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Second Rescue of an Important Heritage
The soprano of Hasmik Papian, full of longing and reaching out far into the distance, seems to be resounding from far away-mountains. Father Komitas touches every human being, what he created isn’t exclusively national music. It is true: famous songs like “Homeless” (Antooni), “Caw, Crane” (Kantche, Kroonk) or “Oh, My Dear Doe” (Akh, Maral djan) represent the fate of the Armenian nation; combining deep thought (as known in Slavonic thinking) and oriental ornamentation, they are very specific – but what they convey is universal in its humanity. An important heritage of mankind! Komitas collected thousands of songs from the villagers around 1900, shortly before the annihilation of this culture, and set them as lied for piano and voice or as chorus. This CD-release of AUDITE can be regarded as a second rescue.
Partituren (German Music Magazine) - Nr. 7,
1. 11. 2006
The SACD "Hommage à Komitas" has been rewarded with the SuperSonic Award by the online musical magazine www.pizzicato.lu in November 2006!
What a Performance!
This past Monday, I tuned in to the Met Opera Broadcasts on Sirius Internet Radio to listen to that greatest of all Italian operas, Bellini’s “Norma.” It has been years since this piece has been staged at the Met, mostly because the lead soprano part is inarguably the most difficult in the entire female repertoire. The role requires extraordinary vocal control that combines a quasi-Wagnerian declamatory force with the ability to spin the most beautiful, delicate melodies with a tranquility bordering on stasis. A soprano with this kind of skill is so rare that hearing a great Norma in one’s lifetime is an event akin to seeing Haley’s Comet.
This Monday’s Norma, however, was one of the finest examples of dramatic bel canto singing that I’ve heard in a very long while. The Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian brought her Norma to New York and the Sirius audience for the first time on this long-anticipated broadcast. I can say that this is perhaps one of the most exciting and excellent performances of an opera I have heard. In fact, I would add that this by far is the best performance that I have heard from the Met’s current season.
Hasmik Papian’s Norma offers an interpretation that easily ranks with an echelon of singers who have achieved apotheosis with this quintessential Italian role. She imbues her singing with the nobility that great Normas own in abundance, but we get something that is different from the legendary priestesses of Callas, Caballe and Sutherland. She bathes her vocal line with authority and tenderness, but she can also summon dramatic steel when the role requires her to deliver and declaim vehemence. She takes little bits and pieces from these three operatic legends and combines their insights into an interpretation that she makes her own.
Upon Papian’s entrance, one could already hear the grandness and security in her delivery of Bellini’s difficult line. Her recitative, “Sediziose voci,” is brimming with authority and vulnerability without sacrificing the more reflective instances of this diametric scene.
The opera’s most well-known aria, “Casta Diva,” was sung with a silvery delicacy, a tenderness and a musical accuracy that is simply befuddling when one has heard it butchered by many train wreck sopranos. It was as if the listener were transported in a pause of celestial, ethereal beauty, all of this carried on the wings Papian’s magnificent instrument. Her delivery of the cabaletta sounded like a walk in the park compared to the majority of sopranos who cannot even rise to the occasion to deal with Bellini’s florid writing. It was a memorable scene, and an assuring promise of a great performance for the remainder of the evening.
The Adalgisa of the evening was none other than the titanic American mezzo, Dolora Zajick. Her voice blended surprisingly well with Papian’s finer-grained instrument in their duets. It was during the moments when these two women were together on stage that the opera took on another otherworldly beauty. Their Act II duets, beginning with “Oh rimembranza,” were delicately spun with thread after thread of Bellinian legato. The great Act III duet, “Mira o Norma,” was another one of the opera’s jewels. But perhaps the opera’s shining glory came when Norma admits to her error and immolates herself willingly upon the opera’s close. Papian gives a tragic performance that captures the beauty of this extremely complex character in the mould of the great Greek actors. What a performance!
The opera’s Bellinian line was well sculpted by the conductor Maurizio Benini, a specialist in the bel canto repertoire. While he does not capture the spiritual extremities of the score in the way that Tullio Serafin does, he more than makes up for this by sensitively pacing the score with the singers. “Norma” broadcasts again Monday with the same cast at 8 p.m. on Sirius Internet Radio. This is an essential listen for anyone who wants to hear what a great bel canto opera should sound like, and it doesn’t get any greater than Bellini’s “Norma.”
Mira la Norma!
Two requirements of the role of Norma that very few singers, past and present, could clear: (a) extreme range of vocal ability – from halcyon lyricism in scale phrases, to unblemished florid coloratura for killer cabalettas, to theatrical declamatory outbursts in recitatives; and (b) superhuman stamina to do the first requirement ALL F*CKING EVENING. And we're not even getting to the inordinate emotional and dramatic demands on the soprano to make it all work on stage. Line up live renditions (no stitched up studio recordings please) of Norma's entrance cavatina – from the "Sediziose voci" to the "Casta Diva" pasta commercial to the deceptively simple cabaletta "Ah! bello a me ritorno" – to see that very few excel evenly through the three sonic faces of Norma. Then, doing this all evening long would surely defeat whoever's left standing. Hasmik Papian delivers a more than credible Norma that one is apt to analyze her performance to the molecular level to find the misplaced hydrogen bond; while on the other hand, a more than creditable Norma is a cause for bliss, and to hell with the misplaced hydrogen bond.
If she were to come to my apartment and sing this role in my bathroom, she'd have sung this role everywhere. Well, not exactly, but I suspect that by the end of her career she'd have sung it wherever there's a room full of people. And she ought to. Foremost, she has extraterrestrial stamina. She regaled us with "Ah padre! un prego ancor", Norma's last hurdle, as she had begun the evening – with freshness and nuance, gamely taking long and leaping phrases in single breaths. Throughout the marathon she was fearless in the florid passages, steady and calm in the pianissimi, and vicious in the explosive moments like "Guerra, strage, sterminio!", which surely roused the morale of her troops, not to mention some of my bodily organs. In this Norma she exhibits total involvement, above par control, and "measured abandon", of an interesting voice that has substantial cut and ping. Surrounding her is an embarrassing production, possibly the cheapest production the Met has ever staged (sadder if it isn't), but which does one thing well: the polished raked stage is absolutely sound reflective, propelling any voice out to all corners of the auditorium. So Papian was helped by the stage physics, but I imagine she has also continued to build more power into her voice since her “Aida” at the Met, while still retaining the beauty and brilliance of her top notes, in piano as well as in forte.
Papian's range is stunning indeed. To stand beside a singing Dolora Zajick and still be noticed is worthy of highest praise. Papian matched Zajick's stealthy vocal weapons with sure poise: mezza di voce for mezza di voce, high C diminuendo for high C diminuendo, luxuriant tone for luxuriant tone. While some of the rapidfire coloratura was smudged slightly (quibbling!), there was hardly a missed note, this while still addressing every crevice of the fantastic emotional dimensions of the role. I also like the slightly distressed quality that settles into her voice at times, to me suggesting her character's humanity and, paradoxically, femininity.
Zajick is formidable in any role, but especially as Adalgisa. With her boundless talents, her sopranic top, her bel canto bel canto, her authentic piano singing, she ought to try the Norma too. Seriously. Meanwhile, Franco Farina is experiencing some sort of a minor renaissance. As Pollione, he is determined to not be the ugliest voice on stage. The wobble notwithstanding, his voice was sufficiently pliant, delivering some surprising pianos and sensitive phrases, while still remaining male. Vitalij Kowalkow, the Oroveso, continues to impress New York with his rich dark chocolate bass. James Levine, who led a Wagnerian Lucia early this season, should take lessons with Maestro Maurizio Benini in delivering a no-frills bel canto opera with still a lot of excitement and verve.
A Towering, All-Encompassing
Performance by Hasmik Papian
Opera Colorado brought the Vienna-based soprano halfway around the world for this production, and it's not hard to understand why it went to so much trouble. A specialist in this role, considered to be one of the most challenging in all opera, Papian impresses in every way, compellingly conveying Norma's power, charisma and vulnerability.
Most important, she adroitly handles the role's nonstop vocal demands - the two-octave leaps, devilishly intricate ornamentations and fast-shifting dynamics - with near-perfect articulation and stunning phrasing, every note in place. Drawing upon a seemingly infinite array of vocal timbres, she can be bold or bewitching. Her singing is always beautiful with no letdown in energy, despite the immense stamina this role requires.
Denver Post, 21. 2. 2006
The Sort of Singing
We Can Only Dream of
Hasmik Papian proved that the advance raves of her Norma were, if anything, restrained. The Armenian soprano soared through the role's impossible demands while she crafted a characterization that was unexpectedly close to human. Her Casta Diva was poised, captivating and wonderfully focused (with an unforgettable diminuendo). Fully her equal, mezzo Irina Mishura brought a powerful voice and an elegant grace and nobility to Adalgisa. Her duets with Papian left opera lovers panting for breath.
Rocky Mountain News, Denver (Colorado), 18. 2. 2006
Move Over, Maria!
Half a century ago, Maria Callas established herself as the queen of bel canto, the richly ornamented style that turned singing into vocal acrobatics. Her reign ended, however, when Hasmik Papian took on the role of Norma, Vincenzo Bellini’s Druid high priestess of antiquity that was Callas’ signature role.
The throne now clearly belongs to Papian, who debuted Thursday, February 16, 2006, in Opera Colorado’s first staging of Bellini’s 1831 vocal extravaganza, “Norma”. The Armenian super soprano had a capacity audience in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House holding its breath in awe of the power and the ease with which she met Bellini’s challenge.
In a sense, Papian is two singers in one: a dramatic soprano with a rich, full-bodied voice, plus the grit to carry her through Norma’s tormented emotional range. At the same time, she can match the best lyric voices around in tenderness and agility. “Norma” is written in long, melodic lines, and Papian knows how to shape, color and sustain them. Watching her is a master’s class in singing.
Russian-born Irina Mishura as Adalgisa is a perfect match for Papian in the several duets at the heart of this score. This is teamwork at its best, and it brings a dramatic force to this story not immediately apparent in Bellini’s melodic simplicity. The two brush aside the wags who translate “bel canto” as “silly plot”. Moving from one emotional extreme to the next, Papian and Mishura lay bare the human vulnerability that makes this story convincing – and touching.
“Norma” is a triumph for Opera Colorado and should result in a race to the box office for the few tickets that remain.
Daily Camera, Boulder (Colorado), 18. 2. 2006
A Great Night for Norma-Lovers
Ideal casting and uncommonly fine ensemble made October 12 a great night for Norma-lovers. Michigan Opera Theatre general director David DiChiera created this production of Bellini’s masterpiece back in 1989 (an operatic light-year ago) with no less than Joan Sutherland in the title role. DiChiera stored his scenery and costumes in the hope that another worthy cast would come along some day – as it did, for this revival.
Norma has become a signature role for Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, who sings with unusual tonal warmth – a luscious, golden sound – to her remarkably even scale. She has the grand stylistic grace and sense of line that gives her the ideal vocal profile for the Druid priestess, confirmed in the ethereal “Casta diva”. Papian gave sure vocal balance to Norma’s many ensemble scenes without trying to dominate them – a very rare quality in the divas who sing this difficult role.
Irina Mishura was an ideal partner for Papian. Their “Mira, o Norma” duet and the “Sì, fino all’ore estreme” cabaletta were high points of the evening.
John Koopman, Opera News,
New York City, December 2005
Papian, Mishura Spin Vocal Magic in
Thrilling Michigan Opera Revival of 'Norma'
What a night it was for Michigan Opera Theatre -- the opening of its season with a stunning revival of Bellini's "Norma." Everything about the event had a big-time aura … an authentic thriller of a "Norma," with soprano Hasmik Papian and mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura (as Adalgisa) putting on a rare exhibition in the art of pure singing. Not since 1989, when Joan Sutherland sang the title role, had DiChiera (general manager) ventured another "Norma" until now. But he once again has his diva in Papian, who has made Norma her signature role. Her singing combined finesse with power and unerring accuracy. But Papian's really heart-stopping moments were the softest: Notes that seemed to emanate from nowhere settled on the ear with precision and clear expressive purpose. Papian's exquisite delivery of Norma's famous prayer "Casta diva" touched off a frenetic ovation. Almost as wild was the response to the two brilliant duets Bellini provided for his worldly priestesses. Papian and Mishura traced each other's sensuous vocal lines in sounds that ebbed and flowed and glowed together.
Detroit News, 12. October 2005
“Casta Diva” Was to Die for
Papian has been making an international splash in the role, and since great Normas appear as often as Halley's Comet, Papian has begun to generate enormous expectations. That's the price of admission with Norma, which demands Herculean stamina, the agility and support to sing long-breathed melodies and a rush of coloratura fireworks … Vocally, Papian delivered the goods Saturday, spinning Bellini's glorious melodies into a web of lyricism. Her tone was pure and golden. Her alluring high notes floated as if on clouds, shaped by diminuendos of exquisite control. Her coloratura was accurate, lovely, legato and feminine. She sounded fresh enough at the end to sing the opera again. Her "Casta Diva," Norma's famous prayer, was to die for, and her duets with romantic rival Adalgisa -- sung with grand eloquence by mezzo soprano Irina Mishura -- were as thrilling as anything I've heard in 10 years at the Detroit Opera House.
Detroit Free Press, 12. October 2005
Montreal Opera Is Lavish And Powerful
L'Opéra de Montreal opened a beautiful production of "Norma," Saturday at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian had a powerful presence in the title role, and Music Director Bernard Labadie conducted a sensitive and dramatic performance.
In her Montreal Opera debut, Papian used her rich, terribly beautiful soprano lyrically, plying each line with sensitivity and finesse. She used the lyrical approach rather than Greek-American diva Maria Callas' famous dramatic approach, where the emotion in the words within the line were emphasized musically. But Papian was convincing, beautifully so.
Papian's performance of the famous "Casta Diva (Chaste goddess)" was certainly beautiful. But it was her tender "Deh! Non volergli vittime del mio fatale errore (Oh, do not let them be the victims of my cruel mistake)" at the end where she pleads for her children that was devastating and beautiful.
Times Argus, Barre (Vermont, USA), 19. 9. 2005
Success Is Found In Norma’s Simplicity
L'Opéra de Montréal set the bar awfully high in launching its 26th season with Vincenzo Bellini's Norma. While Bellini's 1831 masterpiece sits pretty solidly in the pantheon of great opera, only a few productions really live up to the extraordinary demands of the work. The company last staged it 23 years ago. Norma succeeds or fails on the range and colour of the voices. Bellini asks a lot of his singers as musicians and actors. Felice Romani's libretto is intensely tragic where love, passion, duty and deception are interwoven.
On Saturday night, l'Opéra de Montréal pulled it off. Anyone who's ever seen a production of Norma in a post-Maria Callas world knows that the audience is on pins and needles until the Druid High Priestess finishes Casta Diva early in Act One. Will she bring the right simmering intensity and have the power to climb the heights of this aria with ease? If she can do it, you know the evening will be all right. If she can't, well, that's a tragedy of another order. As the final chords of Norma's invocation dissipated in Salle Wilfred Pelletier at Montreal's Place des Arts, the audience roared its approval of Hasmik Papian as Norma.
Papian, an Armenian soprano, is not new to the role. In fact, she has spent a good part of the last 10 years making it her own throughout Europe and now, increasingly, on this side of the Atlantic. Her interpretation of the powerful and tormented spiritual leader of the oppressed Gauls is full on. She has a bold and richly textured voice, and can act. Act Two can unravel into a series of ill-considered melodramas with a less capable lead. Norma's internal struggle over whether to spare her children infamy and enslavement by murdering them or sparing their lives and committing them to an uncertain fate was entirely believable. American mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich was a fine Adalgisa. She and Papian sang wonderfully together.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 20. 9. 2005
Dynamite: Hasmik Papian As the
If you don’t get goosebumps listening to Papian interpret the heartwrenching "Casta Diva", you probably ain’t human.
Bill Brownstein, The Gazette, September 2005
A Norma For the Here And Now
Bellini work proves a rare, timeless gem in bel canto repertory. Many thanks go to Hasmik Papian in the title roe. Norma’s celebrated cavatina “Casta Diva” was warm and soft. But like most Normas, this Armenian soprano was most satisfying when she sang openly and without a self-conscious need to seduce her listeners. Her reflections on the ethics of infanticide set a high standard of tonal clarity and dramatic realism. This Norma is worth your wile.
Arthur Kaptainis, The Gazette, September 2005
Up-and-comer Masters 'Norma':
Fantastic Work of Lead Brings Production Alive
Vincenzo Bellini's dramatic opera "Norma" is every aspiring diva's Rubicon. No matter what her previous accomplishments, the soprano who can successfully master the exceedingly difficult title role — regarded by many as the operatic equivalent of Hamlet — at once enters the lofty peaks of stardom inhabited by the likes of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. Most writers and musicologists regard only the industrial-strength role of Brunnhilde in Wagner's Ring Cycle as more challenging for a soprano.
The Washington Opera, for its first-ever production of "Norma," which opened this week at DAR Constitution Hall, has had the good sense and good fortune to engage the versatile Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian as Bellini's passionate Druid priestess. The quality of her singing on opening night was drop-dead gorgeous, inspiring the entire cast to reach new personal pinnacles of musical excellence.
"Norma" takes place in an ancient Gaul uncomfortably occupied by its Roman conquerors. Oroveso, the aging Druid leader, tries to hold back his men from undertaking an uprising against the Romans after consulting with his daughter, Norma, the high priestess. Unbeknownst to him, however, Norma and the Roman proconsul Pollione have been an item, their offstage activities producing two children who have somehow been hidden from everyone. When Norma discovers that Pollione is two-timing her with Adalgisa, another priestess, she erupts in fury, leading to the opera's tragic climax.
Miss Papian's expressive vocal range is astounding, and she needs it, particularly in "Casta Diva" ("chaste goddess"), Norma's luminous opening aria. With a skillful legato and an instinctive sensitivity to the acoustics of the company's makeshift space, Miss Papian glided effortlessly from forte to pianissimo in her almost unbearably beautiful rendition of this prayer to the goddess of the moon.
Alternating throughout the rest of the opera between raging and quietly pleading, Norma is a role that plumbs musical and emotional peaks and valleys. Miss Papian's crystalline voice guided the audience through each nuance with an apparent ease that belied the hard work required to make it happen. It was a breathtaking, heartbreaking, memorable performance.
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS
T.L. Ponick, The Washington Times, September 2003
A shining Production of Bellini's 'Norma':
Washington Opera Strikes Gold With Papian
In Title Role
With perfect timing, the moon rose over Constitution Hall Tuesday night as patrons arrived to hear a performance of an opera most famous for its exquisite prayer to a "chaste" and "unveiled" lunar goddess. The sight of that silvery moon turned out to be a good omen.
Bellini's Norma, one of the masterpieces of the Italian style known as bel canto, is notoriously difficult to stage, primarily because of the technical and interpretive demands it makes on the soprano in the title role. Everyone in the cast, for that matter, must cope with Bellini's eloquent, Chopin-esque melodies, and must also find a way to infuse both music and plot with emotional truths. Washington Opera's new production succeeds admirably, at least where it counts most.
Let's face it. Norma rises or sinks on the strength of its Norma. As the Druid priestess who forgets her sacred vows and takes up with, of all people, a Roman occupier, Norma presents the off-kilter moral center of the opera. She must convince us that she is, at heart, a decent woman and, in the end, a noble one. We can only believe in her if her voice can grab us as firmly as it locks onto Bellini's vocal lines. And if she can win us over right at the start with that plea to the moon, Casta diva.
Many's the soprano who has been so defeated by the long, arcing phrases of that aria that we're left wishing that the producers had casta 'nother diva. But in Hasmik Papian, Washington Opera has struck gold. From the first notes of her entrance scene on Tuesday, the singer staked her claim on the role and the score.
This was very accomplished work. Intensified by a darkly burnished low register, her voice commanded attention, while her phrasing caught the music's beauty and drama in roughly equal proportions. It was the vividness of the music-making that made Norma's indelible spin on the ageless human conflict between love and duty spring to life.
Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun, September 2003
A Voice That Makes Bellini's 'Norma' Sing
Bellini's "Norma" is one of the most vexing supply-and-demand problems in opera. It is a monumental masterpiece of the 19th century, so demand to hear it is high. But its title role is monumentally difficult and risky, so there is never an adequate supply of singers who can take it on. Sopranos who fail in it, as Jane Eaglen did catastrophically a few years ago at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, are not soon granted absolution. The role is considered sacred and, as with Hamlet, if you make a hash of Norma, it will stay on your record like a sex conviction.
The Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, who sang Norma in a new production at the Washington Opera on Tuesday night (the company's first), is innocent of all crimes against the role. The necessary talents that come only from good genes and the blessings of nature, she has in abundance. Papian can do Norma, a role Bellini himself called "encyclopedic," in the ways that matter most: the voice is the right size, with good clarity and sheen, ample dexterity and impressive stamina…her singing is gorgeous. The coloratura display was accurate and on pitch, and well woven into the larger, lyrical fabric of the role.
The scenes with both Norma and Adalgisa, a mezzo-soprano, are some of the most luminous and sensually thrilling in all of opera, like running one's hand along a perfectly turned banister while walking down a dark Gothic staircase. Papian and mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura made these moments magical, their voices blending into parallel ease, perfectly timed and balanced.
It was all the more impressive for the added difficulty of singing in synch at the Washington Opera's place of temporary exile, Constitution Hall, the stopgap until the Kennedy Center Opera House reopens next spring. The orchestra, led by Emmanuel Villaume, sits behind the singers; to follow the conductor, they have only television monitors placed around the thrust stage.
The one virtue of seeing this opera on a jury-rigged thrust stage is the proximity of the singers. With music this good, and the drama so close, it's hard to go wrong. The Washington Opera's new "Norma" can be warmly recommended to novice and connoisseur alike.
Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post,
It’s Pure Magic
This season marks the first ever that the Washington Opera has staged Vincenzo Bellini's Norma. And despite the hardships of DAR Constitution Hall, the production brilliantly conjures the strange spiritual world of the Druids where we watch the emotional unraveling of their high priestess, Norma.
Nearly everything done here has been done right, but the success of the production is about Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, who sings Norma. In a stunningly intense yet superbly understated per-formance, Papian carries this entire opera from the moment she sets foot on stage.
Norma is known as a bel canto piece, a term which essentially describes the way in which the singer moves from one note to the next. In bel canto, the idea is to create a sense of flow, sustaining the phrases and moods with delicacy. Papian is a sublime practitioner of this art, singing with a velvet smoothness, literally stroking the notes with her voice. It’s pure magic. Her rendition of the famous first act aria "Casta Diva " is glorious and yet full of underlying emotional darkness.
Papian’s priestess is a phenomenon. You sense the young, head-strong girl in Norma, who, though she no longer has the allure of young beauty, has instead the magnetism of a spiritually and morally certain older woman. We see the magnificence of her emotional struggles as she stares at us with eyes like lasers: one minute fierce coals of rage, the next soft with vulnerability. This is one of the best productions the Washington Opera has staged in many seasons. Beg, borrow or steal to catch it.
Kate Wingfield, MetroWeekly, Washington DC,
Thrilling Norma in Amsterdam
Nelly Miriciou did not sing. Her replacement was the Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian. And what a show she gave us. She had all the notes for this incredibly difficult role, and she sang them bravely and convincingly. She could send out bravura thrills when needed but was also capable of great delicacy and subtlety. Her quiet legato singing in the scene when she was contemplating the murder of her children was spell-binding. This was a genuine Norma: a performance to treasure.
www.ballet.co.uk , March 2005
Sopraan Papian derde in titelrol opera Norma
Papian verving in Rotterdam al eens de zieke Nelly Miricioiu in een concertante Norma, dus haar komende optredens, tot Miricioiu weer beter is, staan in een traditié. Papian heeft een grotere stem dan de strak zingende Aliberti in de tweede helft van de première, maandagavond. Papian kent de al vele malen gezongen rol en kan die in de omstreden enscenering van Guy Joosten na haar entree als de diva Maria Callas ook na wat snelle instructies al perfect acteren. Ze bouwt haar Norma capabel op met lyrische maar ook furieuze passages, beweeglijker en temperamentvoller ogend dan Miricioiu. In de weinig stijlvolle, luidkeelse voorstelling is ze verreweg de beste.
NRC Handelsblatt, March 2005
Magnificent Hasmik Papian
I twas a constant delight listening to this magnificent artist. A subtle voice, immaterial high notes, an impeccable phrasing, a never-ending breath, a timbre that moves us without interruption: it all paid off in an unforgettable “Casta Diva”. The 8,350 spectators held back their breath in order to enjoy fully the perfection of an aria that started with a murmur and then allowed to the superb voice of Hasmik Papian to take off towards total ease and an imposing style. She has brought us all down from the beginning until the end through her pure beauty that seems immaterial.
Le Figaro, Paris, August 1999
Absolute Triumph for Norma
at the Ancient Theatre of Orange
Bellini’s “Norma” is without any doubt the culmination of bel canto; and it was also the culmination of the 1999 edition of the festival Les Chorégies d'Orange (in the South of France), in this magic place under the sky – magic through its stars and through the melting of its international audience. This beautiful Armenian singer embodied with her unparalleled dramatic talent and the perfect musicality of her soprano-voice the role of Norma whose tragic story is told in this opera. Is there anyone among the public who will not remember the splendid rendition of “Casta Diva” petrified with continued emotion? Twenty-five years after a memorable performance of “Norma” in Orange with Monserrat Caballé in the title-role, the miracle has occurred again. The 9,000 spectators who witnessed it won’t forget it.
Philippe Gut , L’Humanité, August 1999
A Splendid Performance On All Counts
A new production of Bellini’s masterpiece NORMA: If the ghost of Rosa Ponselle hovers over the Baltimore Opera, she would have been satisfied. The title role is one of the most difficult in non-Wagnerian opera. The soprano who tackles this role needs a powerful voice but one that is also agile with a good understanding of legato singing. The Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, appearing as Norma for the first time in the US, gave a splendid performance on all counts. Not only is she vocally secure and met all the demands of the role, she has a strong stage presence and was a worthy actress.
Baltimore Radio Station, 1998
A Moving Mathilde at Paris La Bastille
Hasmik Papian offers a moving Mathilde in Rossini’s “William Tell”, and her appearance reminds us of her Elisabeth in Verdi’s “Don Carlos”.
Il giornale della musica (online), March 2003
Finally Again a Great Verdi-Soprano
Verdi’s ERNANI in concert version at the Flemish Opera in Antwerpe: all three leading roles were first class. With Hasmik Papian (Elvira), finally a great Verdi-Soprano takes on the stage again – stylistically perfect, she masters the whole range from pianissimo to fortissimo and also commands the stamina needed.
Verdi’s “Nabucco” in Grenoble: Heroic!
It was the state of grace in Grenoble; “let’s hope it will last”, said Laetitia Bonaparte. The beautiful Hasmik Papian in the role of Abigaille has no reason to envy her imperial predecessors Tebaldi or Callas. Papian, with a dramatic extended and powerful soprano voice, has delivered strong accents corresponding to the extend of passion Abigaille has for the throne and for Ismael.
Affiches de Grenoble
The Night's Brightest Star
The night's brightest star was soprano Hasmik Papian. As Violetta, the courtesan who finds true love against her better judgment (and though it's bad form for her profession), Papian sang with lyric grace. From the sparkling opening of an all-night party to her tragic death amid the gaiety of Mardi Gras, Papian filled the expanses of Music Hall with a warm and golden tone and seemingly effortless technique. Her acting filled out her character with a touching sense of physical fragility and emotional vulnerability as she sacrificed her love for the honor of her lover's family.
The Cincinnati Post, June 2003
Cincinnati Opera's La Traviata, mounted Thursday in a production from Chicago's Lyric Opera: By Act II, the excellent cast - including Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, as the doomed courtesan - had won the crowd of 3,014.
Papian possesses a voice of stunning power, glorious color and dead-on intonation. Her last-act aria, "Addio, del passato," in which she bids farewell to life, was beautifully sung and deeply felt; her final duet with Alfredo was one of the evening's most touching moments.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 2003
Papian performed in Music Hall as Aida in the 2000 production of that Verdi classic. This time, she gives a spellbinding performance as the "traviata" (the Italian word literally means "she who has strayed from virtue"). Her voice, as well as her onstage persona, convey so much depth of emotion as she discovers for the first time the joys -- and the pains -- of true, reciprocal love. It's impossible not to experience the emotional journey along with Violetta through every twist and turn. And Papian's voice handles the role's many challenges with grace and ease. Her performance is truly uplifting.
Pure Moment of Anthology as Elisabetta
at the Festival Chorégies d'Orange
What a devil of a man is this Verdi who sometimes reverses the vocal typologies (mezzo pushed to the high register, soprano to the low). Only Hasmik Papian assumes rightly her place. She shows us an Elisabeth who is inretrievably lonesome; after having dressed up against her will the royal habit, her profound personality is tormented constantly because her position denies her any inclination towards the Infant. The insight offered in the aria “Tu che le vanità” of the last act is a pure moment of anthology in this respect; it can be compared to the equivalent rendered by Dame Gwyneth Jones on the occasion of her recital (Classic Limited Edition), at the time of her vocal zenith (1968) !
The Biggest Success of the Season
Three sold-out performances of “Aida” at the Cincinnati Summer Festival were strongly cast throughout. It was the first Amneris of Denyce Graves that commended attention. But the biggest success of the season was the Aida of Hasmik Papian. She was vocally secure, engraving each note into the air, soaring over the vocal masses of the Triumphal Scene, then lying flat on her back for a delicate final duet.
Opera, London, August 2000
The Soprano was the Find of the Season
Denyce Grave’s performance as Amneris was the opera’s anticipated high point. But it was matched by an equally stunning portrayal of Aida by Hasmik Papian. The soprano was the find of the season, projecting an impeccable, seamless and creamy voice and bringing depth of emotion to her character. Her “Ritorna vincitor” sung alone in a spotlight, was dramatic and emotional, ending with stunning high notes in an intense prayer. Ms. Papian’s range and control were superb. “O patria mia” was exquisitely sung and full of pathos.
Cincinnati Enquirer, August 2000
Metropolitan Opera: Magnificent Aida
Happily, the title role was taken by Hasmik Papian, who sang magnificently, acted convincingly, and (unusually for this opera at the Met these days) actually looked the part of an Ethiopian slave-girl. She sang a heartfelt “Ritorna vincitor”, sinking to her knees for “Numi pietà”, the aria’s final section, where Aida desperately prays for guidance and pity from the gods. The acid test for any Aida is “O patria mia”, the big solo number in Act Three. Papian navigated this difficult, exposed music, expertly accompanied by Placido Domingo in the pit. She displayed a smooth, warm tone, her voice floating and soaring to the back of the house, swelling majestically in the big climaxes.
newyork.citysearch.com, January 1999
“Aida“ – Really ”Celeste“
This was one of those unmatched evenings when everything comes together in the right way. Hasmik Papian gave a fabulous debut as Aida at Vienna State Opera. Her voice is beautiful and blossoms majestically in the high register. With her long breath, she can master even the most difficult phrases and also deliver a delicate pianissimo. She has a noninterchangable personal timbre. Who can offer more?
Der neue Merker, Vienna, December 1999
The Real Star of the Nile
L’Opera (Milan), April 2004
Vredenburg te klein voor klankgeweld Aida
Kon het daker maaraf, dachtikgisteravond tijdens Valery Gergjevs concertante uitvoering van Verdi’s opera Aida in muziekcentrum Vredenburg. Gergjev joeg de solisten bij wijlen dwars door dit klanggeweld van koor en orkest. Het waren vooral mezzosopraan Olga Borodina (Amneris) en sopraan Hasmik Papian (Aida) die deze gevoelige momenten op fenomenale wijze ten gehore brachten. Hoe schitterend zacht je in Vredenburg kunt zingen liet Papian meermalen overtuigend horen.
She Reminded me of Scotto at her Peak
Overwhelming the voice of Armenian Hasmik Papian as Desdemona, with a winning charisma, vocally rich, dense and sweet like a real soprano spinto should be, with the phrasing and the "piano"-endings of a true lyrical soprano. In the last scene she reminded me of Scotto at her peak.
ABC, Sevilla, October 2002
…Brilliant Hasmik Papian, with a voice possessing a high density and a dark colour, and with great dramatic expression.
Diario de Sevilla, October 2002
Admirable Soprano Hasmik Papian
Great evening at the Opera! A passionate performance, very much in the tradition of lyric art! Verdi’ “Requiem”, this potent masterpiece, grandioso, monumental, was performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Nizza, with a prestigious quartet of soloists dominated by the admirable soprano Hasmik Papian. For her alone, it would have been worth going. At her sides Ildico Komlosi, Neil Shicoff and Julian Konstantinov.
Nice Matin, 2001
Tosca Gets Ovation
At the Aalto-Theater in Essen (Germany), ovations, whistles of enthusiasm and bravos hailed the revival of “Tosca“. The exhilarating applause celebrated a cast of a level worthy for the world’s most prestigious capitals. Hasmik Papian, who sings Tosca in Stuttgart, Marseille and Vienna, sang the title role with full commitment to the luxurious melodies and with passionate fire. Her aptly driven shining soprano, pure and at ease also in the high notes, was in perfect harmony with the stamina of tenor Janez Lotric.
Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Essen, 2002
The New Voices of „La Bohème”
Two Washington Opera debuts were made in Thursday’s „La Bohème”. The principal roles were sung by Hasmik Papian, an Armenian soprano, as Mimì, and Antonio Lotti as Rodolfo. Her rounded tones on top and an exquisite evenness across her range supported musical qualities that will carry her far. The evening’s best rapport occurred not between lovers onstage but between the conductor, Daniel Oren, and Papian. Oren, with an innate sense of theater, held the pause in the famous aria “Mi chiamano Mimì” just long enough – an impossible eternity of a moment, when your heart stops and you can’t breathe until he lets you go with the downbeat –before starting so quietly on the B minor chord. With Papian’s sweet pianissimo, so rapturously sung, it was a hair-raising moment.
The Washington Post, 1997
The Shiver of Beauty
New Year’s Eve performance at Opera Bonn: Hasmik Papian gave her debut as Magda in Puccini’s „La Rondine“. For the soprano of Armenian decent, the role turned into a great triumph – as previously in „Traviata“ or „Donna Anna“. Not a surprise that the company member of Bonn Opera will soon be performing at La Scala of Milan ... Soon the swallow (Rondine) would fly high, open her voice and – what a beautiful frightening! – took us with her powerful soprano full of light to distant spheres. Shiver of beauty.
Bonner Generalanzeiger, January 1996
Not the usual twins but a rather original though no less appealing combination. Both operas were cast from strength and far bigger houses would have been proud of it. Hasmik Papian with her splendid spinto voice was a moving if less than usually placid Angelica. She once more became a princess during the confrontation with her aunt. She poured out wonderful tone during her aria ending it however with the soft ravishing high A the score demands.
Opera Today, April 2005
"Suor Angelica" at the Royal Opera House
of Liège: Refined Cast
Hasmik Papian is a superb Angelica; her registers are all even, combining natural grace and dramatic credibility. Her “Senza mamma” is deeply moving.
La libre Bélgique, April 2005
A Superb Voice
This opera (with a simple plot), representing the very top of Puccini’s art, is sung by Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian in the title role - this singer has earned recognition on the world’s finest operatic stages; a superb voice, highly expressive, deeply moving.
Cinemaniacs, April 2005
Great Elementary Passions
The interpretation of the soprano Hasmik Papian had all to convince: warmth, beauty of timbre, finesse of nuance, and expressive stamina. Fiorenza Cossotto, the great legend, was the princess, aunt of Angelica, next to her.
Le Soir, April 2005
(THE QUEEN OF SPADES)
Exciting Voice and Fine Acting
Toronto: COC's (Canadian Opera Company) fall offering was Tchaikovsky's “The Queen of Spades”, a production originating with Welsh National Opera, directed by Richard Jones. Its strengths were clearly musical: Hasmik Papian made her Canadian debut as Lisa, displaying her large, exciting voice and fine acting. She made an excellent match for Vadim Zaplechny's Gherman.
Opera News, New York City, October 2002
Great Opera Night
Expectations went high as always for great opera nights, in the first place because of the presence of Plácido Domingo. It is a privilege to listen to him in an opera like this one; more than praiseworthy also the noblesse of Nikolai Putilin and the sensibility of Hasmik Papian at his side.
El Paìs, May 2004
A cool ovation … in most theatres of the world, this would mean a fiasco; not at Teatro Real. Here, scarcely applauding means: It’s late, let’s go for dinner. The audience of Madrid is inhuman: Here, you sing for indifferent gentlemen. The “Queen of Spades” offered by the Teatro Real contains many different things, and most of them are very good. Plácido Domingo gives the complexity of his voice to the role of Herman … and there are other voices that well deserve to be listened to. The Lisa of Hasmik Papian is very good at all moments. She was the only one who managed to raise the audience from its lethargy. And this only in the third act, not in act one; who knows for what reason depending on Morpheus’ laws.
La Razón, May 2004
Really interesting is the performance of Hasmik Papian. She succeeds in rendering Lisa as a tormented, insecure character, singing with taste, rich in details, offering vocal freshness and a distinguished pronunciation.
ABC, May 2004
Last Premiere of the Real
One of the Best in this Season
The excellent orchestral reading of Jesús Lopez Cobos was matched by an equally high ranking vocal interpretation. Plácido Domingo has made the role of Herman his own by using the expressive virtues of which the great tenor commands in his maturity. The rest of the voices were no less praiseworthy, compared to the qualities of the protagonist, from the fragile and yet palpable Lisa of Hasmik Papian to the elegant and scary Countess of Elena Obraztsova.
El Mundo, May 2004
At the side of Mr. Domingo, the Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian as Lisa has offered us one of her best performances ever, with a highly suggestive dark timbre and a desperate intensity; she excelled especially in the two big arias which where of bewildering beauty.
L’Opera (Milano), August 2004
Most Applauded of all Singers
Hasmik Papian became one of the stars of this production and was applauded most of all singers, above all for her last aria in the third act; this was the only moment when the audience interrupted the action by applauding. On top, she is a very good actress and thus was highly convincing as Lisa.
www.mundoclasico.com , June 2004
Delightful Hasmik Papian
The level of the interpretation offered by the different protagonists in this “Queen of Spades” is very even, starting with the limpid voice of Plácido Domingo … It doesn’t take any more to raise our passion: next to Domingo, Hasmik Papian is delightful; the Armenian soprano creates a perfect balance between lyricism and dramatic expressiveness, between vibrato and the stamina of her high notes.
Scherzo, June 2004
An Excellent Dramatic Soprano
Plácido Domingo fused perfectly with the locked up personality of the addict gambler. In this production, a brave rival arose to him: soprano Hasmik Papian even managed to justly usurp part of the laurel that was destined to the tenor. The Armenian singer showed splendid vocal power, a beautiful voice, sensual and of beautiful timbre. An excellent dramatic soprano.
El Correo, May 2004
We must be thankful to general manager Holender who opens the „global village“ of international opera stars for us. This time, he presented Hasmik Papian, a Donna Anna of extraordinary quality, with a voice that can be compared to the very best of her kind.
Der neue Merker, Vienna, 1999
Hasmik Papian possesses everything it needs to be a superb Donna Anna – and she proved it in her great arias.
Münchner Merkur, 2003
Armenian Folk Opera in Detroit
The excellent soprano Hasmik Papian sang Anoush. She showed a rich, creamy tone, an admirably even scale and high musicality. The score gave her great opportunity, and she quickly established the melancholy of the young girl in her opening soliloquy, “The Song of the Willow Tree.” Her presence enriched the stage throughout the evening, and she capped the performance with an impressive final scena, “Where is my beloved?”
Opera News, New York, 2001
“Arshak” Has it All
San Francisco Opera’s resuscitation of an 19th-century work by the “Armenian Verdi” Tigran Chukhadjian is a resounding success. The evening’s most luminous performance belonged to Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, who imbued the character of Arshak’s wife, Olimpia, with dignity and sublime vocal beauty. Papian simply burned with conviction; her Act III lament for her murdered sonk, sung from inside a cage suspended above the stage, was the evening’s most potent fusion of music and theater.
Contra Costa Times, September 2002
Papian Best Thing in Routine “Arshak”
Luckily, Queen Olimpia was sung by local debutante Hasmik Papian, a reigning Armenian diva with looks, stage presence and a finely controlled, powerful dramatic soprano with a stunning high C. Judging from the applause at the end, it was diva Papian, not composer Chukhadjian who satisfied national honor.
San Francisco Examiner, September 2002
Papian Deserves More
The most memorable debutante of the evening, Armenian soprano Hasmik Papian, revealed a potent, vibrantly hued instrument that deserves additional exposure here.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 2002
April 24th: Commemorating
the Armenian Genocide
Press release of the Assembly of Armenians of Europe
HIGH OFFICIALS AT THE CONCERT OF FAMOUS SOPRANO HASMIK PAPIAN DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Brussels, 16/04/04 - On April 13th 2004 in Brussels' Royal Conservatoire was the venue for a Gala Evening Concert organized by the Assembly of Armenians of Europe (AAE) attended by 350 guests. These included members of the European Parliament, EU Commission, Belgian Federal and local parliaments, Ambassadors and diplomats, representatives of international and local organizations as well as the general public. The concert of classical music was dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of 20th century.
At the opening ceremony of the concert Ms. Irene Shaboyan, AAE's representative, thanked the invited guests and the high officials for their solidarity with the struggle for the prevention of further genocide and crimes against humanity. She also reminded the audience of all those honorable Europeans who, endangering and sometimes sacrificing their lives by exposing it to war and epidemic tried to save even few human lives from inevitable death. Ms. Shaboyan introduced the audience to the tragic life story of Monk Komitas, Armenian musician, collector of folk music and composer and a prominent victim of the 1915 Genocide (the Bela Bartók of Armenian Music), and observed that if Komitas hadn’t collected the songs to be performed during the concert, they would have disappeared as their authors without leaving any trace and one could claim that they had never existed.
Mrs. Ursula Schleicher, the Chairwoman of the EU-South Caucasus delegation in the European Parliament, said that in spite of the terrible genocide, the annihilation and deportations, Armenians never forgot about their ancestors, their culture and religion and they never got tired of believing in a brighter future.
Mr. Didier Ramoudt, the President of the Interparliamentary group between Armenia and Belgium, emphasized the importance of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “The recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the European Parliament in 1987 and by the Belgian Senate in 1998 was an important step towards the prevention of the further genocide”. He also deplored the denialist policy of the actual Turkish Government and as a European he considered that such behaviour was unacceptable and intolerable.
Mr. Willy Fautré, the Director of the Human Rights without Frontiers in Belgium started his welcome speech by the poem of Daniel Varoujan (Armenian poet, arrested and executed by the Turkish Government among the Armenian Intellectuals on April 24th, 1915) whose sensitive soul had the presentiment of the horror and tragedy to be endured by the Armenians. “Nowadays Turkey is asking for the EU membership, but it still denies the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. Would Germany be accepted in the European Union if it hadn’t recognized the genocide of Jews committed by the Nazi regime and hadn’t apologized? Could Turkey claim the accession to the European Union unless it recognizes the Genocide of 1,5 million Armenians? “, said Mr. Willy Fautré.
The invited guests had the pleasure to enjoy the Armenian folk songs of Komitas performed by the Simonian Quartet. Hasmik Papian, world famous soprano, then gave a superb and gracious performance of arias by Verdi and Puccini and songs of Komitas and Kanatchian.
“It is our duty as European citizens to uphold European values and, to this end, ensure that perpetrators of genocide and those who deny it are exposed and rejected. Denial of genocide is the continuation of the act of genocide and should not be tolerated on European soil”, said Mr. Bagrad Nazarian, member of the AAE’s Administrative Board at the closing of the concert.
The concert was sponsored by the Austrian Airlines and the Thierry Graduate School of Leadership in Brussels.