Joseph Summer composer
Navona Records presents HAMLET from Joseph Summer. In this installment of the Shakespeare Concert Series, composer Joseph Summer brings us along to Elsinore with The Bard’s classic play in an all new setting complete with the lyric integrity of Shakespeare’s words in a contemporary musical arrangement. Performed by Bulgaria’s State Opera Ruse orchestra, choir, and selected Bulgarian soloists with nine international soloists singing the lead roles, the celebrated revenge tragedy bursts with a new modern flair while keeping the spirit and riveting narrative of the original alive.
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"this setting of Hamlet is [...] a masterpiece"
An Inside Look
Joseph Summer gives an inside look into his early days of writing opera, and a few of the processes that led to the operatic adaptation of HAMLET
Track Listing & Credits
|Disc 1 - Act 1|
|01||Prelude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||1:29|
|02||Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Evan Bravos, Claudius; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||5:26|
|03||And now, Laertes||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude||4:18|
|04||O, that this too too solid flesh||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||5:18|
|05||Hail to your lordship||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Katherine Pracht, Horatio||6:55|
|06||My necessaries are embarked||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Kevin Thompson, Polonius||6:17|
|07||Oh my lord, oh my lord||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Kevin Thompson, Polonius||8:36|
|08||And with his head over his shoulders||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia||1:53|
|09||By heaven, it is as proper to our age||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Kevin Thompson, Polonius||1:10|
|10||Interlude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||1:01|
|11||Angels and ministers of grace defend me||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||6:48|
|12||My liege, and madam to expostulate||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Evan Bravos, Claudius||6:56|
|13||Welcome dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern; Andrey Mitev, Child; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||4:50|
|Disc 2 - Act 2|
|14||Prelude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||1:45|
|15||I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play
||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||1:34|
|16||Did he receive you well||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||4:09|
|17||Can you, by no brief circumstance||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||2:56|
|18||With all my heart||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Evan Bravos, Claudius||1:00|
|19||You are welcome||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Joseph Hubbard, Player King; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Kevin Thompson, Polonius||5:00|
|20||To be or not to be||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||5:33|
|21||My lord, I have remembrances||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Evan Bravos, Claudius||5:56|
|22||Interlude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Eftima Evtimova, violin; Plamena Velichkova, cello; Bozhena Petrova Ivanova, piano||2:09|
|23||The Mousetrap - How fares our cousin Hamlet||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Eftima Evtimova, violin; Plamena Velichkova, cello; Bozhena Petrova Ivanova, piano; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Miroslav Hristov, Prologue||2:52|
|24||So many journeys||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Eftima Evtimova, violin; Plamena Velichkova, cello; Bozhena Petrova Ivanova, piano; Melanie Forgeron, Player Queen; Joseph Hubbard, Player King; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia||12:45|
|25||He poisons him in the garden||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Eftima Evtimova, violin; Plamena Velichkova, cello; Bozhena Petrova Ivanova, piano; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Kevin Thompson, Polonius||3:04|
|26||Thoughts black, Hands apt||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Melanie Forgeron, Player Queen; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Evan Bravos, Claudius; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||2:07|
|27||What a Piece of Work is Man||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Jose Lopez, Solo French Horn||5:01|
|28||My lord, the queen would speak with you||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Dobromir Momekov, Rosencrantz; Teodor Petkov, Guildenstrern||1:47|
|29||He will come straight||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude||2:05|
|30||What will thou do||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Kevin Thompson, Polonius; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||11:06|
|Disc 3 - Act 3|
|31||Prelude - To my sick soul||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Evan Bravos, Claudius||4:24|
|32||Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Katherine Pracht, Horatio; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse||6:36|
|33||Well, not so secret||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia||4:35|
|34||This nothing’s more than matter||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Brianna Robinson, Ophelia; Neal Ferreira, Laertes||4:08|
|35||Interlude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||2:22|
|36||There is a willow||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Melanie Forgeron, Player Queen||5:21|
|37||Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Katherine Pracht, Horatio; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude||7:15|
|38||Interlude||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||1:36|
|39||In youth when I did love||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Maria Anastasova, Will; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Katherine Pracht, Horatio; Joseph Hubbard, John, the Gravedigger||10:14|
|40||Lay her in the earth||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Emil Zhelev, Priest; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse; MichelleTrainor, Gertrude; Omar Najmi, Hamlet||3:00|
|41||Hamlet, hamlet||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude; Katherine Pracht, Horatio; Evan Bravos, Claudius; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Neal Ferreira, Laertes<br />||3:37|
|42||Windum, windum||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Andrey Petkov, Ivan Penchev, Radoslav Genkov, Dimitar Kyurkchiev, Teodor Petkov, Stoyan Stoyandzhov, Emil Zhelev - Norwegian soldiers||1:32|
|43||Give me your pardon, sir||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Andrey Petkov, Ivan Penchev, Radoslav Genkov, Dimitar Kyurkchiev, Teodor Petkov, Stoyan Stoyandzhov, Emil Zhelev - Norwegian soldiers; Katherine Pracht, Horatio; The Choir of The State Opera-Ruse, Evan Bravos, Claudius; Michelle Trainor, Gertrude||10:10|
|44||Follow my mother||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor; Neal Ferreira, Laertes; Omar Najmi, Hamlet; Katherine Pracht, Horatio||3:21|
|45||I die, Horatio - Now cracks a noble heart||Joseph Summer||Ruse Symphony Orchestra | Leo Hussain, conductor||2:46|
Omar Najmi Hamlet
Brianna Robinson Ophelia
Kevin Thompson Polonius
Evan Bravos Claudius
Michelle Trainor Gertrude
Katherine Pracht Horatio
Neal Ferreira Laertes
Melanie Forgeron Player Queen
Joseph Hubbard Player King & John, the Gravedigger
Dobromir Momekov Rosencrantz
Teodor Petkov Guildenstern
Maria Anastasova Will
Andrey Mitev Child
Edward Vere Prologue
Emil Zhelev Priest
Mousetrap Scene Piano trio
Eftima Evtimova violin Plamena Velichkova cello Bozhena Petrova Ivanova piano
“What a Piece of Work is Man” Horn soloist Jose Antonio Higueras Lopez
Stage Director Plamen Byekov
Set and Costume Designer Denis Ivanov
Director of Ruse Opera Ivan Kyurkchiev
Assistant Conductor Viktor Mitrevski
Repetiteur and Vocal Coach Brett Hodgdon
Repetiteur Bojena Petrova Ivanova
Choirmasters Steliyana Dimitrova-Hernani, Svilen Dimitrov
Recorded June 9-14, 2021 at the Philharmonic Hall in Ruse, Bulgaria
Session Producer, Editing, Mixing & Mastering Jan Košulič
Additional Mastering Melanie Montgomery
Session Engineer Aleš Dvořák
Performance Photos Emil Kyostebekov
Piano Reduction Marcel Kozánek
Engraved Score and Parts Marcel Kozánek
This album was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Mattina R. Proctor Foundation.
Executive Producer Bob Lord
Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
VP of Production Jan Košulič
Production Director Levi Brown
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Assistant Martina Watzková
VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner
Joseph Summer began playing French horn at the age of 7. While attending the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina at age 14 he studied composition with the eminent Czech composer Karel Husa. At age 15 he was accepted at Oberlin Conservatory, studied with Richard Hoffmann, Schönberg’s amanuensis, and graduated with a B.M. in Music Composition in 1976. Recruited by Robert Page, Dean of the Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University, Summer taught music theory at CMU before leaving to pursue composition full time.
British conductor Leo Hussain has established himself as a leading interpreter in his generation of Mozart, the second Viennese school, and great 20th century masterpieces, breathing life into new scores and bringing fresh perspective to programming the core romantic repertoire with his musical intellect and curiosity. He was formerly Music Director of the Opéra de Rouen and Salzburg Landestheater, and now conducts many of the world’s top orchestras and opera houses.
State Opera Ruse
State Opera Ruse is one of the most significant cultural phenomena in Bulgaria. Its creation was the result of a long cultural process that began in Ruse more than a decade before the liberation. A combination of the desire for artistic expression, a longing for beauty, and a thirst for high European culture has meant that the citizens of Ruse have imbued the opera with a formidable energy. This energy is still present today and, despite all the trials, the ups and downs of the city’s history and the turbulent history of the country, the people of Ruse will always seek beauty and never stop developing their skills and the talents of their children via the influences of Western Europe.
Ruse Symphony Orchestra
The Ruse Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1919 as a successor to the traditions of the symphonic work conducted in Ruse after the Liberation. The first concert of the Ruse Urban Philharmonic Orchestra took place on March 2, 1919. In the first 30 years of its existence, the orchestra underwent many metamorphoses, adapting to its funding opportunities and involvement in various organizations such as the Lyra Society and Opera Society. In 1947, the orchestra was nationalized and on January 4, 1948 performed its first concert as State Symphony Orchestra Ruse, conducted by Konstantin Iliev.
The Choir of the State Opera-Ruse
The Choir of the State Opera-Ruse dates back to 1949. In the years before, the choral parts in the first opera productions were performed by various choirs from the city of Ruse, known for its great tradition of choral art. It is significant that in the middle of the 20th century there were 28 functioning choirs in Ruse. Even today, one of the most famous Bulgarian choirs remains the Rousse mixed choirs “Danube Sounds” and “Professor Vasil Arnaudov.”
Praised for his “clarion, luxuriously Italianate voice,” tenor Omar Najmi enjoys a versatile career in opera and concert. A regular favorite at the Boston Lyric Opera, Najmi has been featured in over 15 of their productions including appearances as Nick in The Handmaid’s Tale, Vanya Kudrjas in Katya Kabanova, Beppe in Pagliacci, Goro in Madama Butterfly, Reverend Harrington in Lizzie Borden, and more. Recent and upcoming appearances include the title role in the world premiere of Hamlet (State Opera Ruse), Tito in La Clemenza di Tito and Rodolfo in La Boheme (Opera Steamboat), Alfredo in La Traviata (MassOpera), San Giovanni in La Resurrezione, and tenor soloist in St. John Passion (Emmanuel Music).
Brianna J. Robinson
Brianna J. Robinson, soprano, is a native of Ravenna OH. Recently, Robinson was named a finalist in the 2021 Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition with Opera Ebony. She has been a Jane and Steven Akin Emerging Artist with the Boston Lyric Opera since 2018. During her time with BLO, she has performed the role of Lucy in Spears’ Fellow Travelers, and covered three principal roles in The Handmaid’s Tale. In Boston, her most recent work includes singing the role of Florence Price in Florence Comes Home by Francine Trester with Shelter Music Boston, and being a featured soloist in the Boston Landmarks Orchestra 2020 and 2021 summer seasons.
Marked as a “young talent to watch” by the Chicago Tribune, Baritone Evan Bravos has received critical acclaim for his “lovely lyric baritone” (Opera News) in interpretations of opera, oratorio, and art song repertoire. Bravos performs the role of Hannah Before in Laura Kaminsky’s groundbreaking As One with Opera Santa Barbara in 2022. With Chicago Opera Theatre, he played El Dancaïro in Carmen and “sang winningly” (Opera News) as Clay in the world premiere of Matthew Reccio and Royce Vavrek’s online opera The Puppy Episode.
Versatile singing actress Michelle Trainor is known for her “powerful, penetrating soprano” (Wall Street Journal), and as both a “comic genius” and “vocal treat” (Boston Globe). A favorite in the arena of contemporary opera, Trainor recently premiered the roles of Helen McDougal in Julian Grant’s The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare and La Madre in Omar Najmi’s En la Ardiente Oscuridad; and performed the role of Miss Lightfoot in Gregory Spears’ Fellow Travelers and Ofglen in Ruder’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In standard rep like Macbeth, Barber of Seville, and Threepenny Opera, she was described by Berkshire Fine Arts as “an ebullient comedian” who steals “every scene she is in with her pure joie de vivre.” She was nominated by ArtsImpulse for Best Female Performer in an Opera in the title role of Suor Angelica with MetroWest Opera.
Singing the role of Horatio is mezzo-soprano Katherine Pracht, who made her debut with Joseph Summer’s The Shakespeare Concerts singing the role of Ariel in the world premiere recording of The Tempest for Albany Records.
Praised for his “rich, powerful voice” and “bravura-filled stage presence,” Neal Ferreira is a nationally recognized lyric tenor known for his cultivated vocalism and eloquent expression. Dubbed a “Boston mainstay” by the Boston Globe, he recently appeared with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall as Tamino in The Magic Flute, with Emmanuel Music as Macheath in Benjamin Britten’s version of The Beggar’s Opera, and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as Parpignol in La bohème under the baton of Maestro Andris Nelsons.
Mezzo-soprano Melanie Forgeron has enjoyed a rapidly growing career in Europe and Asia. Theaterkrant hailed her “gorgeous, dark voice, and convincingly gloomy demeanor” in a recent performance as Ulrica in Verdi’s Ballo in Maschera with the Opera Zuid (Netherlands). Forgeron performed the roles of Playerqueen and Luciano in the world premiere of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet in a collaboration between the State Opera Ruse, PARMA Recordings, and the Shakespeare Concert Series.
Joseph Hubbard, bass, has performed over 30 different operatic roles ranging broadly from early 17th century to new premieres. He was recently cast in the world premiere of Joseph Summer’s Hamlet at State Opera Ruse in Bulgaria as both John the Gravedigger and Player King; in a joint production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Second City as Morgan/Wotan (cover) in Longer, Louder, Wagner; as Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Larkens in La Fanciulla del West with Virginia Opera; Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Henry Mosher in Picker’s Emmeline, Bass/Allen Ginsberg in Glass/Ginsberg’s Hydrogen Jukebox, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Mother in Weill/Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins with Boston University Opera Institute; Colline in La Bohème and Orazio in Faccio’s Amleto with Opera Southwest; Seneca and Littore in L’incoronazione di Poppea with the Aldeburgh Festival Britten-Pears Programme (UK); and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte with the Aspen Music Festival.
Dobromir Momekov graduated from the National Academy of Music “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” in 2001. He specializes in the Accademia di alto perfezionamento per giovani cantanti lirici at the Arena di Verona under the direction of the world-renowned opera performers and pedagogues baritone Leo Nucci and soprano Raina Kabaivanska.
Teodor Petkov graduated from the National School of Music and Dance “Hristina Morfova” – Stara Zagora with a degree in Oboe and Classical Singing. In 2015, he graduated from the National Academy of Music “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov.” He also participated in the master classes of Bruno Balioni, Veselina Katsarova (2018), and Nikolay Motsov (2019). Winner of the Third Prize of the International Youth Competition “Slavic Bell” – Varna (2019), the repertoire of the young singer includes central roles from the operas of Mozart and Puccini, as well as many contemporary roles. He has toured in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, and Northern Macedonia.
Maria Anastasova was born in Ruse, Bulgaria. She is a graduate of the National School of Arts “Prof. Veselin Stoyanov” in Ruse with piano and classical guitar degrees. She studied the art of classical singing in the private class of the Bulgarian baritone and pedagogue Ventseslav Anastasov. In 2020 she graduated from the New Bulgarian University – Sofia with a degree in Animation Cinema. She has participated in master classes of the Japanese soprano Noboru Aomori, of the Bulgarian opera singers and pedagogues Gabriela Georgieva and Krassimira Stoyanova. She has been a soloist at the State Opera Ruse since 2020, where she played the roles of Oscar in “Un ballo in maschera,” Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Serpina in La Serva padrona, Lila in Bulgarians of Old Times, and Will in Hamlet.
Andrey Mitev was born in 2012 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. At the age of seven, he began studying the flute and actively participated in concert programs and musicals staged by the Department of Performing Arts at his school. In 2020, he moved to Ruse, Bulgaria where he continued his flute training. He is the winner of the Second Prize of the National Competition “Sava Dobroplodni” in Shumen. Mitev sings treble in the children’s choir “St. George The Victorious” of Ruse.
Emil Zhelev graduated from the National Academy of Music “Prof. P. Vladigerov.” In 2000 he settled in Italy, where he worked for the next decade. He specializes in Evgenia Dundekova and Claudio Desderi. He is a laureate of the international opera competitions “Umberto Giordano” (2000) and in Ruffano (2001, Lecce).
Eftima Evtimova graduated from National School of Music “Prof. L. Pipkov” and National Academy of Music “Prof. P. Vladigerov” in the class of Professor Elisaveta Kazakova, and for her master’s degree she worked with Professor Mario Hossen. At the same time, she attended the masterclasses of Professor Vanya Milanova, Mincho Minchev, and Stoyka Milanova. She has won prizes in competitions. Evtimova’s professional career began in the Vratsa Philharmonic, continued in the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – Pernik and in the orchestra of the State Musical Theater “Stefan Makedonski.” Since 2019, she has been the concertmaster of the orchestra of the State Opera Ruse.
Plamena Velichkova graduated from National School of Arts “Prof. Veselin Stoyanov” in the cello class of Alexandra Elenkova. In 1996, she defended her master’s thesis at the National Academy of Music “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” in cello in the class of Professor Anatoli Krastev and Chamber Music in the class of Professor Ventseslav Nikolov. Since 1997, she has been working in the Ruse Philharmonic. In 2012, after a successful competition, she was the leader of the cello group in the orchestra of the State Opera Ruse. At this moment, she is also a cello teacher at National School of Arts “Prof. Veselin Stoyanov.”
Bozhena Petrova Ivanova
Bozhena Petrova Ivanova graduated from the National Academy of Music “Prof. Pancho Vladigerov” in the piano class of the pedagogue and the outstanding concert performer Professor Yovcho Krushev. She has won awards from national competitions and the First and Special Awards of the Second International Piano Competition “Albert Russell” in Sofia. She has repeatedly performed as a soloist in all Bulgarian philharmonic orchestras, as well as the Shanghai Philharmonic. Petrova collaborated at the New York Harlem Theater with the opera Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin on tour in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Japan. Since 2002, she has been a pianist and soloist of the symphony orchestra of the State Opera Ruse. At the same time, she is one of the leading accompanists of the opera house, performing as an accompanist in numerous chamber programs, as well as in educational concerts organized by the Ruse Opera. Petrova is a music teacher at the Ruse Children’s Opera.
Jose Antonio Higueras López
Jose Antonio Higueras López was born in Picassent, Valencia in 1991, beginning his musical studies at the Musical Artistic Society at the age of 8 with Professor Juan Bautista Soria Medina. Since 2007, he has been studying with Jose Chanzá, horn soloist of the Spanish Radio Television Orchestra. In 2010, he began his higher studies at the Salvador Seguí́, Superior Conservatory of Music in Castellón.
Plamen Beykov (ARCM, M.Mus.) studied opera singing at the Royal College of Music in London with the English bass-baritone Steven Roberts and the famous Italian soprano Grazziella Sciutti. He specialized at the Accademia di Arte e Cultura in Rome with Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff.
Coming from a family with a long musical tradition, the young Macedonian conductor Viktor Mitrevski began his music education at the age of 7 with the violin. In 2005, he picked up the baton and started studying orchestral conducting at University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. In 2008m he received an invitation from Alessandro D’Agostini to assist him at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. In 2009, he was accepted by the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, where he obtained Master’s Degrees in both Choral Conducting in 2014 with Professor Erwin Ortner and Orchestral Conducting with Professors Simeon Pironkoff and Uros Lajovic in 2015.
In 1994, Steliyana Dimitrova-Hernani graduated from the Music School in Ruse with a degree in oboe, and in 1999 from the Plovdiv Academy of Music and Dance with a degree in music pedagogy and piano. In 1997, Steliyana joined the “Danube Sounds” choir as a chorister, and a year later, she became a member of the choir of the Ruse Opera. She is a graduate and follower of the renowned Bulgarian conductor Mihail Angelov. In 2011, Steliyana became the conductor of the “Danube Sounds” choir, and since 2012 has been the choirmaster of the State Opera Ruse. In 2013, she graduated with a master’s degree in choral conducting from the New Bulgarian University.
Svilen Dimitrov was born in Ruse. He graduated from the National School of Arts “Prof. V. Stoyanov” in Ruse with a violin degree and the National Academy of Music “Prof. P. Vladigerov,” where he studied choral conducting with Prof. Lilia Gyuleva and opera and symphonic conducting with Prof. Ivan Marinov. Since 1997, he has been working with the children’s choir “Danube Waves.” He is the conductor of the choirs and the orchestra of NSA “Prof. V. Stoyanov,” which has won awards at a number of international festivals and competitions. He conducts concerts and operas with the Ruse Opera. He is the conductor of the mixed choir “Prof. Vasil Arnaudov” in Ruse, and since 2017 he has been the conductor of the Ruse Children’s Opera. Dimitrov is the author of orchestrations of concert programs and productions of Ruse Children’s Opera.
Joseph Summer on his Hamlet Opera
Early one morning in Ruse, Bulgaria, I ventured out from my hotel room in the city’s central square, Svoboda, pondering the ramifications of the Hamlet project, one day after the first orchestral rehearsals. Why was I here in Bulgaria, with my Hamlet opera; my four hour long, three act grand opera? Was this a mistake? Had I overreached? Was this the right locale for the premiere, the recording? Why here and now this enterprise of great pitch and moment?
What I wanted — as I began my early a.m. ambage — was a cigar and an augury. I wandered the narrow labyrinthine side streets of Ruse for a little more than an hour before heading back to Svoboda square, unresolved; when finally I was delivered a sign, in the form of a gargantuan yogurt drum. It stopped me in my tracks, this absurdly outsized yogurt container, the size of a garbage bin, adorned with an indecipherable — to me — image of a verdant mountain peppered with boulders in the midst of some gaping glacier. On top of the yogurt barrel, three feet above the ground, was the beginning of a magical message: the word “Divine,” though slightly misspelled. The mountain, the glacier, the conjuring of the divine; combined to compel my eyes upwards where was revealed, in golden majuscule and Bulgarian alphabet this:
I read that as “Three Act Pax, Obey!” And “Pax” I transliterated first as “Peace,” and then “Piece.” The Brobdingnagian Yogurt Cup was telling me that I must be at peace with my three act piece; that I must obey the K. (PK was the abbreviation I used in the Hamlet score for Player King, so “K” meant “King” as is abbreviated in chess shorthand, though it could be argued that “PK” also means the King’s pawn.) Could this be right? A small sign adjacent to the portentous yogurt vat assured me, in English, that this mystical letter was delivered expressly to me by “my courier.” And yet, there was another message, mocking me, as another sign declared that it found my discernment of meaning in the ambiguous gibberish surrounding me to be laughable. The sign stated, “Snickers! I scream.” I took a picture of the scene, so I could ponder it later.
The titanic yogurt receptacle, the Golden Symbols, the sneering snickers comment, the flamboyant letters; they seemed to cast doubt on an oracle I’d chanced upon near a cemetery in Prague more than two decades prior to this enormous bin of bacterial haruspex.
My first experience in Eastern Europe for the purpose of a recording session – as well as my first visit to Eastern Europe, as well as my first recording session – was in Prague in 2003. MMC Recordings was running a project to record several of my Shakespearean settings for voices and chamber ensembles. I would speak at length about this triumphant catastrophe, but that’s a tale for another time. The event, if I can call it that, about which I was reminded yesterday morning (May 17, 2021) was a seemingly supernatural and oracular watershed moment — like the recording session itself — which to this day I endeavor to logically apprehend with a persistent lack of success.
I founded The Shakespeare Concerts and began the climb towards public performances and recordings in the early 2000s. Unbeknownst to me, the MMC company was eventually subsumed by the incipient PARMA, and – if I recall correctly – within the year of its establishment I received a call from PARMA’s founder, Bob Lord, who let me know that he had obtained the rights to the unpublished MMC catalog, and he wanted to release the music recorded in Prague earlier, that I had assumed was no longer in existence. I did not want the disc to be released, and I agreed to meet with Bob at his new offices in New Hampshire. I didn’t know what I would do to dissuade him from releasing the music.Sitting across from Bob, listening to him discuss the “positives” in the recorded material, I bethought an escape. I blurted out that I wanted to launch a series of discs with PARMA, but not start with the 2003 Martinek studio material. Bob and I came to an agreement, and began a long and rewarding collaboration that has included nine of The Shakespeare Concerts albums with PARMA, live performances at PARMA festivals, and now: HAMLET.
Beginning with a somewhat failed project in Prague and the birth of The Shakespeare Concerts; a sojourn backwards in time to Prague in the new PARMA offices which spawned a decade of collaboration between PARMA and The Shakespeare Concerts; to arrive at another eastern European city, sporting an ominous can; I am prepared to accept the call to arms. I defy Hamlet’s claim that “conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of Resolution Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment, With this regard their Currents turn awry, And lose the name of Action.” Quite the contrary, it’s time to act. And not just to act, but three acts.
— Joseph Summer