Noted soprano Isabel Bayrakdaryan sang in Armenia for the first time Tuesday night (April 20) and found an overflow audience ready to embrace the New York Metropolitan Opera singer.
“”I fell in love with this land and nation”
Aram Khachaturyan Concert Hall was standing-room-only, and included President Robert Kocharyan and First Lady, Bella Kocharyan.
The 90-minute concert was a collection of tastefully chosen arias from Giochino Rossini’s “Semiramide” and “Barbiere di Sivilla”, Mozart’s “The Shepherd King”, Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” and “Gianni Schichi” and Armen Tigranyan’s “Anush” operas.
Ably and easily the Canadian and native of Beirut mastered Rossini’s complicated musical passages and challenging upper-register vocals. In a gentle but ringing voice and natural artistic mastery she sang Semiramide’s aria.
Most interesting and unique, though, was “They Say Willow”, from “Anush”, a familiar selection to Armenian audiences and typically performed by coloratura soprano. Bayrakdaryan’s silky, clear voice and graceful delivery effectively portrayed the rural, innocent character of Anush.
Bayrakdaryan’s debut in Armenia follows her 2002-2003 season appearances that included a her Paris debut as Susanna in “Le Nozze di Figaro”. She also played Catherine in “A View from the Bridge” at the New York Met and Zerlina in “Don Giovanni” at the Salzburg Festival.
In 2000, Bayrakdaryan won the prestigious Plácido Domingo “Operalia” Competition and was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee medal. Bayrakdaryan can be heard on the Grammy Award winning soundtrack of “The Two Towers”, the second episode in “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, as well as in Atom Egoyan’s “Ararat”.
In her native country, her recording debut “Joyous Light” reached No. 1 on classical charts when it was released in March 2002.
The singer’s interest are not limited to opera. In fact, her first love was liturgical chant. In Beirut, she grew up singing songs of Komitas and Sayat-Nova.
“My faith has always been steadfast because liturgical chant comes from soul and heart,” the singer told ArmeniaNow. “I heard a lot of Lusine Zakaryan, maybe that’s why I love liturgical chant so much. Her voice has always been in my ears.”
Bayrakdaryan’s first visit to Armenia was accompanied by a Canadian TV company film crew. She was to complete her visit by singing Saturday during April 24 commemoration ceremonies at the Genocide Monument. Instead, Bayrakdaryan had to leave yesterday (April 22) to fulfill a commitment to Placido Domingo by singing at the Los Angeles Opera tomorrow.
During her visit she was often asked why she came to Armenia so late, whether she had no internal desire to see her native land as early as possible. Bayrakdaryan was not confused with these questions and gave shrewd reply: “It’s never late to do anything. Telling the truth, I could have changed my surname, which is very hard to pronounce, and found easy ways but I wished it to be pronounced in different places of the world even with difficulties the way it is and prove the fact that I am Armenian.
“By coming to Armenia I realized my feeling of being Armenian became more resolute,” Bayrakdaryan said. “I’ve been here in my homeland for one week and I don’t want to leave. I fell in love with this land and nation. You can know your homeland with pictures and books but it is completely different when you are in your homeland. Only here you feel what a long history is behind you and you have to decide whether you will continue this history or not. I’m glad I’m here, from now on I’m going to come here often.”
In Yerevan Tuesday night, Bayrakdaryan received heavy and sustained applause and, returning for an encore told her admirers: “I’m very touched. For me, It’s very hard to talk.”
Choosing, rather, to sing her appreciation, she delivered Barsegh Kanachyan’s “Lullaby” in a soft, expansive voice that left many in the audience with tears.