A well-known musical comedy performer in the thirties on "Bulgaria's Broadway," a theatrical section of Sofia, Bantchevsky left Bulgaria after it became a Soviet ally during World War II. He continued to perform as an actor and singer throughout post-war Europe before emigrating to the U.S. in the early 1950s with the dream of starring in American theatre. In New York, he supported himself as a singing coach, and by writing political satire for Radio Free Europe. A devoted opera enthusiast, Bantchevsky, 82, was a fixture at Metropolitan Opera House performances, and had cultivated friendships with many of its Bulgarian stars.
On the morning of January 23, 1988, Bantchevsky refused a friend's dinner invitation with the comment that he could not eat because "I'm going to die tonight." Attending the Met's matinee performance of Verdi's opera Macbeth, Bantchevsky seated himself in the "Family Circle," the fifth and highest balcony in the opera house where desks are provided for patrons to study the score during the performance. During the first intermission two ushers had to pull Bantchevsky away from the top railing where he was seated rocking slowly back and forth. Ten minutes into the second intermission, the singing coach plunged 80 feet from the top railing, bounced off a lower balcony rail, and mercifully landed on unoccupied seats ten rows from the back of the orchestra with a broken seat atop him. The rest of the opera, broadcast live on nationwide radio over the Texaco Metropolitan Opera Network, was cancelled. Friends of Bantchevsky said that the elderly man had recently suffered from poor health, and had constantly talked of suicide.