According to all rumors and reports, Valentin Peytchinov has every requisite for a first-rate operatic career.
He has a big, strong, reverberant bass voice - that sort of rarity most often found among Slavic men. It has drawn the attention of Gian Carlo Menotti, who held an audition in Peytchinov's native Sofia, and after hearing the young man sing only a few bars, demanded, "what are you doing for this voice?"He's handsome, with big dark eyes that are sometimes clouded with concern, but can crinkle into the warmest of smiles.
Peytchinov also has a good musical education, having graduated from the Bulgarian National Conservatory of Music.
He made his debut at Sliven Opera in Bulgaria in 1983, as Don Basilio in "The Barber of Seville," and has since sung a diversity of roles in the Bulgarian houses of Russe, Plovdiv, Bourgass, Sofia and Stara Zagora.
Since coming to America in 1989, Peytchinov has studied at the American Opera Center at Juilliard, aided on entrance by Menotti, and has sung with many regional opera houses, as he did in Utah, where he portrayed the minor role of Lodovico in "Otello." He sang a recital at Menotti's Spoleto Italy Festival in 1989, and he's scheduled to debut with Virginia Opera and Santa Fe, Columbus and Palm Beach Symphonies this season.
He has little nests of friendship in places like Columbus Opera, Palm Beach Opera and Connecticut Opera where impressed directors, conductors and patrons try to help out with recommendations, advice and jobs that come up suddenly.
It's all experience, and it's all good, but it's not good enough. He's caught on the middle rungs of a ladder, whose top he feels destined to scale.
So Valentin Peytchinov is a justifiably troubled young man. Life has been hard, and promises to go on being hard, until he gets that all-important major breakthrough.
Born in Bulgaria to a musical mother and businessman father, Valentin could sing a scale before he could talk. His mother recognized his ability and put him to conservatory piano lessons at the age of 5. But daily hours of intensive study finally gave him a fierce chronic headache, and his father insisted that he desist.
Learning scientific subjects through his school years, he again studied for conservatory entrance during his last years of high school, planning on a career in composing, but again the violent headaches from overwork forced him to quit.
After doing his two years of compulsory military service, he found his true calling as a voice major in the conservatory. And after completing five years there and two years in the opera master class, he spent four years in the professional theater, not only in Bulgarian houses but also guest appearances and recitals in Poland, Germany and Austria.
But Bulgaria is a small country with insufficient challenge for Peytchinov, and he waited following Menotti's audition with great anticipation for promised developments.
Menotti was as good as his word and worked to find a place for Peytchinov at Juilliard and a sponsor to help him; but letters sent to Peytchinov were withheld. Finally a phone call in the middle of the night got through to him, and he was allowed to leave for study.
After two years in America, besides many connections in the operatic field, he has a teacher, Enrico di Giuseppe, whom he trusts. And he's won a couple of big awards, including the 1989 Olga Forrai Foundation grant and first prize at the American Opera Auditions of 1990.
But he receives no more support from his generous patron, Augustin Paege, a fellow Bulgarian, and "I should be making my own living," he declared. His responsibilities include his wife and son, now 21/2 years old, who after much difficulty succeeded in getting to America, where they are making a home in New York. "I have only been with my son five months of his life," said Peytchinov, "mostly during summer visits home to Bulgaria."
So, besides the struggles of a young artist trying to make his way through the jungle of competition in America, he has the uncertainties of an expatriate from an Eastern bloc country, still under communist rule.
He has approval to live away from Bulgaria for the time being, as do his wife and child; but his parents and brother at home in Sofia cannot visit here, and for their sake he keeps a low profile in America.
In the dog-eat-dog competition of New York, he needs the guidance of not just a good agency, but a personal agent who has his particular interest at heart, and the support of many friends. He does have some such support from Bulgarian artists who have made international careers - notably basso Nicholai Ghiaurov and his Italian wife Mirella Freni, and soprano Ghena Dimitrova. (The latter have been allowed to circulate in international circles because of powerful connections at home.)
Peytchinov often finds himself in the frustrating position of having signed for small engagements far ahead, then having larger ones suddenly crop up during the same time frame. A perhaps over-developed sense of honor will not let him renege on the first, to fulfill the latter.
He sees his fach as the Verdi basso and some of the Russian roles. Boris Godunov lies in his future, but later, "unless I can find a place where I can have all the rehearsals," he said. "It's not enough to cover and watch the star rehearse; I need the rehearsal, and he does not.
"I need some breaks, and some good roles," Peytchinov concluded.