Professor Plamen Kartaloff
is a Member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Stage director, opera manager, and pedagogue.
He graduated from the Bulgarian State Conservatory, today the National Music Academy of Music named after Prof. Pancho Vladigerov in Sofia, and he continued studying opera directing in Berlin and cinema directing at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia.
Activities as Stage director and Manager
Still being a student, in 1972, he founded the first Chamber Opera in Bulgaria, renamed in 1976 as the Chamber Opera-Blagoevgrad, which is the first and only in Bulgaria till now, theatre of this kind. In the year 1982-86 Prof. Kartaloff was the General Manager and stage director of the Ruse Opera Theatre in Bulgaria and in 1990-1994 he was the Manager of the “Stefan Makedonski” State Music Theatre in Sofia. In 1988-1990 he founded together with the great Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff, The Academy for Vocal Art in Rome, where he was teaching dramatic art to post-graduate students opera singers.
From 1994-2000 and from 2008 to this day Prof. Kartaloff is the General Manager and stage director of the Sofia National Opera and Ballet.
He has staged over 180 productions – since the beginning of the 70s when his activity as opera stage director started.
Operas from different ages of the development of the genre – baroque, classicism, romantic to the modern art. Chamber and big opuses, buffo, and serial operas.
Characteristic is also his interest in rarely produced or unknown/forgotten operas like “Die Pilgrime von Mekka” – Gluck, “Lakmé” – Delibes, “Feodora” – Giordano, “La gazza ladra” – Rossini, “Don Quichotte” – Massenet, “Mavra”, “Renard”, “Rake’s Progress” – Stravinsky, “Zar und Zimmermann” – Lortzing, “Il Guarany”, “Fosca” and “Maria Tudor” – by the Brazilian composer Gomes, the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” – Stein and others.
Together with the repertoire of classical opera, he has a special affinity for Russian and Bulgarian operas – Mussorgsky, Borodin, Vladigerov, Pipkov, Goleminov, and others.
He has participated in his productions at prestigious festivals – national and European.
In the enormous artistic production of Acad. Kartaloff there are many Bulgarian premieres of Baroque works – by Monteverdi, Purcell, Galuppi, from the classicism – by Gluck, Haydn, from the 19th century – by Rossini, Donizetti, Puccini, from the 20th century – Stravinsky, Kholminov and others.
A unique fact in the newest history of the music and stage art in Bulgaria is his remarkable realization of Wagner’s most innovative works of largest scale – “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (2010-13), “Tristan und Isolde” (2015), and “Parsifal” (2017), presented with only Bulgarian opera singers for the first time in Bulgaria and on the Balkans!
In 2012 “Siegfried” from Wagner’s tetralogy was performed with success at the Third International Christmas Opera Forum in Minsk, Belarus.
Since 2014, at the end of each opera season, the National Opera was presenting the cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen” and Sofia has turned into a preferred destination – Wagner Festival, for the admirers of Wagner’s work of art from dozens of countries from all over the world.
In 2020 the Bulgarian premiere of Richard Strauss’s “Elektra” was presented in the production of Plamen Kartaloff.
Since 1994 Kartaloff teaches Acting mastery at the National Academy of Music, succeeding in this discipline some of the most eminent Bulgarian stage directors and pedagogues.
He created an individual methodology for his work with the young singers and has realized a series of productions at the Training Opera Theatre of the Academy. Many students, who have passed through Plamen Kartaloff’s school today are outstanding opera singers – in Bulgaria and abroad.
In 2009 he organized a unique international co-production of the opera “La vera costanza” by Haydn – with Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, and the Sofia Opera, in which took part students from the National Academy of Music.
Musically educative activity
Since 2014 in the repertoire of the National Opera are included “Concerts for Babies”, an idea of the director Kartaloff – a wonderful form for the integration of the youngest ones and their parents to the operatic art. A model, after which other Bulgarian opera theatres started with their educative activity too.
He created and realized also the musically educative program “Opera for Children” – with operas for children and adaptations of big opera titles, which invariably provoke enormous interest among the youngest audience.
Ideas for the popularization of the art of the opera
In the 80s of the 20th century, in the old capital Veliko Tarnovo for the first time in Bulgaria, he founded the “Stage of the Ages” Summer Opera Festival. Here on the Tsarevets Hill, in the open air, he realized a series of super productions, with some pauses, till 2015 – his attractive super productions of classical opera opuses like “Prince Igor” – Borodin, “Don Carlo”, “Attila”– Verdi and many others also by Bulgarian composers – “Tsar Kaloyan” – Vladigerov, “Ivaylo” – Goleminov and others.
He is the creator of “Opera in the Park” and “Opera in the Square” – opera festivals in the capital Sofia with his mega productions of operas like “Aida”, “Tsar Kaloyan”, “Prince Igor” and others.
In 2014 in the square in front of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was performed his grandiose production of “Boris Godunov”, and in the Summer of 2016 – “Nabucco”.
In 2016, on his idea, a summer festival was opened in Belogradchik – “Opera of the Peaks – Belogradchik Rocks” (among the natural sets of the fortress).
In 2017 he founded the “Fortress of the Ages” Summer Festival – in the Baba Vida’s Fortress in the town of Vidin, which lays along the Danube River – with operas, ballets, and performances for children. In the festival’s program was also Puccini’s one-act opera „Il tabarro”, which Kartaloff staged in the original place of action – an actual barge, laid alongside the Danube.
Kartaloff has been a guest performer at opera theatres and on stages on the five continents – in Europe, America (the USA and Brazil), Japan, Australia, and Egypt – Cairo.
He was invited many times to all Bulgarian opera theatres and at prestigious festivals.
In 2015 the Sofia Opera presented “Der Ring des Nibelungen” at the Festival Theatre in Füssen, Bavaria, not far from Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle. The German music critique appreciated very highly and enthusiastically Kartaloff’s productions, respectively – the Bulgarian interpretation of the four operas.
From 2000 to 2015 the National Opera had guest performances in Japan – Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and other cities with “Turandot”, “La Gioconda”, “Don Carlo”, “Rigoletto”, “Un ballo in maschera”, “Prince Igor”, “Tosca”, “Cavalleria rusticana”, “Gianni Schicchi” and other productions by Plamen Kartaloff, lauded by the Japanese critique and audience as some of the brightest guest performing casts and productions. In October 2018 there was a guest performance of the theatre for the seventh time in Japan with “Turandot” and “Carmen”.
Many times, he has been invited to the jury of renowned international competitions for young opera singers (the Klaudia Taev Competition 2019 among others).
He has participated in European conferences with reports on artistic, organizational, and management issues of the opera theatre.
He is the author of the book “Yana’s Nine Brothers by Lyubomir Pipkov – Director’s Projections” – large-scale development of remarkable work in the Bulgarian operatic art, which he produced at the Ruse Opera in 1984 and once again with a premiere on 22 March 2018 at the National Opera. His book “My Wagner with the Sofia Opera” chronicles the decade of exploration of Wagner’s masterworks since 2010.
Awards and titles
“Paisiy Hilendarski” State Award for his exceptional contribution to the development of the national cultural identity and spiritual values;
Cyril and Methodius State Order, First-class;
the highest governmental order of Brazil – the South Cross Order;
“Crystal Lyre” of the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers;
the awards of the Bulgarian National Radio and Sofia Municipality;
“Golden Book” of the European Forum of Experts;
Award for best directing – his production of “L’elisir d’amore” by Donizetti, handed out by the Belgrade National Theatre.
Since 2012 Plamen Kartaloff is a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
In 2018 he was made an honorary citizen of Sofia.
The artistic path of Academician Plamen Kartaloff is marked by many unique and innovative projects, realized with ambition, persistence, devotion, and work. A reflection of talent, erudition, mastery, experience, and charisma.
His versatile artistic and organizational activity was always successful, thanks to his invariably successful preparation, his skill to create an orderly organization of the preparation, and to an overall mastering of the creative process, to clear goals and long-term planning. But also to his ability to fascinate and convince the hundreds of engaged artists, technical associates, and sponsors. Without compromise in his work, Kartaloff is looking for innovative solutions, in order to overcome successfully all kinds of difficulties in the name of the goals and the contemporary tasks of the art of the opera. This was synthesized also in the assessment of Nicholas Payne, the director of the international organization “Opera Europa” – on the occasion of the international united forum held in Sofia in March 2018: “At the Sofia Opera, there is something, which in most Western theatres was lost. The feeling of an ensemble, of a team. The Sofia Opera has an identity.”