Arshak II Opera to Premier Tonight

LOS ANGELES–The much-anticipated world premier of Tigran Chukhadjian’s Arshak II Opera–produced by the San Francisco Opera will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday–preceded by a gala reception honoring the production staff and benefactors–who made the staging of the opera.

To take part in the production of the Arshak II Opera–several performers–who have been cast in the lead roles–traveled from Armenia to San Francisco and immediately began a rigorous rehearsal schedule to finalize the performance in time for Saturday’s premier.

Noted opera star Hasmik Papian–who will be performing the role of Olimpia–Haig and Tigran Mardirossian–who have been has as Nerses and Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian–who will be conducting the San Francisco Opera orchestra for this performance arrived from Armenia. Other Armenia’s on the cast include Anooshah Golesorkhi–who will performing the role of Arshak .

The Armenian-American community played a significant role in raising funds for the production of the Arshak II opera. Under the leadership of Jirair Svalzian–the lead violinist of the San Francisco Opera orchestra–the community began a fund-raising campaign–through which more than $1 million was raised to make the production a reality.

This production also makes Jirair Papazian’s dream of staging the opera a reality. Papazian established the Tigran Chukhadjian Foundation in Paris two years ago.

Asbarez Community Editor Naz Der Sarkissian–during a telephone interview Tuesday–discussed the production of the opera with the three visiting stars.

Maestro Tjeknavorian said he was happy that Chukhdjian’s piece finally will hit the stage. He–however–expressed sadness that the composer himself never saw his piece in production–but added that the San Francisco Opera will allow many to witness Arshak II–and expressed hope that this production will pave the way for other Armenian operas to be performed around the world.

Chukhadjian–who is regarded as the grandfather of the Armenian opera and is nicknamed the Armenian Verdi–passed away before his masterpiece ever hit the stage.

Tjeknavorian also thanked Papazian–Haig Avakian and the entire San Francisco Opera for their efforts in making the production a possibly.

In the role of Olimpia–Hasmig Papian told Asbarez that she was extremely touched to witness the non-Armenian cast of the opera sing in the Armenian language–and highlighted Phillip Webb’s performance as Knel–who kneels on the ground–and kisses the soil–saying "I will see you again my sweet [home]land."

After expressing his gratitude for being included in the production–Haik Mardirossian (Nerses)–also highlighted the importance of his role–which is the Catholicos of All Armenia’s. He explained that he has done extensive research on Catholicos Nerses I–in order to convey the full scope of the role to the audience.

His brother Tigran–who will also portray Nerses– explained that the role of Catholicos Nerses is the first instance where a religious leader has been included in a theatrical piece–attesting to the importance of the Armenian church–as well as the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin in Armenian history and cultural existence.

The Arshak II was completed by Chukhadjian in 1868–based on the libretto by Thomas Terzian–who had first compiled it in Italian and later translated in Armenian.

Chukhadjian died on February 25m 1898 and was buried in Izmir. During his funeral–his Funeral March was performed. In 1903 a statue commemorating the composer was erected at his tomb.

Arshak II performances are scheduled for: Saturday–September 8 at 8 p.m. Tuesday–September 11 at 8 p.m. Sunday–September 16 at 2 p.m. Friday–September 21 at 8 p.m. Thursday–September 27 at 7:30 p.m.–and Sunday–September 30 at 2 p.m.

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