KAJ NAZAR - London Armenian Opera at the Bishop Centre, Hammersmith, April 13/14, 2019
‘witty revival of Armenia’s first comic opera’
Kaj Nazar by Haro Stepanian, billed as Armenia’s first comic opera, has not been seen since its premiere
It was possibly a victim of Soviet displeasure. Its title, which means Nazar the Brave, is not without irony.
Drawing on traditional stories and a narrative by the poet Hovhaness Toumanian, it tells of a lazy, arrogant
villager who somehow ends up as a supreme, war-mongering ruler. Starting off rather like the Grimm Brothers’
Valiant Little Tailor, it becomes closer to Rimsky-Korsakov’s caustic opera The Golden Cockerel.
Combining folk elements and sometimes abrasive modernism, the score is piquant, unpredictable and often witty.
Its impact is assured by the conductor, Levon Parikian. The first two acts weave together flexible arioso and mercurial
instrumental motifs, while Acts III and IV bring some longer-breathed numbers, including a dance sequence and a
sinuous aria for Nazar’s long-suffering wife, Ustian.
Sung and played with spiky charm by Tereza Gevorgyan, she keeps close tabs on the Nazar of Berj Karazian.
He pitches his comic antics precisely – this anti-hero is both exasperating and strangely endearing – while sustaining
a lyrical tenor line. Aris Nadirian, London Armenian Opera’s artistic director, is a powerful vocal and physical presence
as Sako, who becomes Nazar’s general, and each of the supporting singers makes a memorable impression.
Wisely, director Seta White does not encourage them to overact, not does she play for easy farcical laughs. Rather, she
creates a series of almost ritualistic tableaux with simple decor, richly detailed costumes, a procession around the theatre
and surreal projections such as a moon that becomes a rolling eyeball.
Yehuda Shapiro - The Stage, UK
SAYAT NOVA - London Armenian Opera at the Questors Theatre, Ealing, October 20/21, 2017
Alexander Arutiunian's opera 'Sayat Nova' opens a window into the extraordinary world of eponymous celebrated
18th century troubadour. In this opera facts are extracted from Sayat Nova's life with a healthy dose of artistic licence,
neatly composed to enable us to follow his journey. We move from the market place in Tbilisi. where he honed his craft,
to his days as a minstrel at the court of King Heraclius II, where he fell in love with the king's sister, Princess Anna, and
to the final years of his life as a monk at Haghpat Monasteryin Armenia. Arutiunian rather cleverly threads in seven of
Sayat Nova's songs to support the drama as it unfolds.
Most of the music lovers were admirers of Sayat Nova and had come to the theatre with the intention of listening to
good music, particularly his songs. They got more than they bargained for. The soloists, all of whom are acclaimed
professionals, sang impeccably both individually and with the 21 member orchestra and 17 member chorus, masterfully
conducted by Levon Parikian. All combined in creating a mesmerising musical atmosphere. The audience tremendously
enjoyed outstanding performances by Berj Karazian, honoured artist of Armenia (Sayat Nova), Anaïs Heghoyan (Princess
Anna), Aris Nadirian (Ashugh and Prince), and Arshak Kuzikian (Bazarbashi and King). Shakeh Major Tchilingirian, an
outstanding choreographer and dancer, as in the past, on this occasion also delighted the audience with her beautiful
performance as the court dancer. The production designer, Natalia Sookias, earned the admiration of the audience for
creating impressive stage effects. It was the intention of the director, Seta White, to 'set the opera in a more contemporary
period'. We wholeheartedly congratulate the LAO for presenting a very high quality production, which won the hearts of
music and poetry lovers. Let us not forget that Sayat Nova, besides being a musician, was also a great poet.
Assadour Guzelian - writer, poet, editor
FIRE RING - London Armenian Opera at the Arcola Theatre (Grimeborn Festival), July/August 2016
A compact, stylised piece, influenced by Brecht, Fire Ring by Avet Terterian (1929-94) is set on an island where
a young female soldier captures an enemy officer. Antagonism turns to love, but she finally shoots him when he
spots his comrades arriving on a ship. The central soprano and baritone are joined by an ensemble of four solo
voices and a chorus. For this performance, the orchestra was reduced to piano (the dauntless Kristina Arakelyan),
flute, trumpet and percussion. The score, conducted by Richard Harker, moved freely between tonality and atonality.
While the instrumental writing made substantial use of repeated figures - with the ensemble singers also contributing
a wordless ostinato at one point - the writing for the two protagonists could be punchy, lyrical, folksy or melismatic.
The chorus, meanwhile, both sang and declaimed poems by Yeghishe Charents (1897 - 1937), who died in prison after
incurring the wrath of Stalin. Tightly and inventively directed by Seta White, with gracefully enigmatic interventions
by dancers, the whole fusion proved compelling. The soprano Tereza Gevorgyan as the girl and the baritone Aris
Nadirian (founder of London Armenian Opera) as the officer sang with subtlety and beauty as well as passion, while
the members of the vocal ensemble - Tanya Hurst, Anaïs Heghoyan, Stephen Mills and Benjamin Beurklian-Carter -
rose confidently to their diverse challenges.
Yehuda Shapiro - OPERA Magazine, October 2016
* * * London Armenian Opera: FIRE RING at Grimeborn Festival 2016
The London Armenian Opera (LAO) presented Armenian mysticism and creative flair, encapsulating its influence
from the story by B Lavrenev 'Forty First', a tale of love, war and revolution, and they weren't alone. Akhtamar
Performance Group and a small ensemble, conducted by music director Richard Harker, thrilled audiences which
had them hanging off the edge of their seats.
Fire Ring expresses the bittersweet torment of a brave girl stuck on an island with the enemy. The opera captures the
unsettling and internal struggles of the girl performed by Tereza Gevorgyan who sang with authority and confidence
and was vocally charged with passion. Aris Nadirian, the officer from the other side, is a talented performer who has
a gift for the stage.
Bass-Baritone Benjamin Beurklian-Carter, tenor Stephen Mills, mezzo Anaïs Heghoyan and soprano Tanya Hurst
created penetrative sounds that revealed the web of destruction stuck on the island. The orchestra, accompanied by
the instrument of voices from a talented cast of young opera singers, underlined the intimacy between the rival lovers.
The dancers were a visual splendour to the show, lightening the mood with soft, synchronised choreographies.
Mary G Nguyen - Trend FEM
DAVID BEK - London Armenian Opera at the Benjamin Theatre, Royal College of Music, December 18th 2015
South Kensington outdid Wexford with this opportunity to see not only an Armenian opera, but a first performance
outside the former Soviet Union. Under Lévon Parikian's baton the score emerged as consistently appealing, at times
haunting, especially in the delicate opening to Act 2. No surtitles were provided, but the action unfolded clearly in
Seta White's straightforward, richly costumed production, and the Armenian language - characterized by plenty of
open vowels and fairly frequent gutturals - seems to be sympathetic to a strong vocal line.
There was finely-honed singing from the London-based baritone Aris Nadirian (the artistic director of London
Armenian Opera) in the title role, while the young, Royal College-trained mezzo Anaïs Heghoyan showed lyrical
promise as the Georgian princess Tamar. As the plaintive Shushan, the soprano Tereza Gevorgyan - familiar from
performances at the Royal Academy of Music - again proved her flair for finely- nuanced expression, and Tigran
Ohanyan, whose slightly throaty tenor rose to a thrusting top, made a dynamic impact as her lover, Shahumyan. He
was one of seven young male soloists visiting from Armenia - some of whom also supplemented the well-drilled amateur
chorus. Grigor Abrahamyan, a baritone, made his mark as the treacherous Melik, and the bass Andranik Malkhasyan
intervened powerfully as the Catholicos, the Armenians' spiritual leader. Members of the Akhtamar Performance Group
responded with nimble grace to the dance music, with its frequent skipping shifts of metre.
Yehuda Shapiro - OPERA Magazine, March 2016
GARINEH - London Armenian Opera at the Tabernacle Theatre, Notting Hill, 29/30 March 2014
I hope you are still cruising on the clouds of success. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING!!!! Thank you for providing this level
of joy and happiness to all the audience who will speak of Garineh for years to come! I've received endless Facebook
messages, texts, emails and phone calls saying what a success it was! They especially love the chick peas at the interval.
a great touch!
Anaïs Heghoyan, opera singer
CONGRATULATIONS for the very good result of your so many months of hard work. The event was a real BIG
SUCCESS and there are no words to express my thanks. We only saw smiles and happiness on the audience faces.
I just wanted to say very well done to everyone connected with 'Garineh'. Thank you for a wonderful evening, we
thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We look forward to many more events.
I just wanted to say how wonderful was the whole production. My sincere congratulations. Well done. Look forward
to the next one.
Dr Seta Boghossian-Tighe
ANOUSH - London Armenian Opera at the Tabernacle Theatre, Notting Hill, July & October 2012
"All present, Armenians and non-Armenians, were amazed at the professional performance of London Armenian
Opera, whose performance team combines the talents of young performers at the beginning of their career with those
of our local community enthusiasts. The performance mesmerised the audience with the beautiful voices of the singers,
the choral group, the accompanying orchestra, the dancers and the costumes. The Armenian community in the UK
is thirsty for such performances to enhance its cultural awareness and showcase it among the wider public".
Bishop V Hovhanessian, Primate of UK & Ireland
"It was a combustion of talents, artistic ideas and creativity, and a combination of professional musicians and music
lovers who came together to inspire the London Armenian community with this tragic love story. I was fortunate to attend
the first performance of the opera with an audience buzzing in anticipation. The cosy atmosphere of the theatre created
an immediate involvement with opera. The wonderful voices captivated us with the beautiful melodies and poetic words.
The chorus caught us almost off-guard as it presented us with the various surprises that were beautifully crafted and
spontaneous in execution."
Sarkis Zakarian, distinguished concert pianist
THE SUCCESS OF OUR PRODUCTIONS IS DEPENDENT ON THE SUPPORT OF ALL OUR BENEFACTORS AND WE THANK THEM WARMLY
St. Sarkis Charity Trust
Mr & Mrs Hagop Tanielian
Mr & Mrs David Stephan
Mr & Mrs Raffy Manoukian
Ms Mariette & Mr Hovsep Nazloomian
Mrs Violette Tatevossian
H.E. & Mrs Armen Sarkissian
Mr & Mrs Zorik Gasparian
AGBU Trust London
Mrs Viola Uzunyan Choupak
Mr & Mrs Manas Heghoyan
Mr Aris Nadirian
Mrs Hrip Khasgalian
Mrs Ojik Brose
Mr Hamo Gregorian
Mr & Mrs Shahé Gulian
Nara Beauty Salon
Mr & Mrs Bagrat Nazarian
Mrs Loretta Shekerdemian
Mr & Mrs Raffi Tanielian
Mr & Mrs Boghos Boghossian
Mrs Annie Kasparian
Mr & Mrs John Torosyan
Mr & Mrs Kevork Cherchian
Mrs Sossie Roussidoue Aintablian
Mr & Mrs James Hartland
Mr & Mrs Mardig Harutyunian
Mrs Mareta Kazaryan
Dr Sonia Vartoukian
Mr & Mrs Adom Tenjoukian
Mr & Mrs Khachik Cholakian
Mr & Mrs Seroj Bazil
Mr & Mrs Armenag Topalian
Mr & Mrs Hagop Cherchian
Mr & Mrs Sarkis Kalaydjian
Mrs Zaza Balian
Mrs Jeanine Gulvanessian
Mrs Saida Odabashian
Mrs Anahid Corbett
Mr G Zartarian
Mrs Lucy Tajerian
Mrs Anna Manukyan
Mrs Suzy Boghossian
Mrs Gladys Boghossian
Mr Viken Haladjian
Mrs Rosette Ouzounian
Mrs Sossie Yerissians
Mr Setrak Shamlian
Mrs Hranoush Manoukian