Lecture and Musical Performance: Gariné - An Armenian Opera: Lecture by Gerald Papasian and Live Performance

Fri, December 17, 2010 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Christine Moore, Soprano
Aram Tchobanian, Tenor
Gerald Papasian, Singer/Actor
Sofya Melikyan, Piano

Free and Open to the Public

Donations are Welcome

Originally entitled Léblébidji Hor Hor Agha, Gariné, by Armenian composer Dikran Tchouhadjian, is the end product of a long voyage, the result of many successive layers of work, of modifications influenced by the different cultural and political climates in the countries where it was performed. Even after the tragedy of 1915 this work continued to be extremely popular with Turks and Armenians alike. Gariné is a voyage to the crossroads of East and West. There's no question that with an underlying vein of humor, farce and comedy, thanks to a delicate balance between music and text, the new libretto created by Gerald Papasian contains all the elements of a theatre piece with multiple themes of difference, the other, class structure, high and low culture, all embodied within the vibrant metropolis of nineteenth-century Constantinople.

is an operetta bouffe, a style closely associated with the late 19th century Frenchman Jacques Offenbach. It is an operatic genre which contains elements of comedy, satire, frivolity and farce (not surprising since its inventor Florimond Ronger, known as Hervé, was the organist in an insane asylum).

is the story of Armen, an impetuous young man, who dreams of creating the first major theater company in Constantinople, to play the works of great authors, breaking with the tradition of popular street theater. On opening night, his leading actress leaves and joins the cast of a competing troupe. Finding a replacement on such a short notice proves to be impossible. Armen's best friend and actor, Markar, offers to be a substitute, but Armen declines. Armen and Markar suddenly hear a young woman with an enchanting voice sailing on a boat. Trying to entice her to play the leading role is very complicated because her father, Hor Hor Agha, frowns on the immorality of the theater. Armen trying to convince Gariné that the theater is full of great stories, poetry and music sings a duet with her, which becomes the genesis of their love.

* * * * *

Dikran Tchouhadjian
was born in Constantinople in 1837 and died in Smyrna on February 25, 1898. His natural talent for music blossomed quite early. In Constantinople, his father entrusted his musical education to Mangioni then a few years later he went to Milan to round out his education (1862-1864). Upon his return to Constantinople he became an active member of the Armenian Musical Society. He published newsletters and gave lectures and concerts. He founded a small orchestra and worked with the musical theatre Kousanerkagan and with the Arevelian Tadron ("The Oriental Theatre").

In 1868, he completed the opera Arsace Secondo ("Arshak II") set to the Italian libretto by Tovmas Tersian. This work marked the birth of Armenian national opera. The entire opera was never performed during his lifetime, though excerpts were presented in concert form in Constantinople, Venice, Paris and Vienna. The score, which was believed lost, resurfaced in the 1930's and was sent to Yerevan. The real world premiere of the original 1868 score took place in 2001 at the San Francisco Opera House directed by Francesca Zambello. The complete conductor’s score, vocal score, orchestral materials and librettos in Italian, English and Armenian were published thanks to the efforts of the Dikran Tchouhadjian Research Center in Paris, with funding provided by the A.G.B.U. of Egypt.

In the 1870's Dikran Tchouhadjian composed several operettas: Arif's Imposture (based on Gogol's comedy "The General Inspector"), Kyose-Kyokhva ("The Beardless Elder"), Leblebidji Hor-Hor Agha ("The Chickpea Vendor”), as well as the opera Zemireh inspired by Arab folktales. Tchouhadjian has also composed chamber music and orchestral works as well as piano music (dances, marches, fugues, fantasies), which were published in Constantinople in the 1870's and 80's.

His musical language is deeply rooted in the airs of urban traditions: he would stroll through the streets listening and noting down snatches of songs, rhythmical patterns and even bits of conversation to use as raw material. Tchouhadjian was also fully aware that, contrary to the trend of the times, a "national" composer had to draw on the experience of the worldwide musical culture. French musical critic Adolphe Talasso wrote in the Revue Théâtrale, "Dikran Tchouhadjian was the first to use European techniques in Oriental music. His very original ideas, the freshness of his musical language, his colorful orchestration – it's all overflowing with the light and sun of the Orient. His compositions, full of power and enchantment, are remarkable in their mastery of harmony and counterpoint."

Gerald Papasian is founding artistic director of the Dikran Tchouhadjian Research Center (DTRC) in Paris, founding member of the Irina Brook Company (IBC), also in Paris, and recipient of the “Movses Khorenatsi” presidential medal of the Republic of Armenia. He was born in Cairo, and worked in Armenia, England, Egypt and in the USA. At present he is working with the Compagnie Irina Brook in En attendant le Songe (an adaptation of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’) and Somewhere… La Mancha (Don Quixote). Among his many credits are The General Inspector in Around the World in Eighty Days directed by François Kergourlay; Love's Labor Lost directed by Simon Abkarian; Measure for Measure directed by Habib Naghmouchin; and A Winter's Tale directed by Guy Freixe. In film and television he has worked with Robert Kéchichian, Partick Dewolf, Jean Mach, Dominique Cabrera and others. During his ‘Hollywood’ years he appeared in TV series such as Hunter, McGyver and Cagney & Lacey. He recently performed in Wating for the Dreams at La MaMa and Sojourn at Ararat with Nora Armani at Joe's Pub in New York City.

Christine Moore has been praised by critics for her lush sound and powerful expression. A Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, she has performed many roles, including Mimi in La Bohème with the Leipzig Opera, Micaëla in Carmen with the Sacramento Opera, Madama Butterfly with the Central City Opera, Alice Ford in Falstaff, the title role in Suor Angelica, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. Orchestral performances include Barber's Knoxville-Summer of 1915, the Requiems of Mozart, Fauré, Brahms and Verdi, Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Rossini's Stabat Mater and Mendelssohn's Elijah. In 2000 she premiered Richard Thompson's song cycle The Shadow of Dawn at Merkin Hall, and made her U.K. concert debut in 2005 in Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire in Scotland. In 2006 she released a CD, Arias, with the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Future projects including a 2011 recording From Andalucía to the Americas–An Odyssey of Spanish Song, tracing the roots of classical Spanish song from "Al Andalus" to the present. Born to an Egyptian mother of Lebanese and Armenian extraction and an American father, Christine is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music. In 2008 she premiered Mohammed Fairouz's work Tahwidah, set to the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, commissioned by Alwan for the Arts.

Aram Tchobanian has premiered numerous operatic and chamber works by such composers as Thomas Cipullo, Yoav Gal, Martin Halpern, Jakov Jakoulov, Thomas Pasatieri, Marga Richter, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Ben Yarmolinsky. He has been featured soloist with the Columbus Symphony, Armenian Festival Orchestra, Hamazkayin Armenian Chorus, Alliance Players, Bachanalia Festival Orchestra, the Lancaster Festival Orchestra, among many others, in such venues as Boston’s Symphony Hall; and New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, La MaMa E.T.C., and The Knitting Factory. Recordings include Gal’s Venus in Furs, Pasatieri’s Three Sisters, and Richter’s soon-to-be-released Riders to the Sea.

Sofya Melikyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia and has established herself as one of the leading pianists of her generation. To date, Ms. Melikyan has toured throughout Spain, Germany, France, Russia, Armenia, Italy, Serbia and the U.S. She has appeared as a soloist with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra of Spain, Spanish National Orchestra, Córdoba Symphony Orchestra, Valencia Symphony Orchestra, New Europe Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of Andalucía, among others. Her performances have been broadcast at National Radio and Television of Spain, National Radio and Television of Armenia, Chicago WFMT Radio Station, Muzzik French Television Station, Radio Catalonia and New York's WQXR, and she has been awarded top and special Prizes at at the Marisa Montiel, Ibiza, Maria Canals and Jose Iturbi International Piano Competitions in Spain, as well as the Prize for Music Interpretation awarded by “Amigos del Colegio de España” association in Paris. An avid chamber musician, Ms. Melikyan is a member of the New York-based ima Piano Trio, with violinist Sami Merdinian and cellist Ani Kalayjian. She completed her studies at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid with Joaquin Soriano and at Manhattan School of Music, where she was a scholarship student of Solomon Mikowsky.

Last updated: 2010-12-15 15:06:28

Dikran Tchouhadjian
Dikran Tchouhadjian
Gerald Papasian
Gerald Papasian
Christine Moore
Christine Moore
Aram Tchobanian
Aram Tchobanian
Sofya Melikyan
Sofya Melikyan

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