Interview for the magazine MATHILDE

Dear Dr.  Virginia Atanassova – Lialios, please answer the following questions.

1)You are a conductor. How are the reactions of the people in your profession “untypical for women”?

The reactions are different:  they depend on peoples’ broader scope about culture and music as a part of it, the role of a woman conductor and its appreciation, and individual intellectual, mental and professional level of different persons.

2)You were born in Sofia, Bulgaria. Come from a musical family? How was your training?

Although I do not come from a musical family, my mother used to play violin and my father worked as an artistic director of a famous cappella in Sofia “Svetoslav Obretenov”, which is currently the philharmonic choir over there. At first I was also educated in violin and graduated the music high school in Sofia.  After I finished it I entered the Academy of Music as a violin player and parallel to it I was admitted to the conducting class in order for me to study conducting with the distinguished and world famous conductor professor Vassil Arnaudoff. Later on I took master courses and specialized in Vienna choral conducting by prof. Guenther Theuring (Austria),Prof. Felix de Nobel (Netherlands), Prof. Eric Ericson (Sweden), Prof. Julius Kalmar (orchestra conducting), and Prof. Igor Markevitsch (orchstra conducting).  At the age of 24 I was employed as an assistant professor at the Academy of Music where later on I defended two dissertacions (the second one I prepared in Germany-Hochschule fur Musik und Theater and worked with Prof. Hennig and Prof. Rowatkay with a DAAD scholarship. In year 1996 I won a Fulbright award and went to the US where on a research and lecturing program for one and a half year. Due to my Fulbright activity I was offered a teaching position as an associate music professor at the American College of Thessaloniki, Greece where I worked for 10 years parallel to my teaching of conducting major at the Academy of Music in Sofia.

3)You are the conductor of the Bulgarian Ensamble “Tutti Soli”.

At the this year’s Darmstädter Residenzfestspiele, Il divino Claudio will be presented on July 29 an Italian program on the subject of love. How did the collaboration with the ensemble “Tutti Soli”? Tell us a bit about your work with the ensemble “Tutti Soli”?

“Tutti Soli” is a professional ensemble  which consists of one of the most distinguished singers (some of them from the Sofia opera) and instrumentalists (some are also professors at the Academy of Music in Sofia and in addition there are two to four ballet dancers so that we would be able to perform some opera-ballets by renaissance and baroque composers like Claudio Monteverdi for example.  My work with this unique ensemble is always kind of a challenge as we do mainly works, which have not been performed in Bulgaria and /or very rarely abroad.  It is also difficult to work with professional musicians as each of them is a bright individual which creates additional difficulties regarding the ensemble and sound differentiation.

4) How prevail with eight to twelve persons of the ensemble “Tutti Soli”?

We know that during the renaissance period of time it had always been possible the performers to vary according the available forces: voices were replaceable with instruments if needed and vice versa.  I try to achieve such a variety of the performing ensemble by choosing music scores for a solistic ensemble for solo voices and instruments, and in addition some dancing couples.

5) Have you ever been in Darmstadt? If not, know something about the city?

Yes, I was in Darmstadt once and I liked a lot the city.  I have heard about the famous festival for contemporary music over there and was very excited when I was invited by the famous also in Bulgaria conductor Mr. Wolfgang Seeliger to this festival in order for “Tutti Soli” to perform the Italian early baroque program titled “The arrows of Love”

6) You write poems. Do you want to present maybe one on the MATHILDE?

Gladly, thank you very much!  I would like to present “Moto Perpetuo”:

Moto perpetuo

Das Konzert, das gestern erklang,

ist heute schon Erinnerung.

Und nur die Liebe, die uns vereinte

hinterließ unsichtbare Spuren, doch bleibende…


Mit Dir  in Stürmen und Wolkenbrüchen

vergaßen wir Haus, Zeit und Ruhe…

Die Strahlen umwogten uns gestern,

doch heute trennen uns unzählige erkaltete Sonnen.


Dieses Konzert ist Teil eines anderen,

eines Konzerts, aufgenommen in der Ewigkeit,

wo „Gestern“ und „Heute“ eines werden

im endlosen Kanon des Äthers…


Unsere Seelen dürsten nach Liebe, nach mehr,

Wer kann uns den Geheimcode nennen,

durch welchen „Gestern, Heute und Morgen“

sich  rhythmisch aneinander reihen in der Unendlichkeit?..


7) What is your favorite poem? Not your own.

It is one written by Emily Dikinson:

I am Nobody.

Are you Nobody too?

Then we are the pair of TWO.

8) The famous Bulgarian artist Keazim Isinov made the illustrations to the poems. How did the collaboration with Keazim Isinov?

He actually admitted that I select the corresponding paintings of him unified under the title “Metamorphoses” and I did it. I feel very honored to have his reproductions as visual illustrations of my poems.

9)What is your favourite animal? And why?

It is a bird, maybe, because of the eternal human’s longing for flying…which for me could be also an elevation of the soul.

10) What profession other than conductor/musicologist are you  still interested?

I am also a pedagogue as a regular professor at the Academy of Music, which gives me a lot of satisfaction.  I have been always interested in linguistics, literature (writing also short novels) and philosophy, especially anthroposophy.

11) You are a strong woman. Who is a strong woman for you and why?

A strong woman is that who in spite of all obstacles and prejudices makes true her dreams no matter if she has to sacrifice some or most of her dearest gifts…Such a woman was Klara Schumann for example whom I really admire.

12) What are your plans for the future?

One could have many plans for the future but I think that the most important thing is to set up the presence.  So, I try to live in the presense as “the million presence form our future..”

Thank you very much!

Yes, gladly.

Yours sincerly,

Sara Wittig