YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The symphonic orchestra and choir of Milan’s world-famous La Scala theater marked the most memorable cultural event in Armenia’s recent history on Monday when it gave a historic concert in Yerevan dedicated to the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as a state religion.
The two-hour performance–broadcast live on national television–ended with a prolonged ovation from some 7,000 spectators that packed the city’s main concert hall. The concert–conducted by La Scala’s Riccardo Muti–featured works on biblical themes by 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.
Muti–who said he arrived in Armenia "with great emotion and joy," was given one of the country’s highest state awards–St. Mesrop Mashtots’s Medal–by President Robert Kocharian earlier in the day.
"Riccardo Muti is one of the giant conductors of modern era," said Eduard Topchian–chief conductor of the Yerevan Philharmonic Orchestra. "It’s a great happiness for Armenian spectators to such a renowned musician come to Armenia with the La Scala orchestra. It’s like a fairy tale."