Tumanyan’s Tale, Avedikian’s Headache: “Anush” in crosshairs of traditionalists and contemporary director

Tumanyan’s Tale, Avedikian’s Headache: “Anush” in crosshairs of traditionalists and contemporary director


After its Yerevan premier, French-Armenian actor, director and producer Serge Avedikian’s re-staged “Anush” opera has become “this spring’s most outstanding and much talked-about cultural event”, just as the authors had promised.

The famous opera based on prominent Armenian writer Hovannes Tumanyan’s “Anush” poem, a simple village girl’s tragic love story, was first staged in Alexandrapol (modern day Gyumri) in 1912; the music and libretto were authored by a talented musician Armen Tigranyan between 1908 and 1912. Avedikian’s modernized version of “Anush” has been severely criticized by the local intelligentsia who addressed an open letter to President Serzh Sargsyan, demanding to ban the performance outside Armenia, because it might be damaging for Armenia’s international image.

“Watching the 100-minute performance you get an impression that for the director Hovhannes Tumanyan authored an ordinary libretto, and Armen Tigranyan wrote a simplistic poor musical . . .” the group of intellectuals say in their letter.

Earlier the chief rehearsal of the opera at Sundukyan theatre turned into a major failure, when at the end some people called out from among the applauding audience: “Disgrace! Avedikian has buried Anush… what are you applauding to, people?”

A number of locally prominent representatives of Armenian intelligentsia do not like the remake of the classic, regarding it as “а poorest libretto”.

Their letter to the president, however, reminds many of Stalin repressions, when Bolshevik-intellectuals were asking Joseph Stalin to ban this or that author’s book, play, performance, musical composition or painting.

Popular actor Stepan Danielyan says: “This is the 21st century. Why, does Anush absolutely have to be wearing brogues and smell like manure? That’s good, but there are also other approaches. But no. We have to have two poplars, one taller than the other, and Mount Ararat in the background. They remind me of my grandpa – when we had no running water, he used to threaten he would write a complaint to Pravda [communist newspaper]. We have to finally realize that the times to write to Pravda, or Central Committee, etc, are gone.”

Media expert Mesrop Harutyunyan shares the opinion that long are gone the times for censure, demands to ban, to punish. If they can do better, let them stage a better one, resist competition, and let audience decide the fate of their and the Academy’s performances. They can manipulate the audience with their articles, criticism and censure or praise.

“Can you imagine if, say, American intellectuals wrote a letter to [Barack] Obama for some performance on Broadway? How do the authors of that letter see ‘punishing’ – should Avedikian be dismembered or, maybe, beheaded? Or, he should be proclaimed ‘public enemy’ and exiled from Armenia?” the expert told www.media.am. Before the storm of criticism started, the director had said in his interview to ArmenPress, that he was not afraid of true criticism.

“One can judge or dislike the work; I am ready to answer all critics’ questions. And if they do not have questions and categorically say ‘it won’t work this way’, I have no answer to give to that because that’s not a due approach. I have to have my space for freedom, they can have theirs, as audience and as critics,” said Avedikian.