Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir

The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir is an internationally renowned world music ensemble that performs modern arrangements of traditional Bulgarian folk melodies. It is most recognized for its contribution to Marcel Cellier's Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices) project. First created in 1952 as the Ensemble for Folk Songs of the Bulgarian Radio by Georgi Boyadjiev, the choir is now under the direction of Dora Hristova. The choir was granted the name Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares by Marcel Cellier in 1997, in recognition of the fact that it had contributed most of the songs on the original compilations.

Membership and methods

Singers are chosen from country villages for the beauty and openness of their voices, and they undergo extensive training in the unique, centuries-old singing style. Influenced by Bulgaria's Thracian, Bulgarian, Ottoman and Byzantine history, their music is striking in its use of diaphonic singing and distinctive timbre, as well as its modal scales, unique rhythms (such as 7/8, 9/8, and 11/8) and dissonant harmonies (abundant second, seventh, and ninth intervals). All of these are characteristics of the Bulgarian folk music genre.


In 1951 Filip Kutev and Maria Kuteva founded the first professional national folk music ensemble in Bulgaria, the State Ensemble for Folk Song and Dance, now known as the Filip Kutev Ensemble. The State Television Choir followed in 1952. Though the latter choir became widely known when the trend-setting English alternative record label 4AD reissued a pair of anthology albums in 1986 and 1988 with the now famous title Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, their recordings date as far back as 1957. The first pressing of the Voix Bulgares album was the result of fifteen years of work by Swiss ethnomusicologist and producer Marcel Cellier and was originally released in 1975 on his small Discs Cellier label. Ivo Watts-Russell, the founder of the 4AD Records label, was introduced to the choir from a third or fourth generation audio cassette lent to him by Peter Murphy, singer from the band Bauhaus. He became thoroughly entranced by the music, and tracked down and licensed the recordings from Cellier. They were one of four choirs who appeared on the album Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Volume Two, This album won Cellier a Grammy Award in 1989. The group has since performed extensively around the world to wide acclaim.

Trio Bulgarka

Three prominent soloists of the group have also performed together as Trio Bulgarka, known in the West primarily for their singing on the Kate Bush albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. The trio also performed with the Italian rock band Elio e Le Storie Tese in the single Pipppero released from the album İtalyan, rum casusu çikti, and have released two albums of their own. The three women in the trio are Stoyanka Boneva from Pirin, Yanka Rupkina from Strandja and Eva Georgieva from Dobrudja.

The Xenaverse connection

The choir became best known in the United States for its contributions to the music of Xena: Warrior Princess, whose theme music Joseph LoDuca developed from "Kaval sviri," one of the traditional Bulgarian folk songs that form the bulk of their known repertoire.


  • 1975 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Compilation, Disques Cellier
  • 1987 Cathedral Concert (Live), PolyGram (re-released in 1992)
  • 1988 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume II, Disques Cellier
  • 1989 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume III, Disques Cellier
  • 1993 From Bulgaria with Love: the Pop Album, Rhino/Atlantic
  • 1993 Melody Rhythm & Harmony, Rhino/Atlantic
  • 1994 Ritual, Nonesuch/Elektra
  • 1995 Box Set: Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volumes I - II and Ritual, Nonesuch/Elektra
  • 1998 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, volume IV, Philips
  • 2001 Bulgarian Custom Songs, Gega
  • 2003 A Portrait of Nikolai Kaufmann, Riva Sound / KVZ Music Ltd.
  • 2008 Music From Alone in the Dark, composed by Olivier Derivière, Milan Records
  • 2017 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares ft. Lisa Gerrard - Pora Sotunda (Single on a vinyl & digital)
  • 2018 Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares - BooCheeMish (New album)