You are aware of these random moments of strange coincidences, when fate manifests itself in an unimaginable way, and in the strangest places. Wondering if this is some sign, a joke or just today in a "small stage of madness"? So I met Cyril, the Bulgarian opera singer.


I was standing at an intricate corner of South Park in Sofia, where the ring road enters the intersection of Emil Markov. I was late for dinner with friends, looking to avoid street dogs, and the more I contemplated the intersection, the more something inside told me that there was no way I could find a taxi right here. Without wishing, for a moment, I wish I was back in New York, where I only have to play before I hop in one of the many taxis passing through the streets for seconds.


I subconsciously reached for Plan B, the well-known "UBER" picture of the phone, and immediately realized, "Tina, you're not in Brooklyn!" I hate to be late, but I would never dare to get on Sofia public transport without a ticket. And just as the sense of impasse began to grow into a slight panic, I noticed a taxi making a left turn at the traffic light. Of course, it was busy!


I glanced enviously at the yellow car and continued to stare, but oddly enough, I noticed that the car was moving right at me. He approached slowly and stopped to order in front of me. The pair of passengers paid and got off the cab elegantly, while I, with my mouth open and a large dose of rapture, quickly jumped inside.


Traveling for years along with New York's yellow taxis, I've learned not to talk to drivers much. I avoid looking them in the eye, I limit the conversation to just telling the address I'm going to, fastening my belt, and generally looking at work. In Bulgaria, I do not talk to taxi drivers because I get very annoyed when they make me pay twice in my home country just because I pronounce some words with different intonation and do not count the speed of the counter.


But this taxi driver was somehow different. At about 50, with an intelligent expression, he radiated positivity and had a deep calm voice. His presence was soothing, almost like therapy. Suddenly my mouth opened and a lot of personal things began to flash: "How I left my financial job in New York! How I am now on the road for a few months! How my sister will have a third wedding (with the same man) in Greece next month! How I shot amazing images, fishermen in Sicily! ”… The taxi driver congratulated me on my sister's third wedding and instead of the usual skeptical reaction,“ Oh my God! How could you leave a job with a six-figure salary in New York !? ”, he told me:“ You did well! You made the right decision! You have to do what makes you happy! ”


I stayed with my mouth open as he went on with his life story. He also had a university degree in economics and had worked for a large firm for years. He was made redundant and chose to work as a taxi driver so that he could have an income and work when he was comfortable. But his real passion has always been singing. At a younger age, he sang in various pop bands and always thought his voice was only good for such performances. One day a passenger picked up from the opera house. It turned out that the client is a teacher of opera singers. Kiro gave him a recording of his performance, which the gentleman only believed when Kiro crashed into the car. The following week he was already a student in opera singing, along with the most talented in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, we met with a 20 annual delay! Otherwise, Cyril could be a real Bulgarian opera phenomenon. Cyril now sings for a number of bands and is a soloist in people with the greatest traditions in Bulgaria - the Gusla Choir.


I was honestly the "cripple" of his story! Not to mention how appropriate and timely it was, considering mine. I was really glad to hear it, by accident!… And yet I looked for a hidden camera in the car!


The next 15 minutes went into a frantic solo performance of Nessun Dorma, traveling through the streets of Sofia and gathering a bunch of questioning or annoyed looks. Kiro sang live, reaffirming her unique voice skills, and I tried not to spoil the aria with my fake, but genuinely excited, invitations. When I left, I told him I would be happy to shoot him and the Gusla choir. I gave a business card and got out of the taxi as if hit by something! Only an hour late for dinner!


The accident in the taxi was a continuation. I filmed the rehearsals of Cyril as well as the performance of the Gusla choir during a music festival. In fact, it wasn't easy to shoot them! The voices, the acoustics and the light in the church where the choir sang were so beautiful and distracting! I just wanted to listen, not think about composition, focus and what aperture to use! Still, it was a unique, satisfying experience to face 30's elderly men, secretly posing for photos, tense, with wide smiles that grew larger with each snap of the camera.


I do not know! Is it hard for me to understand? How did a former New York consultant and a former economist, a taxi driver from Sofia, cross their life paths in Dupnitsa? Photography and singing made them share the vicissitudes of life, and made their way into the pursuit of happiness. Neither the past nor the future matter when you love what you do! When you enjoy every second of the present, you do not have time to worry about the past or the future. The pleasure of clicking the camera and reaching the treble was all that each of us sought to accomplish during the performance.


Maybe in a week or two I'll have to work as a waitress? Maybe neither of us will ever be rich or famous? There is a huge difference between fame and fortune! Every person who manages to live his life by doing what he loves is rich in his own unimaginable way!


Cyril continues to drive his taxi when he is not singing or rehearsing. He is one of my biggest supporters when it comes to pursuing my dreams and is one of the first to like every photo I upload to Facebook. I am sure that one day I will listen to it on the big stage, performed by a magnificent Italian opera! Then I won't shoot! Because I'll be too busy enjoying the show and its, "better late than never," happiness!

© Tina Boyadzhieva

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