In 1999, the Plovdiv Opera and Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra were joined to form the Opera and Philharmonic Society - Plovdiv . Both professional institutions have over a half-century-long history. Today, the Opera and Philharmonic Society - Plovdiv is successor to their best traditions and one of the foremost establishments in Bulgaria with the potential to accomplish the most challenging of artistic goals. It gives numerous performances in all genres of the musical art – opera, symphony, musical comedy and ballet, both at home and abroad.
A special feature of the company’s busy schedule are the open-air performances. The Ancient Theatre of Plovdiv – a stage of overwhelming fascination and breathtaking beauty – is the venue of the annual Opera Festival.
The European prestige of the company has been augmented by the successful concert tours and guest performances in Europe and the USA, the countless recordings, the participations in renowned music festivals in Bulgaria and abroad.
Since the summer of 2010 the Opera and Philharmonic Society was transformed into State Opera - Plovdiv - a cultural institute creating and distributing symphonic and chamber concerts and spectacles in the field of opera, symphonic and ballet arts.
The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra was the first non-metropolitan state orchestra. Established in 1945, it has its roots in the hundred-year-old orchestral tradition in Plovdiv – the largest cultural centre of the legendary Thrace.
Over the years, owing to structural reforms and transformations, the company changed its initial name of State Symphony Orchestra to State Philharmonic Orchestra, and since 1999 it has become part of the Opera and Philharmonic Society - Plovdiv .
Currently the members of the society number over 100 of highly qualified instrumentalists with a wide range of classical, contemporary, symphony and opera music repertoire. It is from here that the concertmasters of prestigious orchestras like Radio Hilversum (Micho Dimitrov), the Dresdener Staatskapelle (Gancho Ganev), the Metropolitan Opera (Elmira Darvarova) started their careers. World-famous soprano Krasimira Stoyanova began her professional life as a member of the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra.
The chief conductors of the orchestra comprise the names of Vladi Simeonov, Rouslan Raichev, Mesru Mehmedov, Dobrin Petkov, Dimitar Manolov, Vladimir Ghiaurov, Borislav Ivanov, Naiden Todorov, Georgi Dimitrov. The orchestra has performed under the conductorship of Emil Chakarov, Rumen Bairakov and the eminent Bulgarian composers Ivan Spassov, Alexander Vladigerov, Vasil Kazandzhiev.
Among the guest conductors are the names of distinguished musicians from Bulagaria and abroad: Konstantin Iliev, Vasil Stefanov, Ivan Marinov, Yordan Dafov, Ivan Vulpe, Emil Tabakov, Alexey Izmirliev, Kiril Kondrashin, Konstantin Ivanov, Alan Bush, Karel Ančerl, Witold Rovitzki, Stanislav Scrovachevski, Arvid Jansons, Janos Ferencik, Carlo Cecchi, Jan Krenz, Michel Plasson, Arnold Katz, Enrique Batista, etc.
The long list of soloists who have given memorable concerts with the orchestra includes world-famous musicians like Dmitri Shostakovich, Sviatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniil Shafran, Ruggiero Ricci, Henry Schering, Igor Oystrach, Leonid Kogan, Valeri Klimov, Sekeira Costa, Cyprien Katsaris, Yuri Bukov, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Gena Dimitrova, Nikolai Gyuzelev, Alexandrina Milcheva, Raina Kabaivanska, Veselina Katsarova, Krasimira Stoyanova, Mincho Minchev, Georgi Badev, Anton Dikov, Nikolai Evrov, Bozhidar Noev, Lyudmil Angelov, Emma Tahmizian, and many others.
The orchestra has performed concerts in the finest European concert halls: Theatre Chatelet in Paris, Tоnhalle in Bonn, the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory, The Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg, Brucknerhaus in Linz, the Auditoriums of Barcelona, Madrid, Saragossa, etc.
The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra has been on concert tours in almost all countries of Europe and has participated in prestigious music events in Bulgaria and abroad: Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Russia, Austria, France, Greece, and Spain.
Many of the orchestra concerts and recordings – audio, video, CD – will remain part of the golden legacy of the Bulgarian culture as a standard of perfection and authenticity of interpretation of music works of various styles and epochs.
Symphonies № 5, 6, 8, 9, 14 by Shostakovich, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, Concerto for Orchestra by B. Bartуk, The Harmony of the World by Hindemith, Joan of Arc on the Stake by Honegger, Third Symphony (The Fiery Angel) by Prokofiev, The Sea and Images by Debussy are only few of the titles on the orchestra’s repertoire highly praised as phenomenal in Bulgaria’s musical life.
The official opening of the Plovdiv Opera was in November 1953 with the performance of Prodanб nevěsta (The Bartered Bride) by B. Smetana
Over the years the repertoire of the Opera included works by Cimarosa, Pergolesi, Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Saint-Saлns, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Carl Orff, Janбček, Ravel, Britten, Menotti, Bernstein, Gershwin, Prokofiev.
A prominent part of the company’s busy schedule is devoted to the open-air performances. Their beginning dates back to 1965 when a number of memorable performances were held at the open-air theatre on the scenic Bunardzhik Hill in Plovdiv. Nearly twenty years later, with the Ancient Roman Theatre excavated and restored, the Opera of Plovdiv was given a unique stage of fascinating attraction.
The Plovdiv Opera has always succeeded in creating a pleasant artistic atmosphere for its guest performers. Among them are conductors Arturo Basile, Dmitri Goya, Valentin Kozhin, Mung-Whun Chung, Peter Tiboris, etc.; theatre directors Gabriel Core, Simon Stein, Stanislav Gudasinski, Giancarlo del Monaco, Yekta Kara, Dario Fo, Biser Shinev, etc.; soloists Peter Gloss, Vladimir Atlantov, Evgeny Nesterenko, Yuri Mazurok, Luis Lima, Margarita Radulescu, Mauro Augustini, Jean Franco Chechile, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Nikola Gyuzelev, Raina Kabaivanska, Gena Dimitrova, Alexandrina Milcheva, Stefka Evstatieva, Kaludi Kaludov, Stefka Mineva, Orlin Anastasov, Emil Ivanov, Tsvetelina Vasileva, Boiko Tsvetanov, Vladimir Stoyanov, etc.
The artistic achievements of the company of the Plovdiv Opera have gained international recognition in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses:
the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Copenhagen Royal Opera and Tivoli Concert Hall, Maly Theatre in St. Petersburg, the Palace of Fine Arts of Brussels, the Auditoriums in Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Majorca.
The Plovdiv Opera has guest performed in Germany, Denmark, Russia, France, Sweden, Norway, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Holland, Portugal, South Korea, Greece, the USA.
In 1999 the Plovdiv Opera and the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra were united into the Opera and Philharmonic Society of Plovdiv.
Built in the early second century AD, in the time of Emperor Trajan (98-117), the theatre was one of the important public buildings of Trimontium, remarkable for its architectural presentability and splendour.
Discovered accidentally during fortifications on the southern fortress wall, the Ancient Theatre is the most impressive Roman structure that has come down to us.
It took nearly 10 years (1968-1979) to excavate and clear away the archaeological site, during which time a fifteen-metre-deep layer of dirt was removed.
The theatron or auditorium is an amphitheatre comprising two tiers of 14 rows of marble seats each. They were divided into sections by flights of stairs descending onto the stage. The theatre could seat about 7000. The names of the city quarters were carved into the marble of each section and every spectator took a seat in his respective section.
The stage (skene) has two levels and highlights the architectural and decorative resplendence of the structure. The high quality of the building materials and artistic craftsmanship bear evidence to the enormous social significance ascribed to the theatre in ancient times.
The building was largely destroyed at the end of the 4th century either in a fire or by an earthquake, during which disaster 20 of the 28 rows of the amphitheatre remained intact. The skene suffered a total collapse, but after a meticulous archaeological research it was successfully restored.
Located on the territory of the architectural reserve Old Plovdiv, nowadays the theatre is the main feature of the ensemble and stands as an emblematic monument of the century-long cultural and historical continuity on the Three Hills. Given a new lease on life, it has become an attractive intellectual centre of the city, where contemporary culture meets the intransient values of the past.
Since the mid-1980s, after its restoration, the Ancient Theatre has become part of the history of the Plovdiv Opera (annual Verdi Festival), Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra (concerts, opening ceremony of the European Month of Culture in 1999), and, most recently, of the Opera and Philharmonic Society - Plovdiv (Verdi Festival, Opera Festival, concerts).