The Varna Opera House was registered under the name of Varna Public Opera House on 6th April, 1947 and was officially opened on 1st August of the same year. Stefan Nikolaev was appointed as its first Director and Peter Raichev, the distinguished Bulgarian singer, was invited as the first Art Director.
Being an experienced artist with a good command of the staging and directing process, Peter Raichev selected fifteen young, talented and enthusiastic singers for the soloist cast. An orchestra, a choir and a ballet group were also formed under the leadership of the young conductor Ruslan Raichev, the choir-master Dimiter Mladenov and the choreographer Assen Manolov. The cast, including the stage designers Asen Popov and Vladimir Misin, prepared the first stage production – the opera “The Bartered Bride” by B. Smetana, within less than a month!
In the first two seasons alone, more than ten performances were staged, predominantly titles from the world opera classics – “Madama Butterfly”, “Cavalleria Rusticana”, “La Traviata”, “Tosca”, “La Boheme”. The history of the Varna Opera was marked by the contributions of many conductors, singers, ballet dancers, composers, directors, choreographers, and scenographers.
The summing-up of the fifty-year-record of the Varna opera house amounts to over 200 productions and nearly 7000 performances for more than three millions of spectators!
The repertoire is rich and diversified both in genre and style. It covers the major share of the opera heritage from the 18th and 19th c. and a number of the 20th c. masterpieces of the music stage art. A number of them were produced for the first time in Bulgaria on the Varna stage, among them being; Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” (1960), Dvorak’s “The Devil and Kate” (1961), Prokofiev’s “Betrothal in a Monastery” (1962), Britten’s “Albert Herring” (1964) and “The Beggar’s Opera” (1982), Bellini’s “Norma” (1972), Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel” (1973), R. Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” (1975), Rossini’s “La Cambiale Di Matrimonio” (1977), “Il Turco in Italia” (1988), Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” (1995), the ballets “Spartacus” by A. Khachaturian (1977), “Arabian Nights” by F. Amirov (1983), etc.
In its quest to broaden its audience, the troupe staged a number of operettas, mainly the classics in the genre: Offenbach, Strauss, Lehar, Kalman, etc. The opera house has also staged modern musicals and a number of children’s productions.
The Varna Opera is a regular participant in the international music festival Varna Summer and a number of other art forums. The achievements of the casts who staged “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Macbeth” were awarded the Varna Prize. At the National Reviews of Opera and Ballet Art in Stara Zagora, the Varna Opera received awards for the productions of “Prince Igor”, “Der fliegende Hollander”, “Simone Boccanegra”. In 1995 the first production of I. Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” received the Premiere of the Year award of the Allegro Vivace show of Bulgarian National Radio.
Scoring success, the Varna opera house performed in Yugoslavia (1965), Czechoslovakia (1968), the Ukraine (1971, 1975), Italy (1975, 1996), Spain (1977, 1978, 1984), Greece (1987, 1989, 1990, 1991-1995), India (1991), Romania (1991, 1993), Egypt (1989, 1990, 1991, 1996), Germany, Switzerland, Austria (1995).
The numerous guest performances of distinguished Bulgarian and foreign singers are a credit to the Varna opera: Gena Dimitrova, Nikolay Giaourov, Raina Kabaivanska, Nikola Gyuzelev, Anna Tomova-Sintova, Maria Corelli, Peter Glosop, Elena Nikolay, Ava June Cooper, Zinaida Paly, Nicolae Herlea, Elena Obrastzova, Vladimir Atlantov, Emil Ivanov, Vesselina Katzarova, Galina Savova, Ivan Konsulov, and others.
In 1999 the Varna Opera House merged with Varna Philharmonic Orchestra and continued its mission as a state cultural institution under a new name – Opera and Philharmonic society – Varna. The halls where the productions and concerts are staged are in Stoyan Bachvarov Drama Theatre (550 seats), Summer Outdoor Theatre – Varna (2400 seats) and Festival and Congress Center – Varna (800 seats).