Yerevan Opera and Ballet Theater is changing. Now it’s not just a venue for concerts and performances. The new administration is moving it towards a multi-functional arts center. And, the exhibition gallery on the second floor is part of the process.

Text: Ashot Garunts    Photo: Tigran Arakelyan




When Constantine Orbelian arrived at the theater two years ago, he noticed the beautiful mezzanine – cold and empty at the time. “I thought that it needed to be filled with something vivid to keep the public excited,” Orbelian says, “The audience often have some free time during the intermissions and we can’t let them be bored.”

There is a project of a theater museum inside the building, but it’s a long way before it can be brought to life. Also, many big theaters all around the world have some kind of an exhibition hall where their big stars’ portraits are being exhibited. In Metropolitan opera there is a wall with photographs, Bolshoi has a museum, so, why not have something similar in Yerevan?

“I went to my friend Alexander Baghramyan, who's a fantastic artist, and asked him if he would be interested in doing a whole portrait gallery of great Armenian singers, dancers, directors, conductors, composers, e.g. the most famous people who were involved in developing Yerevan opera as we know and love it,” says Orbelian. The next thing was making a list and then creating the portraits. It took him a year to create 50 portraits – now available at the gallery.

Here you can see the portraits of composers Alexander Harutyunyan, Edvard Mirzoyan, and even Arno Babajanyan who, despite never having written anything for the opera, was indeed one of the greatest composers of his generation. The other part of the wall is dedicated to the great singers who started their careers here but later moved to Moscow to become world-famous performers, like Zara Dolukhanyan, Pavel Lisitsian, legendary Gohar Gasparyan, Tigran Levonyan, and many others. The list is huge.

Mr. Orbelian believes it’s much more entertaining for people to not only have an enjoyable time here, but also have an opportunity to remember those great artists who might otherwise be forgotten with time. Next time you happen to be in the opera, pay attention on how people are exploring and discussing the portraits.

Orbelian’s future plans include publishing a book with the portraits and biographies of those famed people. Armenian opera has a huge heritage to be proud of and to be presented to the world. “We have so much to tell!” says Orbelian, “The stories of our legends are really fascinating and worth diving in.”