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The show must go on: Opera performed on lake to beat virus

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(27 Jul 2020) LEAD IN:
Theatre directors around the globe are getting creative by staging open-air, socially distanced performances.
In Bulgaria, opera-goers are being treated to Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung", performed on a rotating stage that's floating on Lake Pancharevo.

The stage is set - quite literally - on Lake Pancharevo near Sofia, Bulgaria.
Behind the scenes, performers from the Sofia Opera are getting ready for the first installment of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy, "Das Rheingold".
The performance was first devised as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth in 2013.
Now, director Plamen Kartalov has found a way to overcome the restrictions forced on him by the coronavirus pandemic, by staging an open-air production on a rotating stage on Lake Pancharevo.
"The interesting thing is that this quarantine we were forced to undergo and all the threats that we should keep our health first, and then to think about everything else, the questions arose in me when this is over and we go back to work, what will our artists do till then?" says Kartalov.
"I came up with the open-air festival on Lake Pancharevo - on this special floating stage we decided to play ballet performances related to themes like lake and water - 'Swan Lake' and 'Zorba the Greek', where the action takes place on an island - Crete. But it is impossible not to put the opera show 'Rhinegold' on that stage as well."
Kartalov has been at the helm of the Sofia Opera for almost two decades.
Das Rheingold is one of several shows that he has staged as well as directed especially for Lake Pancharevo.
He says the staging of Das Rheingold in this unusual way is attracting new audiences to opera in Bulgaria.
"After this quarantine and the still ongoing pandemic, we opened the hearts, souls and talents of our artists. The audience follows us, and we have 18 performances on Pancharevo Lake. Two on Rhinegold, about ten on Mama Mia, Swan Lake, Zorba the Greek and Carmina Burana," he says.
"This enabled our audience to free themselves from this fear and to follow us. We have a large audience at the Sofia Opera, but now this audience has received a new address, not to be afraid in the open air, not in the theatre, and accordingly an audience that goes to the opera for the first time - out of curiosity, because of this homogeneous synthesis between the natural picture. To experience the opera in an unusual way - combining the dramaturgy with nature."
The stage design, by Paris-based artist Nikolay Panayotov, was adapted to incorporate the romantic lake scenery.  
The Valhalla castle made up of a group of six conical funnels rests on the opposite side of the lake while a huge illuminated ring is at the core of action.
The orchestra perform the two-and-a-half-hour set off stage in a rain-protected pavilion.
"This is an opera production that I look forward to seeing. The atmosphere and experience here will surely be amazing," says opera-goer Gergana Konstantinova.
More lake performances directed by Kartalov, including Mama Mia, are set to run until 2 August.

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