Twenty years ago, the Armenian community lost a well-respected and admired vocalist and musical educator Arpine Pehlivanian. Celebrated as a lyric collatura soprano, Arpine Pehlivanian received countless accolades for her preservation of and contributions to Armenian musical tradition. April 24, 2024 marks the eightieth anniversary of her birth.

Known across many generations of the Armenian diaspora for her performance of the Armenian lullaby Oror Im Balas (composed and arranged by Parsegh Ganatchian), Madame Pehlivanian worked tirelessly to educate generations of musicians in her native Lebanon and the United States. Her efforts earned her the appelations ‘Ambassadress of Armenian Song’ and ‘Nightingale of the Armenian Diaspora (Asbarez 2004).’

Born in Beirut Lebanon; soprano Pehlivanian rose to acclaim as official soloist to the National Symphony of Lebanon; and Professor of Voice and Piano at the Lebanese National Conservatory of Music. She became the first singer from the Armenian diaspora to perform a leading role in the Soviet-era Spendiarov Opera House in Yerevan and first performed in Carnegie Hall in 1974. Altogether, Madame Pehlivanian performed in over 800 major concerts across the world and entertained countless generations of fans.

Her mastery of Armenian musicology included collaborations with countless musicians throughout the world. Many of these performances were based on the musical narratives of Komitas and his tutelage.

Notable recordings include Kele Kele – Komitas and Krounk – Komitas with Boghos Gelalian Piano (Menakian Records), Chantés Par La Célèbre Cantatrice Arpiné Péhlivanian (1968, La Voix de Paris), Artistry of Arpine Pehlivanian (1982), Armenian Sacred Music (1986), Arpine Pehlivanian, Armenian Romance Songs (1997), and A Musical Journey Through her Life payed homage to traditional and contemporary Armenian music.

Upon emigrating to the United States during the Civil War in Lebanon, Madame Pehlivanian continued her passion for music through her teaching positions and performances. She played piano alongside her daughter Elizabeth at the first Armenian Music Awards in 1998; and in 2000 she participated in the Armenian Music Festival to mark the 1700th Anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity in Armenia.

Her dedicated work was recognized through the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Medal of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and bestowal of Dame de la Grande Maison de Cilicie by the Holy See of Cilicia. Throughout her illustrious career, Soprano Pehlivanian embodied the essence of Armenian musical heritage and embellished the tradition of song within the Armenian communities across the homeland and diaspora.

Soprano Pehlivanian remains a beacon for future generations and an inspirational leader of Armenian resilience and spirit.

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