BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Fair and Court—Staging Economy and Vilifying Power in Socialist Bulgarian Operas

Fri8  Apr02:00pm(20 mins)
Dr Patrick Becker-Naydenov


Patrick Becker-Naydenov


Musicologists have recently shown a growing interest in early 20th-century artist-operas. However, the discourse and staging of interdependencies between the artist-composers and their economic situation have only received sparse scholarly attention. This contribution examines a part of this phenomenon, characterized as a counter-discourse to capitalism: artist-operas during State Socialism. In contrast to the Soviet Union or the German Democratic Republic with their long operatic traditions, the Bulgarian case is insightful since it tried to combine two perspectives: Firstly, the financial deficiencies of opera houses necessitated an approach securing both the popularity of compositions and their accordance with the requirements of Socialist Realism. Secondly, composers critical of the Communist authorities tried to disseminate their views concerning this matter precisely through this genre. From the perspective of Late Socialism and early post-Communism, one topos especially shows this entanglement: the village square with its double function as both a periodic fair and a court place for punishing those protagonists that appear as ‘criminals’ in the eyes of the authorities.