Friends and fans pay tribute to Tigran Levonyan
July 2, 2004

Final Curtain: Friends and fans pay tribute to Tigran Levonyan

By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow arts reporter

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

“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.