By Assadour Guzelian

LONDON — On Friday 20th and Saturday 21st October 2017, at The Questors Theatre in London, The London Armenian Opera presented Alexander Arutunian’s “Sayat Nova” opera in semi-stage format.

In the programme, the director, Seta White, gives basic biographical information on ashugh (minstrel) Sayat Nova, and makes certain observations about Arutunian’s opera.

“Alexander Arutunian’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 license, 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 Monastery in Armenia. Arutunian rather cleverly threads in seven of Sayat Nova’s songs to support the drama as it folds.”

It has been the intention of the director to “set the opera in a more contemporary period.”

This is understandable when one considers the difficulties to overcome in staging an opera depicting 18th century events and characters. The fact that the theatre did not have the basic facilities for staging Sayat Nova or any opera in full-stage format for that matter, is irrelevant. The important consideration is that the LAO does not have the financial resources to cover the cost of such a production.

In any case, 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, sung impeccably both individually and with the 21 member orchestra and 17 member choir, masterfully conducted by Levon Parikian. All contributed in creating a mesmerising musical atmosphere.

The audience tremendously enjoyed outstanding performances by Berj Karazian, Sayat Nova, Honoured Artist of Armenia, Anais Heghoyan, Princess Anna, Aris Nadirian, ashugh and Prince , Arshak Kuzikian, Bazarbashi and King.

Aris Nadirian and Arshak Kuzikian successfully played dual roles, Ashugh/Prince and Bazarbashi/King respectively.

Shake Major Chilingirian, 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 Projection Designer, Natalia Sookias earned the admiration of the audience for creating impressive stage effects.

It is obvious that without the participation of great artists like Aris Nadirian, Levon Parikian, Seta White, Berj Karazian, Anais Heghoyan, Arshak kuzikian, Shake Major Chilingirian and Natalia Sookias such an outstanding production could not be realised. However, let us not forget the contribution of many others,
particularly the tireless efforts of committee members of the LAO, headed by David Stephan, the Chairman.

We wholeheartedly congratulate the LAO for presenting a very high quality production of the Sayat Nova opera, which won the hearts of music and poetry lovers. Let us not forget that Sayat Nova, besides being a musician, is also a great poet.

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