- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
July 2, 2004

Final Curtain: Friends and fans pay tribute to Tigran Levonyan

The art of opera in Armenia suffered a sad loss this week with the death of director and singer Tigran Levonyan.

Levonyan, People’s Artist of the Republic of Armenia and a state prize laureate, died on June 25 aged 68. Thousands of admirers attended his funeral service on June 29 at Yerevan’s Opera House to bid a last farewell to the artist as the magnificent sounds of the Anush opera rang out.

Tigran Levonyan, People's Artist .

His dramatic tenor vocals as a singer and his original way of thinking as a stage director opened a new chapter in the history of National Opera Theatre. Thanks to his tireless dedication, new directing style and fresh staging he gave priceless service to the Armenian opera art.

Levonyan was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and repatriated as a child to Armenia in 1946. He completed his musical education in singing and directing in Yerevan and Moscow and aged just 28 he became a soloist at Yerevan’s Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet National Academic Theatre. By 1977 he had become the theatre’s artistic director.

His long repertoire as a singer and director included national and world opera productions: he performed Canio (Pagliacci), Tirit (Arshak II), Saro (Anush), Carlos (Don Carlos), Otello (Otello), Alfred (La Traviata), Shahumyan (David Bek), Manrico (Trubadur), Cavaradossi (Toska) with great depth of dramatic feeling, impressive acting and a delicate interpretation of direction.

Levonyan was the first to create opera films in Armenia and thanks to his unique directing approach he placed on screen Almast, Arshak II, and Palmetto, which became symbols of his innovative art.

However, he suffered unfairness at the hands of government bureaucracy too. In 1999, upon the order of the Ministry of Culture, Levonyan was dismissed from the theatre and deprived of the right not only to stage performances but also to sing there as well.

A letter of protest signed by 125 artists of the theatre, calling for Levonyan to be restored as artistic director and director, was ignored. He was subjected to a humiliating whispering campaign in the press, where articles were printed suggesting that he had pressured people into signing the letter.

Mourners pay their last respects to an honored artist

“Opera and stage are my life. I’m deprived of the stage so I’m deprived of life,” said Levonyan. “Back in 1993, I declared from the stage that we need a law on culture in order to protect the culture from the Ministry of Culture…”

“Tigran was working and creating because ideas came like rain from his mind. But we felt deeply insulted and the insult of ignoring us was not only ours but of the whole art loving society,” says singer Gohar Gasparyan, who Avetik Isahakyan described as “Armenian nightingale”.

“He left unvalued, denied. Moreover, the reason for his illness was the unending sense of outrage he felt, which did not subside in his heart,” says People’s Artist Sos Sargsyan, his voice quivering.

Even after he left the Opera House, Levonyan did not stop creating. On the occasion of 1700 th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia in 2001, he staged open air performances of Anush and Palmetto at Zvartnots temple.

Choreographer Vilen Galstyan says that instead of organizing a lavish funeral service for him, the State should have better appreciated his talent during his life.

“It’s the Armenian option – ‘go die and I’ll love you’,” says Galstyan.

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Bearing Fruit

A priest blesses a bowl of Armenian apricots prior to the opening of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan on June 30. The fruit was handed out to guests at the opening ceremony at the city's Moscow Cinema.



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