Montana: He traded the tuxedo for off-road pants. Bulgarian virtuoso Vasco Vasilev, first violin at the coronation of Charles III, got on a plane that same evening to begin a tour of his native country.
In Montana (north-west), the poorest region of the European Union, the stage is dilapidated, the lights dim but the atmosphere is frenzied, the public enthusiastic. Away from the serene decor of Westminster Abbey.
“A contrast” was complimented by the 52-year-old violinist with graying temples, a dazzling smile and a boyish look.
Three decades after joining the prestigious orchestra of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where he is also creative director, Vasco Vasilev plays “whatever he pleases” this June evening, from Bach to flamenco, Bizet to tango Are.
To a packed hall, locals get a rare opportunity to attend a top-notch concert.
“For me, it was very important to perform in these cities, where some of the concerts are held,” she told AFP.
In London, the public was elected. Here visitors, “hungry for culture, are ready to deprive themselves to be able to take a place” (from 15 to 25 euros), “forget their daily lives and enter a magical world”.
“It was amazing, I got chills,” says 64-year-old entrepreneur Micho Stavrov. “A breathtaking presentation,” says economics student Eva Yanakieva.
More than 40% live below the poverty line in this region of Bulgaria, which is itself the poorest member of the European Union.
The tour was planned long before the death of Queen Elizabeth II. And the violinist wouldn’t have given it up for anything in the world.
Driving himself along dilapidated roads, Vasco Vasiliev adapts to difficult conditions in order to get the most out of the “feeling” that captures him from the first notes.
The child of the ball, born from the union of a violinist and a pianist, admits that he was never really able to decide on his profession: “I had a choice between the violin … and the piano. “, he was happy.
At the age of eight, he took to the stage and two years later, his talent earned the Communist government to send him to the Moscow Conservatory.
Winner of the Paganini Competition in Genoa, super soloist at the Lyon Opera, he became the youngest first violinist in the London orchestra at the age of 23, while refusing to be put “in the classical composer box”.
“It is important to know how to interpret all styles. Even Mozart played popular music,” he insisted.
Banitsa and Boza
Despite his international career and a dozen languages spoken – “all very badly” – he admits to “always feeling Bulgarian”, and enjoys immense popularity at home.
In each town, he tastes banitsa, a traditional savory pastry, with boja, the typical grain-based drink of the Balkans.
Between the two concerts, he recalls the ceremony on May 6 that marked him more than any other event in his career.
When he learned he would be performing in concert at the coronation of King Charles III, he said in a statement that he was “particularly proud as a naturalized British citizen”.
“By participating in this spectacular spectacle, which only happens once or twice a century, we have become an integral part of history,” he says. “In opera, we only broadcast great moments on stage. But this time, we were at the center of the event”.
Barely over his Bulgarian tour, Vasco Vasilev took off on a tour of Japan with the Royal Ballet in London. “We musicians, we are a nomadic tribe, always on the move”, he smiles.