Notes From Hairenik
May 18, 2009
Last Saturday night (May 16) I went to see the new presentation of Aram Khachaturian's famous, endearing Spartacus ballet, which was performed in Spendiaryan Hall at the Opera House to a overpacked audience. About 20 kids were sitting in the aisles close by me. Watching it was an impressive, amazing experience to say the least. The presentation was sponsored in part by several television stations and companies like VivaCell as well as Yerevan Brandy. It was directed by the legendary choreographer Yuri Krikorovich (now 84) and the art direction and costumes were designed by Simon Virsaladze. Spartacus premiered on May 5 with Russian first lady Svetlana Medvedev in attendance, accompanied by President Serge Sarkisian and his wife Rita. 

Spartacus (called Spartak in Armenian) was first presented in 1956 in Leningrad (now St. Petersberg) and then in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theater in  1958. However it wasn't until 1962 that the ballet was performed at the Opera House in Yerevan. According to Spartak.am, the official Web site of the ballet presentation, Spartacus was last performed in 1982 in Armenia, although that may not necessarily be accurate. 

Also according to the Web site it seems that two dancers--all of whom were Armenian--were chosen for each of the four lead parts. I cannot say who exactly I was watching dancing about on stage because the staff failed to distribute programs as people were entering for some bizarre reason. Also it wasn't clear what exactly was being depicted because there was no storyline text to refer to as you would ordinarily have when you attend such events. Strange that for a minimum of $20 per ticket no one was equipped with literature to hand out. 

The presentation was indeed splendid and the dancers seemed to have been top notch, judging from my amateur observances as I am not a ballet aficionado by any means. The orchestra performed exquisitely, with the sound reverberating very well throughout the hall. The music was so crisp and vibrant that at times it seemed that a cell phone with a harp-like ring tone was going off a few feet from me--it took me a while to understand that indeed it was the real deal down in the pit about 60 or so feet below where I was sitting that I was hearing. The Opera House has fantastic acoustics.

The only complaint about the evening that I had was the absurd clapping from the audience throughout the performance. Every time that Spartacus picked up his beloved Phrygia over his head or someone was leaping high across the stage or a group of dancers aligned in formation that resembled a rhombus it was time to break out in applause.  After a while I felt as though I had been attending a rock concert. Jethro Tull will be performing in town in a week--I wonder how the audience will behave for that show.

If you plan on visiting Yerevan any time soon or already are here I strongly recommend that you attend Spartacus, I doubt very much that you will be disappointed. It's a bit long, nearly three hours, but you hardly feel it with all the excitement. Also there are two intermissions lasting about 20 minutes each. One piece of advice--make sure your seats are in the Amphitheater of the main balcony, which is where Anush and I were sitting. It is the most advantageous place to view the performance since you can see exactly everything happening on stage as well as watch and perfectly hear the musicians in the pit. Seats up there cost 6000 dram, while inferior seats (in my opinion) below cost far more. The last performance is supposedly on May 23, but my guess is that the run will be extended. You can find up-to-date information here, or you can inquire at the box office situated to the left of the Opera House on Sayat Nova Street. 

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