“Pure magic,” “heavenly” and “divine” are just a few of the many praises that Hasmik Papian, one of the most successful lyrical-dramatic sopran’s worldwide, has received in the international press over the last few years.
From her beginnings in Yerevan Armenia, Hasmik Papian has undeniably achieved an outstanding reputation worldwide. She has performed in some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world and has worked with great legends such as Placido Domingo, Riccardo Muti, Maurizio Arena, and Marcello Vioti amongst numerous others. It is therefore an immense delight that we will be welcoming her here for a solo recital in Los Angeles in the very near future.
Hasmik Papian began her studies at Sayat Nova Musical School in Yerevan from a very early age. She then attended Roman’s Melikyan Musical High School after which she spent the following five years studying at the Komitas State Conservatory. Initially obtaining her diploma as a violinist, she returned to the Conservatory to study as a vocalist for another six years.
She explains that the general level of cultural education and artistic training had a very high standard in the former Soviet Union and was therefore regarded very highly by the whole society. Asked about how much of her Armenian Soviet Republic training and discipline contributed to her success, she replies, “It was a long way and hard work, but laid the basis for my professional life. Discipline is a question of your personal attitude. In the end it depends on you: what are your goals, how hard are you willing to work for it? I have never stopped learning;” She feels that during the Soviet Union, Armenia’strived as one of the smallest Soviet Republics, to show the rest of the world how much they could achieve in the arts. “Unfortunately there is not much left of this tradition in contemporary Armenia, I am worried about that fact.”
Hasmik Papian sings in French, German, Russian and Armenian. Music holds no barriers for her. When asked what music means to her she beams and says with the passion of a true artist “everything except for my family”. She remembers her Western Armenian grandparents who immigrated to the Republic of Armenia during the 1920’s. “The songs, fairytales, and poems I have heard in my childhood still inspire me until today. I cherish this heritage very much.” At an early age she was fortunate enough to assist in concerts with artists like Rostropovitch, Kogan, Richter, Oistrach, Babadjanian, Kremer and many others in Yerevan.
During her first years as a soloist, Hasmik Papian won numerous international competitions such as Moscow (Tchaikovsky), Sofia, Toulouse and Vienna (Belvedere). However, the Armenian soprano’s international breakthrough came when Giancarlo del Monaco, son of the great singer Mario del Monaco and general manager of the opera company of the German capital of Bonn at the time, heard her in concert in Warsaw. “He offered me a contract as a company member right away.” Asked if she ever thought she would reach such prestigious heights in her career she confidently states. “It has always been my ambition. If your goals are less ambitious you will get nowhere. But I want to make it clear that I have always envisioned myself as an opera singer and not as a media star. I hope I can continue my career on this level for a long time.”
Since her breakthrough, Hasmik Papian has earned much acclaim above all for her interpretation of the great soprano-parts of Bellini, Verdi, and Puccini. She sang in four different seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as “Aida” and “Norma”. During her “Aida” performance at the Met she had the privilege of working with the legendary Placido Domingo as a conductor. She also worked with him as a partner on stage in Madrid, when he performed opposite her as “Herman” in the “Queen of Spades”. She recalls her experience fondly, “Placido Domingo has always been a very nice colleague. He is respectful, down to earth, is passionate for music and you can see the result of this attitude in his unparalleled career.”
Apart from opera, Hasmik Papian has also performed as a concert singer singing the intricate masterpieces of Beethoven, Verdi, Brahms, Mahler and to sensational acclaim, “Four Last Songs” by Richard Strauss. She has also starred in gala concerts and solo recitals around the world in cities such as London, Paris, Warsaw, Beirut and Cairo. Despite all of her travels and performances, Hasmik Papian returns to her homeland at least once a year to perform. When asked about the significance of this she solemnly replies, “I would love to perform much more often in Armenia. Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities. The opera house is nearly out of function. It is difficult to create the sort of event that I would like to present the audience with; but I feel a responsibility for those classical music lovers who are left behind and really long for such an event.”
In 2005 Hasmik Papian recorded a CD entitled “Hommage a Komitas”. 70 years after the death of Komitas and 90 years after the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, she brought to light nine songs composed by Komitas during his years of study in Berlin. Apparently no one had ever cared to dig up the notes from the Charents Museum which were set to German poetry (Geothe, Uhland, Lenau, etc.). She states, “It was very exciting to sing these songs in recital (first in Yerevan, later in Paris, London and Vienna) and record them. My aim was to create a high standard recording that meets the deman’s of serious classical musical releases.” The CD is on sale at most music retailers in the US and can also be found on the internet.
Despite her immense versatility, Hasmik Papian still enjoys some of her roles better than others. She adores performing Bellini’s “Norma” so much that she says it is her favorite “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” She also feels that playing Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco has been a significant experience. She dreams of having the opportunity to sing the part of “Isolde” in Beirut with Maestro Christian Tielemann and she also looks forward to singing her first Wagnerian part (Senta in the “Flying Dutchman”) in Denver in April 2008.
April 2008 holds another treat for classical music lovers in Los Angeles. Hasmik Papian will perform an exclusive solo concert at the beautiful Vibiana Cathedral. It has been a long time since the singer performed in Los Angeles and she will be singing opera arias and Armenian classics. When I mention the concert, she warmly smiles and says, “It will be a very special evening. I know there will be many familiar faces in the audience such as people I know from my childhood and youth and old friends.” Despite her worldwide acclaim, she is a humble and kind person giving each of her performances equal passion and attention. It is no doubt this talent, passion, and warmth that make Hasmik Papian such a celebrated opera singer.
Her performance can be seen at the Vibiana Cathedral in Los Angeles on Sunday April 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling Zoe Kevork 818-761-4204 or online at www.armeniancalendar.com. This is a performance not to be missed.