Bulgaria's great opera voices

Dimitar Uzunov

The exclusive album series Bulgaria's Great Opera Voices presents, for the first time, restored analogue recordings by some of the country's most famous opera singers of the past, the project's music producers announced.

They undertook the task of finding and collecting recordings by artists who proved to be the most successful cultural export of the socialist era, including Lyubomir Bodourov, Julia Wiener-Chenisheva, Asen Selimski and Lilyana Bareva.

Bulgaria's Great Opera Voices starts with the best of Dimitar Uzunov - the tenor who began his music career with the Faculty of Theology's choir and the National Music Theatre in Sofia, before conquering the most prestigious opera houses in Europe and the US.

The album features 10 marvellously interpreted roles performed by Uzunov in the 1950s and 60s at the Sofia Opera and Ballet and recorded by the Bulgarian National Radio, the producers say. The selection features the aria of Othello, which critics in New York described by noting: “It is impossible to resist such a voice, it contains a galaxy of emotions!”; the aria of Don Jose in the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet; and the aria of Momchil in the eponymous work by Bulgarian composer Lyubomir Pipkov that catapulted Uzunov to stardom in Moscow. The tenor shows his capacity for dramatic acting with the roles of Canio in Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, Herman in The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Count Vaudemont in Iolanta by Tchaikovsky.

With the presence of an athlete, Roman facial features and his hot-blooded Bulgarian nature, Uzunov became a cultural phenomenon in Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Vienna and the US.

At the height of his popularity, he underwent an unsuccessful operation of his vocal cords and lost some of his range as a result, which sent him into a deep depression. He returned to Bulgaria as a director of productions in the opera theatres in Rousse, Varna and Sofia (he even headed the institution in the capital). In 1972 he went back to the State Opera in Vienna (Wiener Staatsoper), where he had a total of 235 appearances in major and secondary roles.

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