- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 27, 2004

Stage Revival: Sundukyan Theater reopens to great expectations

After being “dark” for 18 months for reconstruction work, Yerevan 's Sundukyan Theater has opened its doors again with a delayed 80 th birthday celebration.

The city's main dramatic stage actually marked its anniversary in 2002 but the extent of the repairs meant that it could not be open for the occasion.

Its history began, according to records, on July 16, 1921 when the newly Soviet Armenian government adopted a resolution declaring that the Armenian people cannot live without state theatre.

Sundukyan Theatry is ready again to welcome the guests..

By January 25, 1922 , first state theatre of Armenia was born, named after Gabriel Sundukyan. The first performance was Sundukyan's “Pepo”.

The refurbished theatre opened to the public on February 20, with its lobbies, Winter Garden and elegant hall transformed. President Kocharyan and the First Lady, Catholicos Garegin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church , foreign ambassadors and other dignitaries gathered with prominent artists to celebrate the occasion.

The performances began right in the lobby. Artists in fancy dress received their guests with unique festivity, indoor fireworks and an anniversary cake decorated with 80 candles. While visitors laid bouquets of flowers on the in tribute, the theatre's history from the 1920s to the modern era was paraded on the stage.

The theater's 80-year history was divided into four Acts for the evening. Each period of two decades was presented with its important pages and prominent artists - directors, actors and dramatists.

The walls of the Sundukyan Theater are soaked with the voices of great artists. With its proud tradition, it has served as a unique school and inspiration for all of Armenia 's theaters.

Virtually every great representative of the theatrical arts spent time here: Vahram Papazyan, Hrachia Nersisyan, Arus Voskanyan, Avet Avetisyan, Vagharsh Vagharshyan, Gurgen Janibekyan, Arus Asryan, Metaxia Simonyan, Mher Mkrtchyan, Davit Malyan and others.

“The contribution in this theater of the great artists of the Armenian stage is immense. Resting upon these wonderful traditions, we nevertheless try to create today's theater,” says Vahe Shahverdyan, the Sundukyan's present artistic director.

It took $1 630 000 to reconstruct the Sundukyan theatre which was the last of 34 cultural places to reopen within the framework of the Lincy Fund's $17.5 million program of reconstruction. The fund represents billionaire American-Armenian philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian.

Innumerable interior improvements have been made. The sound and lighting equipment have been replaced and the heating restored with a new boiler system that at last means audiences are able to enjoy performances once again without shivering in their overcoats, an almost-forgotten pleasure. The semi-centennial lavatories have also been replaced.


“New impulses and new aspirations for life and creative work reappear in the hearts of every mortal when they get a renovated apartment. This is our home, where we have spent the major part of our lives,” says People's Artist of Armenia Varduhi Varderesyan.

The Sundukyantsis.

Full of zeal, the theater's staff plan to present new performances this season. Shahverdyan says they were not sitting idly on their hands while the reconstruction work was going on.


“Along with our repertory performances we will also have a number of premieres. We are planning to stage Ray Cooney's comedy ‘Number Thirteenth', a performance based on Alvard Petrosyan's story “I'm an Apricot Tree”, Griboyedov's ‘Grief through the Mind' and Edward Albee's ‘Everything in the Garden',” he says.

Last year, while the reconstruction work was taking place, staff of the Sundukyan theater performed on tour in Moscow and Tbilisi . It was the first time the Sundukyan had been in the Georgian capital for 50 years and its first performance in Moscow for 25 years.

“The theater has invitations from international festivals. Turkey has invited us for a second time to perform there in May,” says Shahverdyan. “We will present Chekhov's ‘ Cherry Orchard ' there.”

He says the theatre is planning to visit the US this year. Meanwhile, eminent Russian artists Kiril Lavrov and Sergey Yashin were among those who congratulated the theatre on the occasion of its 80 th anniversary.

The theatre hall itself was filled with bright new colors and the echoes of applause and reminiscences.

“I grew up sheltered by this theater. I was educated by the great artists of this theater and today it seems that by this reopening we return to our prosperous past. We are filled with hope that the new theater will bloom again and write new names in the pages of its history,” says poetess Silva Kaputikyan.

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Armenian Officer's Body in Yerevan

Thursday, the body of Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan killed by Azeri officer in Budapest last week was brought to Armenia in a closed coffin. Margaryan will be burried Saturday at Yerablur, cemetery of Karabakh war veterans.



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