Friday, 21 December 2018

Armenian News...A Topalian... 11 editorials

Arminfo, Armenia
Dec 19 2018
Pashinyan against granting the Diaspora Armenians the right to vote  in elections in Armenia

After the revolution, there are no  Armenians of the Diaspora and the RA, there are just Armenians. This  was announced by the acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan  at the meeting with the participants of the NerUzh program in  Dilijan.

According to him, equal conditions are created in Armenia for  all Armenians so that they work and open their own business in their  homeland.  "I want the economic revolution to be accomplished not by  the government, but by the people. We are doing everything possible  to do this, creating all conditions, and not at a declarative level,  but at a practical level, "said Pashinyan, adding that the  possibility of creating venture capital and the programs that emanate  from it is being considered. startups.At the same time, he spoke  against granting the Diaspora Armenians the right to vote during  elections in Armenia. "This is not expedient from both political and  technical points of view. 

For example, if we take Russia, if Armenians of Russia get the right  to vote in elections in Armenia, then more polling stations should be  opened there than in the RA itself, as far as politically expedient  of view, and technically it will be very difficult to control the  whole process, "Pashinyan explained.He also declared a high  possibility of abolishing Mindiaspora. "There is such a probability,  but this does not mean that other departments will not deal with  these issues. Almost all ministries of Armenia have the functions of  working with the Diaspora," Pashinyan said. The acting  prime  minister also stressed the importance of implementing high  technologies, especially in the defense sphere of the republic, which  will allow it to more effectively counter emerging threats.

Transitions Online, Czech Republic
Dec 19 2018
Signs of Life in Karabakh Peace Process

Armenia’s government looks nothing like its predecessors, and its stance on the slow-burning conflict with Azerbaijan is evolving.
19 December 2018

There are signs the cozy ties between Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic are starting to unravel.

 When the region’s de facto leader Bako Sahakyan demoted its military commander last week, the buzz was that Sahakyan was operating on orders from Yerevan, writes.

 Whether Sahakyan’s reshuffle of military and civilian staff in Artsakh, as the region is known in Armenian, is connected with the unprecedented display of name-calling between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Karabakh leaders is unclear.
 In the days before Pashinyan’s My Step alliance won a large parliamentary majority in national elections to cap his remarkable rise to power, Pashinyan entered the fray when a  spokesman for the now dismissed Karabakh military commander Levon Mnatsakyan slammed a My Step member who said the success of last spring’s protest wave that brought Pashinyan to power was more important that the “Artsakh liberation war.”
Armenian soldiers during the Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan in 1995. Image via Armdesant/Wikimedia Commons. 
Pashinyan, whose son Ashot enlisted in the army this year, then accused Karabakh’s leaders of protecting their own sons from military service.

 The Karabakh leadership “remains tied to the former regime in Armenia of Serzh Sargsyan,” whom Pashinyan forced from power, Eurasianet says. Sargsyan himself was born in Karabakh, and his predecessor as Armenian president and political ally, Robert Kocharyan, held the same position in Karabakh in the 1990s.

 Both Pashinyan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliev have come out with conciliatory remarks about the conflict over Karabakh that has dominated relations for 25 years, Eurasianet reports this week. today quotes Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov as saying he has reached “a mutual understanding for the first time in a long while” with Armenian negotiator Zohrab Mnatsakanyan during talks in Milan.

Pashinyan has said the new Armenian leadership is willing to re-establish diplomatic relations with Turkey “without any preconditions.” Ankara broke off relations in the early 1990s over the Karabakh war. Speaking to the foreign press on 10 December, Pashinyan insisted that Karabakh authorities take part in the negotiations on resolving the conflict, although unlike previous Armenian leaders he does not have strong personal ties to the region, OC Media writes.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

Interfax - Russia & CIS Military Newswire
December 18, 2018 
Baku, Yerevan reached mutual understanding over Karabakh at Milan meeting - Mammadyarov

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said he and his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan reached mutual understanding in Milan during talks over resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.
"I think that at the last meeting with my Armenian counterpart in Milan, we reached mutual understanding for the first time after long time," Mammadyarov said during an end-of-year reception for foreign ambassadors  in Baku on Tuesday.
The search for solutions to the conflict will remain Azerbaijan's top priority in 2019, he said.
"I spent most of the time looking for ways to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This will also be the main task in the next year," Mammadyarov said.
"The main goal is to achieve tangible results," he said.
At a meeting with Mnatsakanyan in January 2019 "we will discuss ways to resolve the conflict. Azerbaijan favors a peaceful settlement of the conflict," Mammadyarov said.

Aysor, Armenia
Dec 19 2018
Sensational statements still coming from Baku on the highest level, Armenian authorities remain silent: Sharmazanov

Sensational statements continue coming from Baku on the highest level, spokesperson for the Republican party Eduard Sharmazanov wrote in Facebook page.

“Our 'live' loving authorities are silent. What Nakhijevan operation? What 11,000 hectares? What mutual understanding? What is going on…?” Sharmazanov wrote.

Yesterday Azerbaijani foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov stated that at the meeting with Armenian foreign minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Milan they have reached mutual understanding.

“I consider that for the first time after a long period of time we managed to reach mutual understanding with my counterpart,” Mammadyarov stated at the reception for diplomats dedicated to summing up the passing year, Interfax reports.

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Continues To Side With Russia At UN
December 18, 2018
Lusine Musayelian

Underscoring its continuing close ties with Russia, Armenia has again voted against a United Nations resolution criticizing Russian actions in and around Crimea.

The latest resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly Monday voices "grave concern" over the Russian military buildup in Crimea and calls on Russia to end its “temporary occupation” of the Ukrainian region. It also demands the release of Ukrainian sailors and warships seized by the Russian military last month.

The non-binding resolution was backed by 66 countries, including NATO and European Union member states.

Nineteen other nations, including Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria, voted against it. Two other members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization -- Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan -- abstained.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko hailed the U.S.-sponsored resolution as “yet another important step towards the de-occupation of Crimea.” For its part, Russia criticized it and thanked the 19 states for siding with Moscow.

Armenia’s stance was consistent with its voting record at the UN and other international organizations. Yerevan has usually opposed measures critical of Russia, the South Caucasus state’s leading ally.

Those include a 2014 General Assembly resolution that that condemned Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and upheld Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Black Sea peninsula. The then Armenian government’s decision to vote against it angered 
Ukraine, which recalled the Ukrainian ambassador in Yerevan in protest.

Armenia’s current leadership has not changed that policy. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly pledged to keep his country allied to Russia since he swept to power in a democratic revolution in May.

At his first meeting with Pashinian held on May 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that Yerevan and Moscow will continue to cooperate in the international arena. Putin singled out the UN, noting that the two nations “have always supported each other” there.

In June, Armenia voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova.

RFE/RL Report
Moscow Clarifies Position On ‘Foreign’ Military Presence In Armenia
December 18, 2018
Anush Muradian

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referred to Armenian biological laboratories donated by the United States when he stressed the need to prevent “foreign” military presence in Armenia, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday.

Lavrov told a Russian radio station on Monday that Moscow and Yerevan are close to signing an agreement that will bar third countries from deploying military personnel in Armenia. He spoke in the context of American bio labs provided to several ex-Soviet states in recent years.

Armenia has received five such facilities from the U.S. to boost food safety and other sanitary controls on its territory. Earlier this year, it allowed Russian officials to inspect them after Moscow claimed that Washington seems to be running a clandestine biological weapons lab in neighboring Georgia.

The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergey Kopyrkin, said the Russian and Armenian sides are now engaged in a “constructive dialogue” on the work of the labs.

“I don’t exclude that at some point we will reach an overall mutual 
understanding and agreement,” he told a news conference. “I can’t tell yet what form that agreement could take but any [Russian] ban or diktat is out of question.”

“There is a dialogue and desire to achieve mutual understanding, including on the transparency of the biological laboratories and the presence or non-presence of foreign military personnel in those labs,” Kopyrkin added in reference to Lavrov’s remarks.

Commenting on the remarks, the Armenian Foreign Ministry likewise insisted that Lavrov spoke about the bio labs.

“The labs belong to Armenia and have a civilian character,” stressed the ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian. “As far as Armenia is concerned, there is no question of military presence there.”

Vestnik Kavkaza
Dec 19 2018
Russia hopes new Armenian leadership to find courage to resist US blackmail

Moscow hopes that the new Armenian leadership will find courage to resists US blackmail and will make decisions independently, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in an interview with Sputnik, UrduPoint reported.

In late October, US National Security Adviser John Bolton held a visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan. In his address to journalists, Bolton said, commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, that Washington would continue supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict, stressing that Armenia should not be dependent on "one major power", given that US equipment was "better that the Russian anyway."

"Against the backdrop of radical changes in the country, which happened this year, Washington's meddling into its internal and external political affairs becomes more and more unceremonious .
.. We hope that the current Armenian leadership ... will find courage to resist unconcealed external blackmail and pressure, and will defend its sovereign right to make decisions independently, in line with national interests," Karasin said.

He slammed Bolton for qualifying Armenian experience as "historical cliches" and calling on Yerevanto immediately join Iran sanctions and start buying US weapons.

"If this is the public side of the US-Armenian relations, then one can only imagine the arm-twisting that happens behind the scenes," Karasin said.

The Catholic Register
Dec 19 2018
Armenian Apostolic Church appoints first-ever representative to the Holy See 

VATICAN – The Armenian Apostolic Church, one of six in the Oriental Orthodox communion, will have a fixed representative in Rome, similar to the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Methodists.

Bishop Khajag Barsamian was appointed in early September as representative of the Apostolic Armenian Church to the Holy See. His appointment is intended to strengthen friendship between the two entities.

Archbishop Barsamian, 67, was Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church diocese in the United States from 1990 to 2018. He is well known for his experience and skill in ecumenical dialogue.

With the appointment, he becomes the point man in Rome for any matter concerning the Armenian Apostolic Church. His work will be that of a liaison between the Holy See and the Apostolic Church, smoothing dialogue in both theological and pragmatic issues.

His official title is “Pontifical Legate of Western Europe and Representative of the Armenian Church to the Holy See.” Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, informed Pope Francis of the appointment with a letter.

The Oriental Orthodox communion has been distinct from the Orthodox Church since the Council of Chalcedon in 451. There are 76 million Oriental Orthodox Christians worldwide, and 9 million members of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

According to Barsamian, Pope Francis “expressed his happiness about this appointment and indicated that my presence in Rome would further strengthen the relationship between the Catholic and the Armenian churches.”

Barsamian told CNA that he is “honored and excited to be taking up this role at this time,” and said, “My objective in my new role will be in part to expand existing projects, programs and activities, in order to draw the two churches closer together in a spirit of mutual respect and collaborative mission.”

Archbishop Barsamian has already begun his duties. A few days after arriving in Rome, he met with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

“Cardinal Koch expressed his support for my new mission in Rome,” Barsamian said. “We had a very constructive discussion of ideas and projects to further strengthen the relationship between our two churches.”

Barsamian also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

Barsamian recounted that “in my ministry as a priest and bishop, I have always enjoyed being engaged in ecumenism. During my tenure as Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in the U.S., I supported ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue on a diocesan and parish level. And now here in Rome I am committed to continuing that same ministry.”

Among Barsamian’s commitments is that of reinforcing the Armenian presence in Europe.

“There has always been an Armenian presence in Europe,” he said, “however during the past two or three decades the Armenian presence in Europe increased because of the political and economic situations in the Middle East, in the former Soviet countries, and in Armenia.”

He added that “It will be important to develop Armenian Church parish life where communities can come together in prayer, participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and organize educational, cultural and social activities. Likewise, I would like to help Armenian Church communities develop strong ecumenical and interfaith activities.”

The push for ecumenism has always been part of the Armenian Apostolic Church, according to Barsamian.

He said that “the 12th-century Armenian Catholicos/Patriarch St. Nerses the Graceful was a great champion of ecumenism, encouraging his fellow churchmen of all traditions to pursue ‘Unity in essential matters. Diversity in secondary matters. Love over all.’”

Barsamian noted that “in our world today, we too face many challenges, but also great possibilities. Dialogue, cooperation, and formal prayer among different Christian denominations are all essential to realizing those possibilities.”

Recalling Catholic-Apostolic relations, Barsamian stressed that “since the days of Catholicos Vasken I (1955-1994), relations between the Armenian and Roman Catholic churches in general have been growing stronger and deeper, with a spirit of closeness and collaboration emerging between our hierarchy and clergy.”

The current head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, met Pope Francis twice this year: on April 5, when he went to Rome to participate in the blessing of a statue of St. Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens with Pope Francis; and on Oct. 24, after a pastoral visit in Milan for the 60th anniversary of the Armenian Church of the Forty Martyrs of Sepastia.

Barsamian said that “on that occasion, the Pope and Karekin II had a very warm meeting, and discussed issues relating to the challenges faced by Christian communities in the world, and they also discussed the Middle East and the situation in the Republic of Armenia.”

Barsamian concluded that “definitely, such meetings are great opportunities to strengthen the connection between the two Churches.”

Barsamian was born in Arpkir, in Turkey, in 1951. He studied in Istanbul, Jerusalem, New York, and Minneapolis, and perfected his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and at the Oxford Oriental Institute.

He served as a pastor in Istanbul, Jaffa, Haifa, Bamieh and in the United States, where he led for 28 years the U.S. diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

He is also president of the Armenian Aid Fund, which aims at helping Armenia to develop and to bring assistance to Armenians. So far, the fund has donated some $315 million.

Panorama, Armenia
Turkish source presents Ani as a site of common heritage

Turkish Anadolu agency has published a story about Ani - a ruined medieval Armenian city now situated in Turkey's province of Kars. The source reminds that between 961 and 1045, Ani was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian Kingdom. The medieval city combines residential and religious structures characteristic of medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian dynasties and was included in the UNESCO heritage list.

The agency however, presents the site as not merely Armenian but an archaeological site of common heritage which has been home to many civilizations such as the Saka Turks, Sasanians, Bagratid Dynasty, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottomans and Russians.

It is notable that the story refers to the city with its original Armenian name Ani, departing from the long practice in Turkish historiography to name the city with its Turkish version “Anı.” This has been the case as part of the Turkification policy of geographical names.

It is noted that over the recent years Ani has become more famous as Turks from across the country visit the place, especially in winter to see the site under snow.

The story is accompanied by images of snow-covered city ruins. 

Turkish Preconditions Should be Countered
By Armenian Preconditions
Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Armenia’s Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced last week
that his government is ready to establish diplomatic relations with
Turkey, however, without any preconditions.

This announcement came as a surprise to most Armenians who were hoping that Pashinyan will not repeat the mistake of former President Serzh Sargsyan who advocated for 10 years the ratification of the
Armenia-Turkey Protocols which were intended to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries and open their mutual border.

However, the Protocols included a number of unrelated issues such as
the establishment of a historic commission to study the Armenian
Genocide. The Turkish government, under pressure from Azerbaijan,
demanded that Armenia first make territorial concessions on the
Artsakh conflict before ratifying the Protocols. Pres. Serzh Sargsyan
was forced to reject this precondition and annulled the Protocols
earlier this year.

The proposed Protocols had created a major dispute between the
previous Armenian government and most Armenians worldwide. After
coming to power in May of this year, Pashinyan repeatedly announced
that he would focus on resolving Armenia’s internal problems such as
bribery and corruption, and would not change the country’s foreign
policy. Hence Pashinyan’s recent announcement that Armenia is ready toestablish diplomatic relations with Turkey without preconditions is
simply the continuation of the previous government’s position.

Back in September of 2018 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was visiting Baku, he repeated once again his preconditions for establishing relations with Armenia: “We want good relations with our neighbors but solving the Karabakh problem is the absolute
precondition for Turkey to improve ties with Armenia.” Erdogan also
mentioned his opposition to Armenia’s pursuit of the international
recognition of the Armenian Genocide. On Dec. 11, 2018, an Erdogan
spokesman repeated the Turkish preconditions once again in response to Pashinyan’s suggestion.

It is ironic that instead of Armenia putting preconditions on Turkey
before agreeing to establish diplomatic relations, Turkey is the one
demanding that Armenia comply with its preconditions. One would think that Armenians as victims of Turkish barbaric mass killings would be demanding that before establishing relations, Turkey acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and make adequate restitution for the enormous human and material losses. Such preconditions on Turkey are a trump card in the hands of Armenians which they should use as a bargaining chip.

In my opinion, Armenia’s repeated begging of Turkey to establish
diplomatic relations and open its border is embarrassing and reveals
the Armenian side’s weakness. Furthermore, Turkey would be the one
benefitting from opening its border with Armenia, inundating the
country with cheap Turkish products. As it is, Armenian markets are
full of Turkish products imported via Georgia to the detriment of
small scale Armenian manufacturers. The opening of the border with
Turkey would be the death knell for many Armenian businesses.

One reason frequently mentioned by Armenia’s officials for offering to
establish relations with Turkey and open the mutual border is the hope that such a gesture would make Armenia look good in the eyes of the world and make Turkey look unfriendly and hostile by rejecting the Armenian offer.

Turkish leaders, however, never care what the world thinks of them.
They act in the best interests of their country regardless of the
opinions or criticisms of others. Likewise, Armenia’s leaders should
defend the interests of their country without trying to appease
Russia, France, United States or anyone else.

Furthermore, on an issue so vital to all Armenians worldwide, no
Armenian official should make a unilateral decision on matters that
relate to Turkey. This is the major mistake that was committed by
Pres. Serzh Sargsyan and it is hoped that the Pashinyan government
will not repeat the same mistake, at a time when Armenia’s new leaders are encouraging the integration of Diaspora Armenians in homeland affairs.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan continues to pressure Turkey not to open its
border with Armenia until the Artsakh conflict is resolved in Baku’s
favor. Consequently, Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Erdogan of Turkey, by their intransigence, ironically are the ones preventing Armenia from reaching an agreement detrimental to its own interests.

On a related matter, the Turkish Anadolu News Agency falsely reported that during a meeting with Turkish journalists, the Acting Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan had referred to the Armenian Genocide as “unpleasant events.”

Unfortunately, several Armenian media members reproduced the Turkish distortion of the Armenian Acting Foreign Minister’s words. Some even criticized him believing that he had in fact characterized the Armenian Genocide as “unpleasant events.”

The spokeswoman of Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, Anna Naghdalyan, set the record straight by stating that the Acting Foreign Minister had
not said such a thing and that the Anadolu News Agency had
misrepresented Mnatsakanyan’s words. The spokeswoman told Hay Tsayn news that Anadolu had already apologized and corrected its error.

This is yet another lesson to Armenians who give interviews to the
Turkish media, expecting their statements to be accurately reported.

Having followed the Turkish media for decades, I can state that those
who agree to be interviewed by a Turkish journalist should be warned
that their words would be distorted. Once an altered interview is published, it is too late to complain by claiming that that’s not what
they had said. The best way to ensure that an Armenian’s comments are not distorted is not to give an interview to the Turkish media.

18 Dec 18
Constantine Orbelian Discusses His Third Grammy Nomination
Armenia Arts & Culture Latest Music News Top Stories 7 hours ago
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (left) with Constantine Orbelian

Maestro Constantine Orbelian was nominated for a Grammy Award for his recording of Guiseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” The nomination, in the Best Opera Recording category, was announced by the Recording Academy on December 5. The 61st annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show will air on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific.

Released by Delos Music in November 2017, the nominated recording, Verdi: Rigoletto, was conducted by Maestro Orbelian and features the late Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role, American soprano Nadine Sierra, Italian tenor Francesco Demuro, the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra, and the Men of the Kaunas State Choir. The recording was produced by Vilius Keras and Aleksandra Keriene.

This is Orbelian’s third Grammy nomination. In 2014, he was nominated for conducting a recording of Rossini’s virtuoso arias, performed by American tenor Lawrence Brownlee with the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra. Orbelian received his second Grammy nomination in 2017, for his recording of composer Georgy Sviridov’s “Russia Cast Adrift,” featuring Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg.

This interview was conducted in Yerevan, where Maestro Constantine Orbelian leads the Yerevan Opera House as its Artistic and General Director.

SONA HAMALIAN: Out of the literally thousands of recordings released in 2018, your recording of “Rigoletto” was among those outstanding works that were selected to receive a Grammy nomination. This must be an extraordinary honor, especially considering that you are now the recipient of no less than three Grammy nominations. You are also the only Armenian musician and conductor nominated for the prestigious award this year, and the only one to have been nominated three times. “Rigoletto” is widely regarded as a revolutionary opera – par for the course, it should be said, since you’ve always been known for taking on trailblazing works. What are some of “Rigoletto”’s distinct qualities that appeal to you most?

CONSTANTINE ORBELIAN: First of all, I love opera and love Verdi. What appealed to me most is Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s incredible interpretation of the title role. I had heard him perform “Rigoletto” in London and at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and I was at his very first “Rigoletto” in Moscow, at the Novaya Opera Theater, in 2000. Dmitri was one of the GREAT voices and GREAT interpreters of the music of Verdi.

He infused the role with so much pain and heartache that one immediately bonded with the poor hunchbacked court jester. His performances became legend and brought a new dimension to his “usual” onstage presence of either a prince or a duke or a king. During my 20 years of collaboration with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, I had heard him perform most of the great Verdi roles, whether at the Metropolitan Opera House, Royal Opera House in London, Paris Opera, or Vienna State Opera, not to mention the San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles operas. One of his signature roles was Simon Boccanegra, and after five or six years of him performing that opera around the world, we decided to record it, in 2012. We had a stellar cast including the great Italian soprano Barbara Frittoli, and superstar Russian Bass Ildar Abdrazakov, and the superb Italian tenor Stefano Secco.

The recording was met with great critical acclaim in the press and became a new benchmark for that particular opera. After Dmitri’s tragic diagnosis of brain cancer, in June 2015, he told me he must do two things before he couldn’t sing any longer: he must record “Rigoletto” and an extraordinary vocal cycle by Russian composer Georgy Sviridov. So I began planning to do both recordings in the summer of 2016. We first recorded the “Rigoletto” in Kaunas, and then flew to St. Petersburg to record the Sviridov CD.

Dmitri was a true musical and vocal genius. He respected his art and expected total dedication to the work at hand. Having said that, he was extremely easy to work with and was the ideal colleague. He respected his colleagues and helped shape their interpretations to make a “whole” and total vision of the opera. Since there can never be “too many ears” at a recording session, we had our great friend and musical colleague John Fisher from the Metropolitan Opera with us at the recording sessions, preparing us before each session. He had worked with Dmitri for many years, and has the most invaluable experience in being the musical consultant and coordinator in some of the most important opera recordings of the 20th century – including ours!

S.H.: The recording of Verdi: Rigoletto also stands apart with an extremely high level of artistry manifested by soloists including Nadine Sierra and Francesco Demuro, as well as Lithuania’s Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra and the Men of the Kaunas State Choir. How would you characterize your experience collaborating with such musicians?

C.O.: Nadine Sierra is a true rising star and has one of the most beautiful, glorious, and lovely voices in the world today. Besides being a true and dedicated artist, she is a lovely person and has a great sense of humor, which makes these grueling (long and difficult) recording sessions fly by with ease. Dmitri had performed “Rigoletto” with Nadine in Naples a couple of years before we made our recording. Francesco Demuro is a true Duke… He has a beautiful voice, a great personality, and was very charismatic in the role. Francesco is a well-known folk singer (and of course a great opera singer) in Sardinia, so the famous aria “La Donna mobile” came out with a particular youthful buoyancy and mood. He’s a star at the Met and other opera houses.

S.H.: Two thousand eighteen was one of the most prolific years in the history of the Yerevan Opera House. Under your direction, the iconic institution presented performances of several landmark operatic productions, both in Armenia and abroad, garnering critical and popular acclaim. Do you believe that the Yerevan Opera House has what it takes to be in the vanguard of world opera?

C.O.: You’re right. 2018 was an incredible year for the Yerevan Opera and Ballet Theater.

Since becoming the General Director in August 2017, I’ve been working very hard on bringing something which would be very meaningful to the Yerevan Opera. Doing something in the short term is of course very difficult, so when I heard that our star tenor Liparit Avetisyan had won the prestigious Golden Mask Award (Russia’s highest theatrical honor) for his portrayal of Le Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet’s opera “Manon,” I spoke with Andrejs Zagars, the director of that particular production. It was produced by the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater in Moscow. Subsequently I brought the entire production to Yerevan to honor and highlight the success of our wonderful tenor, and also to show Yerevan audiences a completely new type of opera production. It was a huge undertaking, and, I must say, a huge success. I won’t go into the details of transporting four 13-meter truckloads of sets and costumes from Moscow to Armenia and bringing 15 people from the Stanislavsky Theater to help and teach our stage crew exactly how to work the sets and scenery and the lighting. The Moscow team also had the arduous job of making sure the 300 costumes all fit, and all of the details (including wigs, shoes, costume, and jewelry) of the production were taken into account. I do believe that it’s important for our performers to have the opportunity to work with internationally-famous, world-class directors, lighting designers, and coaches. I had the great fortune of being able to bring the excellent coach Axel Everaert from Belgium, the superb French-language coach Serine Lyuba Tatevosyan, and director Irina Lychagina from Moscow to work along Andrejs Zagars in putting this “Manon” together. It happened that our opening night, on October 10, coincided with the opening of the Francophone summit in Yerevan, and the entire delegation came to the gala performance. I invited American conductor Christopher Ocasek to conduct the opera, as he had been working on “Manon” during a production at the San Francisco Opera the previous fall and was highly recommended and did a superb job.

Earlier in the season, in July 2018, we took Khachaturian’s trademark ballet “Gayane” to the Bolshoi, along with our incredible sets, designed by the incredible Minas Avetisyan, and costumes, designed by Rubina Hovhannisyan. This was the first time in history that the Yerevan Ballet performed on the historic stage of the Bolshoi Theater. The sold-out event was something that all of us who were there will remember for a very long time. Our star dancers Ruben Muradyan, Syuzi Pirumyan, and Meri Hovhanisyan, as well as our young star Razmik Marukyan “brought the house down,” so to speak, and were met with screaming stomping ovations. They were even forced to do “Sabre Dance” as an encore!

Then we received an invitation to open the season at the glorious new Dubai Opera House at the beginning of September, with three performances of our new production of “Carmen,” directed by our very talented Naire Stepanyan and with costumes by Kristina Avetisyan; and also 3 performances our new production of “The Magic Flute,” produced by the extraordinary Italian opera director Paolo Micciche and costumes by the renowned Alberto Spiazzi. All of the performances were sold out and our singers and both productions were met with great enthusiasm by the audience. Then, all 200 of us performed the first staged opera productions in the history of Kuwait, at the brand-new Kuwait Opera House, located within the compound of the Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad Cultural Center, in Kuwait City – another unforgettable experience.

Our season of “firsts” culminated with our glorious production of Karen Khachaturian’s “Cippolino” Ballet. I purchased the sets and costumes that were produced by the great artist Valery Leventhal from the Bolshoi Theater, had everything transported to Yerevan, and invited the famous choreographer Genrikh Mayorov to come to Armenia and stage the ballet.

So, yes, it has been a very important and ambitious season for us in Yerevan, and, of course, I absolutely believe that our beloved Yerevan Opera House does have what it takes to be at the forefront of world opera.

S.H.: What will be some of the highlights of the Yerevan Opera House’s 2019 program?

C.O.: 2019 will also bring some surprises. So we’ll wait and see what the New Year brings. Hopefully we will be able to have a new production of Tigranian’s “Anush,” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the illustrious author Hovhannes Tumanyan, as well as many other projects which are coming up.

No comments: