- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 January 23 , 2004 

Debut: After $2 million face lift, Opera House is back

Patrons to the new Opera House could sit without their coats for the first time in 10 winters..

On January 17, after a year and a half of being "dark", the doors of Yerevan's House of Opera and Ballet after Spendiaryan reopened.

With curiosity and nostalgia hundreds of people were examining the renovated building, evaluating, admiring the columns with new marble slabs, criticizing that the floor is not varnished and were looking with surprise at the sparkling white chandelier, which before was so dusty that it seemed to be gray.

Even the checkroom was working. Stanislavski said "Theatre begins with the checkroom", but for more than 10 years none of Armenia's concert halls or theatres started with checkrooms. But the new Opera House's first guests enjoyed the pleasure of sitting with no coats on.

On renovating the huge building the Lincy Foundation allotted $2 million, by which the roof of the building, backstage, lavatory were completely restored, anti-fire and air conditioning systems were installed, a local boiling room was built, lighting and sound technology has been completely changed, concert halls and administrative rooms have been cosmetically repaired and the actors' checkrooms and make-up rooms were brought to international standards.

But together with the remarkable improvements, the theatre also had some damage. According to Opera House director Kamo Hovhannisyan all the stage decorations moved to storages in Charbakh during renovation have been damaged.

"It's been two months that the employees of the theatre have been trying to bring them around. For some performances we have to make new decorations, which requires great expenses," says Hovhannisyan.

Also, costumes that were stuffed in sacks have been damaged - some by moths, and other simply from being old and worn out.

The renovated house debuted with "La Traviatta"

The new provisions at the Opera House are presenting new challenges. Specifically, technicians accustomed to out-dated equipment are having difficulty getting used to the computer programmed sound and lighting.

And according to the theatre's art director, Gegham Grigoryan, they managed to make the heating system work only after 15 days of unsuccessful attempts.

"It's a little hard to deal with modern equipment, but it's better to be troubled with the new one than with the old," says Grigoryan.

Fortunately, the difficulties are only technical ones, and from a creative aspect the 200 member staff has started working in a new building with new energy and the first performance of theatre season, Verdi's "La Traviatta", was a bright evidence of it.

Even though Grigoryan has many times announced that the season will be opened with a new performance of Aram Khachatryan's ballet, "Gayane" the theatre didn't manage to redo the performance. Audiences will have to wait for "Gayane", as theatre workers restore previous decorations for the ballet that were originally created by Minas Avetisyan some 35 years years ago. Grigoryan now hopes "Gayane" will be performed in March.

In June the Opera House is planning to add two performances to the existing list of 15 -- Yuferov's "Iolanta" and Rakhmaninov's "Aleko" operas.

Administration of the theatre hopes they will work throughout the winter since it's possible to heat the whole building with the help of the new boiling room.

But, Lincy money aside, not everything is free. Prices for the opera have increased dramatically, from about $1 to $2 to about $2 to $5.

According to director Hovhannisyan's calculations to cover their expenses a price of a ticket should be 4000 drams ($7). But the Opera House will not take that step, since fans are already uncomfortable with current prices.

"It's not desirable to face a half empty hall from the stage," Hovhannisyan says.

That was not a problem at the new building's first performance with new ticket prices, as there was an overflow crowd, without even standing room on the stairs.

According to Agnes
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Dancing on Strings

The recently renovated Opera House hosted a ballet performance based on Aram Khachatryan's "Concert for Violin" last weekend. It was the first time the piece has been accompanied by dance.




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