the belcanto with those of the Slavonic school of singing. He merged them through the prism of his highest intellectual and artistic skills and creative depth. Boris Hristoff began his remarkable career from the Sofia-based “Gusla” choir to the peaks of world music art. We are proud of this exceptionally beautiful, sincere and deepest voice and Brois Hristoff’s perfectly professional control over it. For half a century he was the absolute master of all prestigious stages of the planet.
In the early days of his brilliant career Boris Hristoff sang in London’s Covent Garden in Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov”. Famous Bulgarian orchestra conductor Assen Naidenov had said about that part: “There is no other protagonist, so difficult to render, so vast and psychologically complex. This was Boris Hristoff’s crown achievement, because no other artist has succeeded to put through the power of the physical character with the depth of his spirituality. And the more I watched him, the stronger became my conviction that I could compare him to no other but Feodor Shaliapin himself.”
25 years later, on the stage of Covent Garden again, Boris Hristoff was presented with a golden copy of the original crown of Boris Godunov, for his highest achievement in promoting this masterpiece of Russian classic.
Another peak in the art of the great Boris Hristoff is his interpretation of the part of King Phillip from the opera Don Carlos. Comenting on it the Paris-based “Lettre Francaise” wrote: “It is a miracle how Bulgarian Boris Hristov has remained on the top of human abilities for half a century with no equal! No wonder that music law-makers have dubbed him ‘His Majesty the Basso’!”
The art of Boris Hristoff was magic indeed – it made you die of pain, of love, of anger! He overwhelmed us from the stage and we succumbed. Millions of people the world over deified him because his music artistry left a deep impact on every one who has ever heard him. Through the power of his will Boris Hristoff created artistic images that became and remained unique phenomena in the spiritual life of our time. Besides the opera characters he created, he also revived hundreds of songs from Russian and Slavonic Church classics and many Orthodox chants. He returned to them with the will to defend their place in the treasury of world music heritage. These chants have for centuries been an expression of people’s hopes. They were the shield against the assimilatory attempts of invaders. In these Orthodox chants Boris Hristoff saw the eternal strife of his people after a higher world, expressed in the wishful “Be it for years to come!” With this prayer-like phrase the great artist opened the Rome Academy for Art and Culture, whose inauguration he sponsored for the promotion of young opera talents. “All I do as a person and as an artist is dedicated to Bulgaria,” the great Bulgarian used to say.
Nicolai Ghiaurov, one of the most prominent basses of the twentieth-century, was born in the small Bulgarian town of Velingrad in 1929. As a child his love of music led him to learn to play the violin, clarinet, and trombone. He first decided to take voice lessons during his national military service, when an officer who had heard him sing recommended him to Christo Brambarov, a singing teacher and prominent baritone in Sofia. It was the Italian-trained Brambarov who taught the young bass the qualities of singing Italian opera in the proper style. The acclaim with which the public received Ghiaurov's portrayals of the Italian roles of Mefistofele (in Boito's Mefistofele) and Philip II (in Verdi's Don Carlo) reflect well on Brambarov's lessons. After studying one year with Brambarov, Ghiaurov attended the conservatory in Moscow for five years. After winning a singing contest in Paris, Ghiaurov made his professional debut in 1955 at the Sofia Opera House as Don Basilio in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Two years later he debuted at the Bolshoi in Moscow as Pimen in Boris Godunov (he would not perform the title role until 1965). In 1960 he made his La Scala debut as Varlaam in Boris Godunov. Two years later he made his British debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (in La Forza del Destino) and a year after that his American debut at the Lyric Opera in Chicago (in Mefistofele).
With his booming bass voice and dramatic sensibilities, Nicolai Ghiaurov quickly rose to the top of his field, excelling in the Russian, Italian, and French repertoires. In addition to Mefistofele and Philip II, among his most acclaimed roles were Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Gounod's Mephistopheles, and Massenet's Don Quichotte. Verdi's Attila, Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra), Silva (Ernani), and Procida (I Vespri Siciliani), Rossini's Don Basilio, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Mussorgsky's Prince Khovanshchy (Khovanshchina), and Tachaikovsky's Prince Gremin (Eugene Onegin) were other successful roles for him. Most of Ghiaurov's portrayal of these roles and many others were recorded (often several times) either live or in the studio throughout his long career.
Ghiaurov continued singing in the world's greatest opera houses for almost fifty years, until he passed away in June 2004 at the age of 74. A fan of old opera recordings, soccer, and fishing, he was survived by his wife of 23 years, the soprano Mirella Freni, and his two children from his previous marriage, the conductor Vladimir Ghiaurov and actress Elena Ghiaurov. The great bass's last performance, sung in January of his final year, was Don Basilio, the same role with which his operatic career began.
Ghena Dimitrova is one of the few dramatic sopranos of the past 30 years, belonging to that class of artists who have tackled with disarming ease the most demanding of the heavyweight roles. Her voice blends an inherent lyrical beauty, superbly sustained by the refined technique of a soprano leggero with an impressive dynamic range culminating in an intensely powerful volume.
Her formidable voice puts her in a class of her own. She has developed her repertoire gradually, growing from strength to strength, taking on roles which seem congenial to her overpowering vocal prowess and regal stage presence. Yet she is of kind and gentle disposition. In fact she feels a closer affinity to such roles as Minnie (La Fanciulla del West) and Elizabeth (Don Carlos) than to the decidedly dramatic roles which have sealed her fame and earned her raving reviews.
Ghena, a Bulgarian born in Beglej, nurtures close ties with the Italian artistic and cultural milieu. She considers herself as an Italian by adoption. She studied with Mro C. Brambarov at the Sofia Conservatorio where she graduated with distinction. Her debut as Abigaille in Sofia on the 27th December 1967 was due to a last minute indisposition of the two prima donnas. Ghena threw herself heart and soul into the part and triumphed. Her resounding success as the cruel-hearted slave-queen soon made her synonymous with the part. In 1970 she won a scholarship which enabled her to perfect her studies in Italy. She studied at the La Scala Academy under the distinguished Renato Pastorino, Enza Ferrari and Renata Carosio. During 1971-72 she interpreted the role of Leonora (La Forza del Destino) all over France. In ’72 she won the Treviso contest as Amelia (Ballo in Maschera) and was invited to sing the same role at the Teatro Regio at Parma with Carreras and Capuccilli and in ’73 she sang the role alongside Domingo at La Scala. During the years spanning ’74-’79 she toured the leading theatres of South America, Spain, Italy, Russia, Germany, Austria, Checkoslovakia and Hungary. Her repertoire was enhanced by such operas as Aida, Il Trovatore, Tosca, Don Carlos, Andrea Chenier, Turandot, Ernani, Cavalleria Rusticana, Manon Lescaut, La Fanciulla del West, Macbeth and Othello. Everywhere she was hailed as a leading dramatic soprano with a tremendous impact.
In 1980 her immortality as one of the post-war greatest voices was assured when she interpreted La Gioconda together with Pavarotti at the Arena di Verona. Incidentally it was the same role which shot Maria Callas into fame when she interpreted it at the Arena in 1947. At the Arena, Ghena Dimitrova appeared in Nabucco (’81), Macbeth (’82), every Turandot starting from ’83, Cavalleria ’93 and Aida ‘93.
She is reputed to possess one of the most prestigious voices ever. She has been invited three times to open the opera season at La Scala: as Turandot under Maazel, Aida (alternating both roles) and Abigaille, which marked the beginning of Mro Muti’s tenure of office at the theatre in ’86. She also interpreted I Lombardi alla prima Crociata (’84), Macbeth (’85) under Abbado, Cavalleria (’88) and Tosca (’89). Contemporaneously she toured the Italian theatres enchanting the notoriously hard-to-please Italian audiences with her remarkable powerful, yet, agile voice which apparently remains unequalled. She was invited to sing Macbeth for two consecutive years (84-85) at the Salzburg Festival while she regularly sings at the Staatsoper. In ’87 she triumphed as Norma at the Opera in Paris. Norma enjoys an undisputed pride of place in the soprano’s repertoire, whether the voice is a dramatic coloratura; lyrical with a propensity to agility; or even lirico-leggero toutcourt, particularly when the voice gains in weight.
In the same year she made her debut at the Metropolitan where she reigned supreme interpreting Turandot, La Gioconda, Cavalleria Rusticana, Tosca and La Fanciulla del West.
Those who are acquainted with the soprano, also through CDs, cannot but be impressed by her extremely powerful voice and the intelligent manner with which she infuses her singing with an astonishing array of dynamics to bring out the finer nuances of each role. Her Abigaille at La Scala, under Muti, is considered to be an outstanding example of how this role should be tackled, tempering a domineering and arrogant vocal stance with a honeyed timbre betraying an anguished heart hardened by neglect and an appalling lack of love. The exceptional extension of the range enables her also to alternate roles such as Aida and Amneris and Elizabeth and Eboli in Don Carlos.
Ghena Dimitrova will go down in history alongside Maria Callas and a few others who have graced international opera scene and held audiences in thrall. To say “I was there to hear her sing” is a most coveted wish of any opera buff.
“Tosca of the past was Maria Callas. Tosca of our time is Raina Kabaivanska."
Luciano Pavarotti , Vienna, 1994
The divine soprano Raina Kabaivanskа was born in Burgas in 1934. She graduated Opera Singing and Piano from the Bulgarian State Academy of Music.
Kabaivanska made her debut at the Bulgarian National Opera in Sofia as Tatjana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in 1957. Two years later she made a breaktrhough in Italy as Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Bajazzo although it was not until 1961 when Kabaivanska staged her first performance at Milan’s La Scala, that international renown came. Between the 1960s and the 1980s Kabaivanska toured most major opera theatres in the world, including La Scala, Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall in New York, Covent Garden in London, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
Her repertory has included works by Verdi (Don Carlo, Otello, Falstaff, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, La Forza del Destino, I Vespri Siciliani, Ernani, Requiem), Puccini (as Madame Butterfly, Tosca, Manon Lescaut), Wagner (Rienzi), Cilea (Adriana Lecouvreur), Donizetti (Roberto Devereux), Leoncavallo (Pagliacci), Gounod (Faustus), Massenet (Manon), Catallani (La Wally), Tchaikovsky (Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin), Strauss (Capriccio), Zandonai (Francesca de Rimini), Spontini (La Vestalle), Gluck (Armide), Leoš Janбcek (The Macropolus Case), Lehar (La Vedova Allegra).
Kabaivanska has received the following international opera awards: Bellini (1965), Viotti d'Oro (1970), Puccini (1978), Illica (1979), Monteverdi (1980), the Award of Academia 'Medicci' - Lorenzo di Magnifico, Florence (1990), the Grand Prix 'A Life, Dedicated to the Music', Venice (2000).
As the late critic and musicologist, Rodolfo Celletti, wrote about her, “Raina’s voice, considered in itself, as pure sonic material, as an instrument, is almost as non-existing. What I mean is, it cannot be described if it is not associated to a clearly defined character, be it Tosca, Cio-Cio-San, Adriana or the Grдfin in Capriccio. It is a voice that becomes different each time. According to Wagner – who was writing about Wilhelmine Schrцder-Devrient – “this is the only praise to which a singing-actress should aspire”.
The Bulgarian opera diva, the soprano Alexandrina Pendachanska, was born in Sofia in 1970. She is the daughter of the well known Bulgarian soprano Valeria Popova. Her grandfather was the famous conductor and violinist, Sacha Popov.
After studies to become a concert pianist she changed to vocal studies, with her mother as her exclusive teacher. In 1988 she was a prize winner in the Song Competition of Bilboa, Spain and also in that same year, at the Dvorak Competition in Prague. Her debut as Violetta was in Sofia in a concert version of La Traviata in 1989.
International appearances took the young soprano to the Welsh Opera in 1991 where she sang Gilda in Rigoletto, and to Dublin, as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. During the 1991-1992 season of the Monte Carlo Opera, Alexandrina appeared as Ophelie in the opera Hamlet by Thomas. In 1992 she sang the title role of Esclarmonde in the opera by Massenet at the Teatro Regio, Turin. Appearances in the United States include performances with the Washington National Opera.