Notes From Hairenik


I just came back from a concert performed by the opera legend of the universe Placido Domingo. The concert was held at the Karen Demirjian Sports and Concert Complex (a.k.a., the "Hamalir") as part of the Yerevan Perspectives 11th Annual Music Festival.

The concert was astounding. Placido was joined by soparanos Ana Maria Martinez -- a Grammy award winner -- and Rosy Anoush Svazlian, along with baritone Barseg Tumanyan, and they were all magnicifient. Accompanied by the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, all four singers shined for well over two hours of exhilarating vocal performances.

The one thing I always appreciated of Placido was his selfless devotion to his audience. I have never detected any hint of arrogance from him in any television appearance or interview that I've heard him give. On stage, Placido was as gracious and charming as ever.

I admit that my knowledge of Opera is extremely limited, so I could not identify many of the arias and dramatic scenes that were performed throughout the evening. Opera requires a sincere, selfless devotion to which I have yet to commit, regrettably. I am guessing that a good chunk of the performances were from works by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini. I saw some programs in a few people's hands but I could not obtain one since they seemed to have been limited in number, or they were not available to those in the upper balcony, where I was sitting.

Songs I did recognize, however, were "Bésame Mucho" and "Granada," a tune that is identified with him foremost.

Placido Domingo's performance in Yerevan

All of the concert's attendees in the upper deck at least were obvious lovers of the arts. Most of them were dressed impeccably, some with opera glasses in hand. They seemed to be in harmony with the music being performed and were roaring with applause at the end of each song. I am assuming the main floor, where the expensive seats were, was filled with mainly those who were there to see a legend but were not necessarily in tune with what was going on.

To close the concert the Panos Choir, which is composed of amateur, handicapped singers, joined the musicians and featured performers on stage for two songs. The entire audience was touched to hear them sing the great, nostalgic anthem"Yerevan, My Erebuni," I song I have known since early childhood.  That heartwarming performance essentially brought the house down.

A note about the Karen Demirjian concert hall -- the acoustics were very good, much better than I expected. The entire hall, walls and ceiling, are covered in dark walnut paneling, providing a wonderfully rich resonance. The sound was crystal clear, every slight nuance of the singers' interpretations was heard without a single blemish. It was my first time in the hall and I was quite impressed. The entire building, not just the hall, is a marvel of architecture; it looks like it's about to lift off from the Tsitserakaberd hill and blast off into deep space.

It was no surprise that security was extremely tight since the Armenian President was in attendance, with his secret service guards on alert 10 meters apart from each other throughout the building, red berets loitering outside and beat cops roaming about. It was actually overkill. One of the heads of the "Emergency Services" in plain clothes at the front door, holding an ancient walkie talkie, barked at me because I walked by an oblivious woman who was supposed to be ripping tickets but didn't bother to let me know -- I think she was actually nervous about the intense police presence. Oddly enough, security guards were not obvious on the upper floors.

The show ran over an hour late since people had trouble finding their seats, as there was a shortage of ushers -- I saw only two to manage a crowd of at least a thousand. A fifteen minute intermission stretched into a half-hour, probably to accomodate the carefree smokers and slow movers. Armenians have trouble with stairways -- everywhere I go I see people, young and old alike, struggling to climb them in either direction. Since it was necessary to go up four flights of stairs to reach the upper deck, the night dragged on much longer than it should have.

Regardless, Placido Domingo's concert in Armenia was an event of a lifetime, and it was impossible to miss. I was there thanks to my wonderful wife who presented me with a ticket. We can only hope that he will make his visits to Armenia a regular practice. A free concert on Republic Square would be fitting so a wider audience can hear this giant of opera.

You can read more about Domingo's visit to Yerevan, in Spanish, on the Adios Amigo, Adios blog.

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4 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
That's fine but if Domingo didn't want to charge so much for the concerts, or if he performed in smaller halls, he wouldn't have to sing crap like Besame Mucho and the mind-numbingly overplayed Granada over and over so that everyone could at least recognize some of the material (which is not even necessary for enjoying a concert). Thankfully he still does operas, against the norm of aging opera singers retiring to do concerts only, because that is truly the one place he shines. He might not be particularly arrogant, and he may have 'devotion' to the audience in the sense that he isn't going to completely half-ass the people he rips off, but otherwise his concerts are definitely not his shining light, nor his forte. They are a quick buck for a quick job with the same setlist over and over - and in the case of countries he doesn't commonly visit- a requisite parade around the presidential palace.

M.N.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
For the record, according to a concert promoter that I know most of the audience members attended the concert with complimentary tickets. Apparently not very many tickets were actually purchased.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
That doesn't surprise me since I'd point to the (at least initial) price he apparently generally charges even in seriously poor places like some of the Mexico states.
It's a bit funny to hear that they had to give tickets away though, because I'm a huge collector of Domingo's opera performances - including his new ventures into baritone repertoire which I cheer on while many purists gag - but you'd have to give me a free ticket and then drag me to a concert of the kind he has been giving in the past several years ;).

In that case though I'd doubt he'd be making regular visits back to Armenia.

M.N.

Anonymous Narbey Derbekyan said...
To go off on a tangent but, is it me or is Domingo starting to look like Aram Khachaturian?

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