Drama Theatre "Stoyan Bachvarov"

The idea for a new and modern theatre building in Varna dates from the beginning of the XX century. It is associated with the formation of a professional theatrical company, requiring appropriate building. The old "Union" hall no longer suited the growing cultural need of the city. Initially the idea met opposition from some society leaders, fearing it is too early for this step, and that expenses would be a burden for the municipal budget. For a short period it turns to be a broadly discussed topic. In 1909 at the first municipality meeting the new mayor Ivan Tserov, a cultural and educational activist, brought the subject of a new building. The councilors agreed and determined the future location - the south corner of the city garden, between the Clock Tower and the Mahmud fountain, facing the square.
The famous architect Nicola Lazarov won the contest for project of the new theatre building. He is also author of Radio Varna building and the National Theatre "Ivan Vasov". The building had the interior design of the theatre in Sofia - a 1000 seats capacity, divided in stalls and 2 balconies. Initially the projects allowed for casino and open-air scene, later excluded from the plan. On March 26th 1912, "the second day of Easter the base stone of the city theatre was laid in grandeur..." In the presence of Varna society the mayor Tserov held a rousing speech. It is followed by the officials and Lazarov signing formal documents and building it in a special stone case. Different Bulgarian coins were also laid in the base.
The building works start with an expected 3 year term, however the series of wars delayed the project for a long time. Until 1918 the building stayed incomplete, without roof and covered with weeds. During the winter of 1920 the Municipal Council took decision to form a professional theatrical company. The debates were emotional: "We do not want to earn money from theatre" (D. Kondov, city mayor), "It is a shame that Varna does not enjoy a theatre..." (Kr. Mirski). On March 12th 1921 the company debuted with the performance "The Instinct" by Anry Kestmeker. The day is acknowledged as a birth date of the theatre in Varna. The enthusiasm is spreading among the society and the whole city population takes part in the restoration of the building. In 1922 a citizen committee was formed, the topic was in the newspapers, and in 1928 the Municipal Council agreed to a 5-million leva loan. Varna citizens had charity disposition - stamps of the "Building Varna Theatre" could be bought with every bread, movie ticket, entertainment, bath, every municipal service, even the Seaside garden chairs. Thus more than a million leva were collected in a month. The architects D. Dabkov and J. Bogdanov finished the building project. So "Finally, thanks God! After long 20-years contraventions the building of Varna Theatre was accomplished and magnificently open" as Ivan Tserov remembers. The same evening "Hashove" by Ivan Vasov was performed. The first executive director is Stoyan Bachvarov, after whom the theatre is named today. 
Undoubtedly architect Lazarov used this architectural design in his strife to relate Varna to the large European cities. The rounded Baroque facade is elaborately ornamented with decorative elements, columns, and sculptures. The three entrance gates are a few steps over the grounds that used to be an element of magnificence for the theatre visitors too. A lobby in the form of ellipse in style secession, outside corridors lead to the hall. The guests use the broad stairways to go to the light balcony lobbies. The hall was the classical for theatres "horseshoe" form, boxes close to the scene. The curves of the boxes follow the curves of the balconies. The most prominent part of the audience is seated in the boxes surrounding the scene. The building is finished with a mansard roof and four smaller cupolas over the sideways.
This is the look, in which the building welcomes theatre visitors for almost 50 years. The demand for staff rooms, rehearsal rooms, requisite warehouses, is growing with time. The building is not taken good care of and it loses its initial glamour and functionality. In the beginning of the 80s the reconstruction was started. The basic change was the enlarged building area and some servicing compartment built. They are on the side or back of the scene, and in result the building has two and a half times larger space. As the initial plans are for just a theatre building /the opera to possess a separate one/ after the reconstruction, the orchestra is using an uncomfortable and improvised orchestra pit. The most noticeable change in the hall is the loss of the two front rows of boxes in the stalls and the first balcony. This provides more space in the hall, however a touch of the magnificence and ancient character of the interior design are lost. During their reconstruction a special lifting system for decors, modern light technique with central control and air conditioning were installed. The reconstruction ended in December 1989. The exterior architectural design of the theatre building is maintained as the original one. Today the theatre is one of the beauties of Varna's architecture.
Special thanks to Milena Minkova for the translation of this page.

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