photographer: Radu Marcusu @Unsplash

When thinking of opera books, most people imagine infinitely thick volumes full of incomprehensible terms and boring lectures. Explanations about what opera is, how to write music, what “belkano” means, and why singing is a pilot that few are called upon to do. I reassure you that not all opera books are that long and boring. I assure you that even if you are not a fan of opera and have never attended an opera show, these books will make you fall in love with the art of music and singing. They bring you into a suspiciously beautiful and magical world that you will ask yourself: Why didn't I know him before?


Verdi - Carlo Gatti


I start with a book about Giuseppe Verdi. To this day, he remains the most valuable and accomplished opera composer, creating tremendous volume and exceptional in his penetration of creativity. There is no one else with such musical creativity and with such a wide range of topics and subjects. Interestingly, the composer only wrote operas in libretti on a real occasion. For example, some of Shakespeare, Schiller, Hugo and have always been looking for dye - a term he coined. In addition to being a composer, Verdi was a soloist on his operas.


They call it The "opera father"and for Italians Italy is Verdi and Verdi is Italy. His main and most important topics in life and creativity are the Bible, History, Motherland and friendship. And his, perhaps most performed, most musical opera, Nabucco, is a biblical story. Nabucco's premiere makes Verdi the most popular Italian composer in just one week. He was called 33 times before the curtain of the opera finale, and half the numbers were pearled. All over the country it is only spoken about: all Nabucco tunes are picked up laterally and sounded from morning till evening, Verdi bread is made, Verdi gloves, Verdi hats, Verdi coats. And to this day, when The Jewish Choir by Nabucco is performed by a good choir, it is definitely encore. This has happened continuously with the Sofia Opera Choir, in his guest appearances on the big stages until the end of the 80's of the last century.


Carlo Gatti's book may startle readers with volume, but I assure you - reading is fast! It does not disturb the thought and the eye with complex musical terms, which necessitates continuous "searching" in dictionaries. The language used by the author is accessible to anyone, whether they have ever been involved in music and singing or not. It is also Verdi's most comprehensive volume on life and work. He traces his every step - from his birth in the village of Roncole, through his first works, to the great successes of his operas at La Scala.


From the book, we understand that there is no small opera house in Italy, and that according to Verdi, La Scala is a boutique that turns into a shop if there is no "good merchandise". And when the theater goes bankrupt because of mismanagement and repertoire, a deputation of Italy's most prominent citizens, including the prime minister and the mayor of Milan, begs Verdi to restore La Scala's glory. He does it in an incredible way.


The book contains Verdi's personal correspondence with great personalities of the era - musicians, conductors, composers, as well as numerous subtleties, about the performance of his works and the art called singing.

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The Book of the Opera - Ivan Kamburov


The purpose of the book is to introduce readers to opera art. The operas from the early historical epoch are examined chronologically, and all the most famous composers in the world are presented, with their biography and their creative work. The most important concepts of art are explained and the major opera theaters in Bulgaria are presented. It is the basis on which the opera is based, because the book is a story of the Opera - very accurate and professionally written.


Kamburov is one of the best European musicologists. The book is reminiscent of "1001 Night" tales, only with true stories. Absolutely authentic and bibliographically accurate. All these great singers have fallen asleep with these stories. They were for them as a guide to opera art. By getting to know the most famous operas and their librettos, singers, conductors and future composers, they acquire knowledge without which they would not be able to create and become musicians. Because opera is the truest, most comprehensive art, uniting all other arts in itself - music, poetry, drama, painting, ballet, pantomime, vocal art, etc.


The book is written endlessly interesting, and the ease with which the reader goes through the pages is captivating. Even if you understand nothing about music and the world of opera is alien to you, this book will make you love opera art. You will also learn infinitely important facts from the Bulgarian opera history.


My life and my successes - Mario del Monaco


Another brilliant and fascinating biographical story about one of the greatest singers and tenors of the XX century - the only and unique Othello. Del Monaco talks about his life from birth and music school, through the conservatory… He also talks about his singing during World War II, when during these 6 years of war, he was always on stage. A story through which the reader understands the power and grandeur of opera. And as a small example from his biography, I offer the following story.


During the performance of Madam Butterfly, a great bombardment begins and the audience rushes out. There, in the square dressed in his stage costume, del Monaco is illuminated by the light of the bombs. Seeing him in this form, the audience decides that he is an American officer and rushes at him, preparing to tear him apart. She cannot accept that the singer is dressed in an American naval officer's opera suit in Japan. At the threshold of death and under the accompaniment of bombs, he sings, and at the end of the aria he sings an infinitely long "Up" with full breasts. The audience applauded: "No American can sing like that!"


Another interesting story described in the book is about his journey through the jungles of Latin America. Mario del Monaco is already a world star. After a show in Rio de Janeiro, he walks with his wife Rina Philippines in a jungle car. He was arrested on suspicion of a rebel escaping from the army and he sang again (singing repeatedly saved his life), this time "O, sole mio". His military wants an autograph and is told that if they stop him again, he will sing to the other post, because no rebel can sing like that.


Del Monaco describes in his book his great partnerships with Maria Callas, Boris Hristov, Elena Nicolai, as well as the most significant performances on the stages of "Arena di Verona", "La Scala", "Metropolitan". Filled with a lot of humor and incredible behind-the-scenes stories and scenes, the book is a heartfelt and dignified autobiographical story that touches even the furthest from this art.


"One moment against the backdrop of eternity" - Ivan Benchev


A hundred-year-old story about the Bulgarian opera greatness and about a star that Bulgaria does not suspect - Sofia Opera Choir, in which almost all the great Bulgarian singers sang. It describes the European and global voice hegemony that lasted from the beginning of the 50 until the end of the 70 years of the XX century. The author also includes four chapters on the indisputable Bulgarian greats who have taken a worthy place on the opera peak - Elena Nikolay, Todor Mazarov, Lyuba Velich and Boris Hristov. The book represents the most complete and accurate history of Bulgarian opera. It begins from its inception, to the beginning of a democracy that marks the end of its golden years. In practice, a collective built up for so many years with enormous love and dedication is destroyed.


One moment against the backdrop of eternity is not just a story about the opera, it examines those hundred years of the creation and rise of Bulgarian opera singing. It is part of Bulgarian and world history, without separating the music from the historical events against which it develops. The opera survived in spite of the war, in spite of the horrendous policy of destroying the most talented Bulgarian artists who dared to disagree with the so-called. Party, at the expense of others who humbly served her. He is the main character Sofia Opera Choirwhose greatness is deliberately belittled and hidden by musicologists and critics. And this choir stands no lower than Boris Hristov, the world-renowned bass player and the only "King Philip II" - a role that all basses dream of, but few can sing as the role demands.


In the book, Ivan Benchev talks to readers as if they are sitting at a friendly table. In the absence of time, they discuss the greatest moments of opera art in Bulgaria that we should all be proud of. Humor, curious stage stories, comic stories and blunders, as well as many deep insights, are all gathered in the pages of this book. I dare say that no musicologist is capable of writing such an honest and accurate story. Why? Because neither of them has stood on the stage since the 3 years, as the author of the book, has not dreamed and suffered with the characters he writes about, and has not loved them.


The book can easily be called a textbook on the history of Bulgarian opera, as well as singing and creating a musical taste. And it may be time to take our worthy place in the curriculum of Bulgarian academies and conservatories. Because there is no more comprehensive account of what our native Opera represents.

more to read

With Bulgaria in the heart

With Bulgaria in the heart

Some may not accept the fact that a girl transforms into a mummer (given the customs of the past). For those who love traditions, it may be nice to go back in time.

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