Interview conducted by Galina Bekkar
Great music cannot stay local for long. It is, by definition, universal, and must be enjoyed by all. This is a core stance that animates the work of Maestro Constantine Orbelian, Artistic and General Director of the Yerevan Opera House.
A globally renowned conductor and pianist, Orbelian has led some of the world’s most illustrious orchestras, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, the United States, and elsewhere. And just as much as he derives artistic fulfillment from the performance of masterworks of the classical canon, he thrives on the joy of bringing them to diverse audiences. Today, Maestro Orbelian is once again transforming the Yerevan Opera House into a wonderful crossroads for musical excellence — by both bringing major classical productions to Armenia, and taking treasured Armenian works abroad. Orbelian’s latest effort in this regard is a new production of Aram Khachaturyan’s famed Gayane ballet, which will be performed by Yerevan Opera House at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on July 22, 2018.
In the interview below, conducted in Yerevan, Maestro Orbelian talks about the significance of staging Gayane at the iconic Bolshoi.
Q – What makes Gayane a great ballet?
A – Gayane is one of the most outstanding works ever composed by the great Aram Khachaturyan, and one that is immediately recognizable as a genuinely Armenian ballet, given its national character and melodic authenticity, as well as emotional depth. Of course the most famous parts of Gayane remain the “Sabre Dance” and the “Adagio,” both of which have been featured in scores of films and other media.
Q – How has Gayane evolved since its 1942 premiere by the Kirov Ballet, in Russia?
A – After its triumphant debut by the Kirov Ballet in the city of Perm, Russia, during the Second World War, Gayane underwent two revisions, in 1952 and 1957. The definitive version of the ballet was choreographed in 1974 by the legendary ballet dancer, actor, and People’s Artist of Armenia Vilen Galstyan, who is also the author of Gayane’s libretto. It is this particular version of the ballet that continues to thrive as one of the signature works of the Yerevan Opera House repertoire, and the one that will be performed at the Bolshoi on July 22. Incidentally, the last time Gayane was staged at the Bolshoi was 57 years ago, in February 1961.
Q – To you as well as the musicians and dancers of the Yerevan Opera House, what is the significance of performing Gayane at the Bolshoi?
A – For every one of us at the Yerevan Opera House, it’s an extraordinary honor to perform Armenian works abroad, and all the more gratifying to present a masterpiece such as Gayane at the famed Bolshoi Theater. Every time an Armenian work of such caliber is performed at an illustrious concert hall such as the Bolshoi, it is Armenian culture itself that shines on the world stage. Therefore such performances, in and of themselves, are also hugely inspirational to our musicians and dancers.
Q – Who are the soloists and other principal personnel of the upcoming Gayane production at the Bolshoi?
A – Gayane will be conducted by Yerevan Opera House resident conductor Atanes Arakelyan, under the artistic direction of our ballet master, Honored Artist of Armenia Armen Grigoryan. The leading soloists include Honored Artists of Armenia Ruben Muradyan, Suzanne Pirumyan, and Mary Hovhannisyan, as well as Sona Vardanyan, Vahagn Margaryan, and Razmik Marukyan.
Q – By any measure, performing an Armenian ballet at the Bolshoi is an enormous achievement. How did it all come about? What did it take to make the vision of taking Gayane to the Bolshoi a reality?
A – The idea of performing Gayane at the Bolshoi was inspired by the fact that this year marks several milestones pertaining to Armenian culture and statehood — including the 115th anniversary of the birth of Aram Khachaturyan, the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia, and the 2,800th anniversary of the founding of the city of Yerevan. We thought these occasions formed a marvelous opportunity to present Armenian culture, in all its splendor, in Russia. I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to His Excellency Vardan Toghanyan, Ambassador of Armenia to the Russian Federation, as well as the Novo-Nakhichevan Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, for initiating and organizing our upcoming performance at the Bolshoi. I would also like to thank the project’s producer, Karen Khachatryan, Advisor to the Armenian Ambassador to the Russian Federation for Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs, for his tireless efforts to help secure the success of this considerable endeavor.