No need to choose between opera or ballet when there's room for both. Housed in a magnificent building, the Sofia Opera and Ballet delights the senses from first glance. Check out the impressive performances by these world-renowned companies on your next visit to Sofia.
An uncertain start
The first opera company in Bulgaria was created in 1890 as part of the Metropolitan Drama and Opera Company by three musicians: Dragomir Kazakov, Ivan Slavkov, and Angel Bukoreshtliev. The Drama division branched out to become its own company in 1891 and the opera went on to become the Metropolitan Bulgarian Opera. Following lack of funding and public interest, the opera was dissolved in 1892. However, in 1908 Bulgarian composer Petko Naumov published an article in a local newspaper that incited a debate about the need for opera. Thanks to Naumov’s efforts and those of other opera supporters, the Bulgarian Opera Fellowship resurged and was able to give its first trial performance later that year. By 1922 the fellowship had become a state organization and was renamed the National Opera.
The history of the National Ballet
The National Ballet’s inaugural performance was Coppélia, produced by Atanas Petrov, on February 22, 1928, a date now celebrated as the ballet’s inception. From its earliest days up until the present, the National Ballet has upheld a tradition of performing both classical and modern works, with notable influences from the Russian classical school and the German expressionist movement. In 1937, the first original Bulgarian ballet, Yana and the Dragon was performed. The piece, inspired by Bulgarian legends and folk traditions with themes of freedom and justice, was an instant success.
Building a home for the arts
Lazar Parashkevanov designed the building for the National Opera and Ballet in 1921, but construction on the building did not actually begin until 1947, and wasn’t completed until 1953. Parashkevanov had been commissioned to design the building in 1908 by then Prime Minister Alexander Stamboliyski. Stamboliyski wanted the theater to be an impressive building constructed with marble and other opulent materials, with as many of these as possible sourced in Bulgaria. The building’s classical marble columns and frieze inspire awe not unlike that evoked by the performances inside and is just a short walk from our Radisson Blu Grand Hotel.
What’s on at the ballet
This spring, the National Ballet stays true to its combination of classical and modern performances. Visitors in April can choose from the romantic La Dame Aux Camelias, with its plot taken from the Alexandre Dumas novel of the same name, and based on the music of Giuseppe Verdi and Sergey Onsoff; Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake; and Giselle, another French opera by composer Adolphe Adam. Also coming up this season is a performance of Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote in May and several dates for Petrushka and The Firebird, both ballets will be set to the music of Igor Stravinsky.
What’s on at the opera
April will begin with the last in a series of performances of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and then one performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin will run from April through the beginning of May, followed Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata and then a number of works by Richard Wagner including: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and Tristan und Isolde.