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Stoyan Bachvarov – the creator of the Varna theater troupe

Stoyan Bachvarov, one of the pioneers of the Bulgarian theater, an actor of national stature, theater director and director, laid the foundations of professional theater in Varna. On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of its establishment, the Varna Drama Theater accepted Stoyan Bachvarov as its patron and bears his name from 1957.

He was born on July 27, 1878 and passed away on January 6, 1949 – 72 years ago. His birthplace is the village of Medven, Kotlen region. He was born three months after his father was killed by the Turks. Stoyan Bachvarov has been nurtured with a Revival spirit since his childhood. He works as a petty clerk and teaches in his homeland to save money for his secondary education at the Kazanlak Pedagogical School, after which he graduated from the Men’s High School in Varna.

It was in Varna that he was fascinated by the theatrical art, to which he dedicated his whole life. As a student he was recruited as an intern actor in the amateur theater troupe of Ivan Kozhuharov.

Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Stoyan Bachvarov Drama Theater – Varna)

In 1895 Ivan Kozhuharov, Stoyan Bachvarov and Preslav Preslavski founded the Napredak Theater Society, which performed in the Saedinenie Hall (now Scena Branch), the municipality even granted subsidies and released the troupe from rent for the hall. They play “Sluzhbogontsi” by Ivan Vazov, where Stoyan Bachvarov reaps applause in the role of Stancho Kvasnikov, showing for the first time his great comedic talent.

Stoyan Bachvarov also participates in the traveling theater of Matei Ikonomov, which he presents in Sofia with great success “At the Bottom” by Maxim Gorky. He was accepted as a member of the newly established National Theater in the capital, after which he went to specialize in Moscow and Germany (1908).

He studied Stanislavsky’s art at the Moscow Art Theater and the Maly Theater, and in Munich, Germany, he became acquainted with the development of contemporary trends in European theater. “The new thing I saw there came to drown out everything I’ve seen so far,” said the artist after his return.

In search of new challenges, Stoyan Bachvarov joined various professional troupes, and in 1909, together with the writer Anton Strashimirov, he founded the dramatic troupe “Laughter and Tears”, in which he was a director and actor. In the next ten years he established himself as one of the leading actors of the National Theater. In 1910 he founded and edited the magazine “Theater”, in which he published his own materials. In 1919 he became one of the founders of the Union of Artists in Bulgaria.

The first Varna period 1921-1923

In 1921 the Varna municipality with mayor Dimitar Kondov invited Stoyan Bachvarov to head the first professional theater troupe in the city. On March 1 of the same year, the Varna Post newspaper wrote: “The municipality in our city has engaged the famous Sofia talented artist Stoyan Bachvarov to organize a municipal theater troupe, supported and subsidized exclusively by the municipality.”

Thus Stoyan Bachvarov made his name in theatrical history as the first director of the first professional theater in Varna. The cast includes: Petar Dimitrov, Nikola Gandev, Angel Todorov, Asparuh Temelkov, Shtilyan Popov, Georgi Georgiev, Mihail Bogdanov, Krum Mumdzhiev, Todor Radoslavovo, Ivan Gunderov, Ivan Atanasov, Stefana Gandeva, Nikolina Bamitvarova, Mikolava, Mikola , Militsa Atanasova, Mara Mikhailova, M. Nikolova. They were later joined by Ivan and Alexandra Yanevi, Hristo Dinev, Ideal Petrov, Vladimir Trendafilov, Vela Usheva.

1932 Varna theatrical troupe with director – director Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Drama Theater “Stoyan Bachvarov” – Varna)

On March 12, 1921, with the then fashionable play “Instinct” by Henri Kestmecker, directed by Stoyan Bachvarov, the chronicle of the Varna Drama Theater began. In just a few months, during which he was briefly removed and then reinstated as director, Stoyan Bachvarov staged almost all 38 plays played during the first theatrical season.

In the repertoire, built mainly with works from world drama, he plays the main roles: Arkashka in “Les” by Ostrovsky, Isidore Lesha from “Interest Above All” by Octave Mirabeau, Albert from “Paris Café” by Paul Gavo, Strandzha from “Hash” ”By Ivan Vazov, Hallers from“ Prosecutor Hallers ”, Oedipus the King from the play of the same name by Sophocles, etc.

Subsequently, the director Isak Daniel, for a short time also the director of the Varna Theater, blamed the press Stoyan Bachvarov for this “repertoire flood”. From today’s point of view, we could understand the enthusiasm of those first theatrical years and the desire to offer the audience as many productions as possible, mainly in the accessible genre of comedy.

The low ticket prices, as well as the free performances for workers one day a week, speak in favor of this consideration. It is not insignificant that at that time in Bulgaria the cinema was rising and the newly created theater had to compete with the fast-changing movie posters.

Stoyan Bachvarov as Isidore Lesha in “Interest Above All” by Mirabeau, directed by Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Drama Theater “Stoyan Bachvarov” – Varna)

Varna residents highly appreciate the dedicated work of the first teacher and the remarkable production of the troupe and flock to the Saedinenie Hall to watch their theater. In an editorial in the Varna Post from 1922 we read:

“It has been more than a year since Stoyan Bachvarov formed a municipal theater. With inexhaustible energy, insignificant resources and an unfavorable situation with newcomers, he gave many plays performed exclusively on his shoulders. “

And the theater historian Vicho Ivanov notes in his book “Masters of the Stage”:

“He was able to create a bond between the participants in the play. In this atmosphere of mutual respect in the game, the creator was not only the director Stoyan Bachvarov, but also the artist and the man Bachvarov. This theatrical ethic in the team came directly from the person, from his high artistic culture. “

On March 11, 1922, in Varna, the 25-year theatrical activity of Stoyan Bachvarov was solemnly celebrated, for which congratulatory telegrams arrived from all over, including from His Majesty Tsar Boris III. But the following year, after the change of power in the municipality, Stoyan Bachvarov fell into disfavor again. Although removed from the post of director of the Municipal Theater, he remained in Varna and founded, along with most of the actors, the Awakening Theater, which performs in the crowded hall of the Rankov Cinema.

The second Varna period 1932-1935

Laying the foundations of the professional theater in Varna in the period 1921-1923, Stoyan Bachvarov builds on the achievements of his second Varna period 1932-1935, in which he was reinstated as director-director.

Meanwhile, the new theater building was completed, designed by prominent architect Nikola Lazarov. Mayor Ivan Tserov, who came to power with a promise to build a new theater for his fellow citizens, made the first sod in 1912, but the wars dragged on. And only in 1927 the unprecedented charity campaign, with which the people of Varna donated for the completion of the new theater one gold lev for each purchased bread, movie ticket, party and other services, revived the great theatrical endeavor and united the efforts of citizens and the municipality. .

1921-1922 “Prosecutor Hallers” from Lindau, directed by Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Drama Theater “Stoyan Bachvarov” – Varna)

On June 5, 1932, Metropolitan Simeon consecrated the beautiful theater building, an exquisite architectural landmark and a temple of art, built with the energy of an entire city.

On the new theatrical stage Stoyan Bachvarov first puts “Boryana” by Yordan Yovkov, in which he plays the role of Zlatil. The well-chosen cast includes: Nikola and Stefana Gandevi, Ideal and Roska Petrov, Georgi and Evgenia Gromovi, Dimitar and Vesa Bocharovi, Hristo Dinev, Mihail Bogdanov, Georgi Georgiev, Dimitar Keranov, Stefan Nikolaev, Mr. Topalov, Ivan Georgiev, B Kozhuharov, Vladimir Vatev, Nadia Stanislavska, Nikolina Bachvarova, Vanya Petkova, Siika Moskova, Dimka Velichkova, Dobrina Kamburova, Elena Kostova, Zora Makedonska and others.

With these actors Stoyan Bachvarov realized 77 premieres during the three seasons, of which 18 were Bulgarian, including for children. The repertoire includes works by Ivan Vazov, Anton Strashimirov, Tsanko Tserkovski, St. L. Kostov, Friedrich Schiller, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Gerhard Hauptmann, Oscar Wilde and others. Apart from Stoyan Bachvarov, Hrisan Tsankov and Yuri Yakovlev are guest directors.

The culmination of Stoyan Bachvarov’s theatrical efforts was the holding in 1933 of the Summer Theater Celebrations in Varna, in which for the first time performances of the National and Varna Theaters were performed on one stage. This first of its kind national theater meeting in front of an audience is the predecessor of the Varna Summer Theater Festival, which has grown from a national to an international one in order to become the most important theatrical event in Bulgaria.

1926 Cartoon by Stoyan Bachvarov by Alexander Bozhinov (Source: Stoyan Bachvarov Drama Theater – Varna)

Despite these successes, ferment among the actors and reproaches from the municipal administration for unsatisfactory artistic and financial results, cause Stoyan Bachvarov to be fired again. He left the city once and for all, where he began his brilliant acting career, laid the foundations of professional theater, supported young talents and left behind unforgettable theatrical images.

The great artist continued his creative path for the next two years at the Plovdiv Theater, after which he returned to the National Theater, where he triumphed in large and small roles for the rest of his life. He also starred in the films “Nasraddin Hodja and Sly Peter” by director Alexander Vazov, in the role of Nasraddin Hodja (1939), “Bulgarians of old” by director Dimitar Minkov, in the role of Hadji Gencho (1945) and others.

The founders of the National Theater, first from the left – Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Drama Theater “Stoyan Bachvarov” – Varna)

In the history of Bulgarian theatrical art Stoyan Bachvarov will always be a model for acting and psychological depth with which he builds his roles, combining the comic and the tragic in an impactful way.

“I have seen Bachvarov in many plays. What a deep sincerity and lightness in his play, what an unattainable artistic simplicity and festive brilliance radiated this unsurpassed master of laughter. The audience kept bursting into uncontrollable laughter and applause like an agitated sea. But this great comedian was touchingly influential when he also played dramatic roles…

His whole plastic figure played, his amazing facial expressions, even his eyebrows played with grief. He didn’t like make-up. “Makeup kills facial expressions,” he repeated. But nature had endowed him with everything to be a great artist and with a wonderful expressive face, which was hindered by any paint and pattern. Stoyan Bachvarov taught me to love my roles as living people. There were no big or small roles for his acting ethics “, the actor Petar Vassilev remembers.

“I played all kinds of roles that I like and don’t like. I played fools, and vagrants, and what not, but my heart never let me give up these roles, because I thought I was insulting this category of people in life, “confesses his artistic and human credo great artist.

Stoyan Bachvarov (Source: Stoyan Bachvarov Drama Theater – Varna)

Stoyan Bachvarov is married to actress Nikolina (Kolya) Bachvarova, with whom they have two children – Willy and Krum. Stoyan Bachvarov’s brother, Dimo, was the first mayor of the village of Medven after the Liberation. Great-grandson of Stoyan Bachvarov is the famous actor Uti Bachvarov – theater critic and host of the culinary show “Tasty” on BNT.

His mother Galya Bachvarova is the granddaughter of Stoyan Bachvarov, also a theater critic, editor and founder of TV Theater. The other grandson Stoyan (Rumen) Bachvarov is an actor. But on the highest theatrical field, along with Stoyan Bachvarov, rises his more distant relative Graciela Bachvarova, the theatrical legend who dedicated her life and work to the Varna Drama Theater, named after her remarkable predecessor.

Violeta Toncheva