For the second time, the Shumen Symphonietta surprised fans of the musical arts when, on May 22, it performed Bulgaria’s first open-air concert following the state of emergency. On June 4th, works by Bach, Handel, Verdi, Donizetti, Elgar, and Vladigerov filled the sky of Shumen – the city of the first Bulgarian orchestra. The soloist and conductor of the concert at Pancho Vladigerov’s House Museum were Kalina Vassileva. Music enthusiasts will never forget the extraordinary experience of listening to Bach on the cobblestones beneath the walnut trees in Vladigerov’s House courtyard. “I imagined myself wearing a long dress with a small umbrella, listening alongside my friends,” one visitor shared. According to principal conductor Stanislav Ushev, the open-air concerts beneath the stars will continue throughout the season, bringing the people of Shumen joy.
Maestro, an invitation to a concert in a courtyard sounds delightful. Whose idea was it, and is Shumen again pioneering one such endeavor?
This first concert occurred in the park next to the Shumen Municipality building. It marked our return to action after the forced break during the quarantine. We eagerly awaited the moment when we could finally resume our work. This fortuitously coincided with May 24th, an important date for all Bulgarians, when we celebrate the Day of Bulgarian Education and Culture and Slavic Literature. The concert was held on the holiday’s eve, May 22nd. For us, it was a milestone, symbolic, and historic event, I would say. It was well received by the audience. The superb program featured works by Pipkov, Stainov, Sviridov, Mozart, Grieg, Bizet, and Brahms. The concert’s uniqueness stemmed from being the first of its kind in the orchestra’s history.
We explored various locations, and one of our colleagues recommended visiting the courtyard of Pancho Vladigerov’s House Museum. When we arrived, I knew it was the perfect spot. It excelled in every aspect – atmosphere, ambiance, history, and overall sentiment.
Will you carry on with open-air concerts throughout the summer?
I believe we should continue hosting open-air concerts during the summer, as outdoor performances have a lot of advantages. The overall setting and atmosphere promote relaxation and enjoyment, making the audience happier. Additionally, we must adhere to the restrictions in place. We mustn’t forget that the epidemic is not over yet. Every step we take should be carefully considered, and we should avoid reverting to our previous, carefree lifestyle and work habits. I’m uncertain how long we’ll continue—perhaps through the summer. If all goes as planned, maybe next year we’ll organize a Music Festival at Pancho Vladigerov’s House Museum in Shumen.
The audience has been incredibly receptive to outdoor concerts, even when seating is limited. Did you anticipate people would be so eager for music and art?
During the quarantine, I had doubts and wondered if people, overwhelmed and scared, would attend concerts. However, when I saw the smiling faces and genuine interest in listening to and watching the orchestra, I felt reassured and understood that the audience had been yearning for our art for quite some time.
An abridged version, translated into English from the original 2020 interview published in the Bulgarian edition of Argent’s website.