The Opera’s Silent Inhabitants: Who Are They?
It is not a secret that Armenians like honoring their great people by placing their statues or monuments dedicated to their works of art. You can see at least one statue on each street whether big and well-seen, or small and somehow disguised in the bushes or behind trees.
In the neighborhood of the Freedom Square where there is the Armenian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet after Alexander Spendiaryan, or simply Opera, five big statues can be seen: Alexander Spendiaryan’s, Hovhannes Tumanyan’s, Aram Khachaturyan’s, Arno Babajanyan’s statues and one called ‘Melody’ depicting a sitting girl playing the lyre.
Many people visit the Freedom Square: some come here to play volleyball or football, some like sitting and watching others play, some show their roller-skating talent or bicycle riding skills, some others just cut their way short through the square. However, many people do not know who all these statues are dedicated to, especially those visiting Armenia for the first time.
Let us find out together who these great Armenians were and why they deserved the right to still be among us.
The Twins: Alexander Spendiaryan and Hovhannes Tumanyan’s Statues
These two statues are sometimes referred to as the twin statues, since they were placed in the square at the same time (in 1957) and, at first glance, they seem to have no differences.Alexander Spendiaryan was a Russian and Soviet music composer, conductor, and founder of Armenian national symphonic music.
The Opera and Ballet Theater located behind him carries his name. Looking at his proud statue, one has a feeling as if he is sitting there and still composing some new pieces of music for us.
Some of Spendiaryan’s well-known works are ‘Enzeli’, ‘Ghaytarma’ (Crimean Dance), ‘The Same Night’, and others.
The statue is made of bronze and granite. Hovhannes Tumanyan was an Armenian poet, writer, translator, and literary and public activist. Many films and animated films have been adapted from Tumanyan’s works. The operas ‘Anush’ (1912) by Armen Tigranyan, and ‘Almast’ (1930) by Alexander Spendiaryan, were written based on his works.
Hovhannes Tumanyan was one of the few writers writing fables mainly for adults and is loved by all age groups. In his works the writer especially introduced village life and nature in Armenia.
Every year Hovhannes Tumanyan’s birthday is celebrated on February 19th by giving each other books and by organizing different events dedicated to the writer’s memory. Tumanyan was a man of many great talents. Apart from writing, he is also the creator of several board games that are now sold in his museum located at the end of Tumanyan Street.
His statue depicts Tumanyan sitting while holding a book as if getting ready to read his fables to us. The statue is made of bronze and granite.
Aram Khachaturyan: Armenia’s “National Treasure”
Aram Khachaturyan’s statue was placed in front of the Opera in 1999. He was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor. He composed the first Armenian ballet music, symphony, concerto, and film score. Aram Khachaturyan is considered the most renowned composer of the 20th century.
He has composed for ballets, orchestras and not only.
His two compositions, ‘Gayane’ and ‘Spartacus’, are considered the most successful ones. ‘The Saber Dance’ from Gayane has been played in all parts of the world.
The philharmonic hall of the Yerevan Opera Theater has been officially called the Aram Khachaturyan Grand Concert Hall since 1978.
Aram Khachaturyan’s statue is made of bronze and granite.
The latest statue that was placed in the neighborhood of the Freedom Square is that of Arno Babajanyan – another Soviet Armenian composer and pianist. People disapproved of the statue when it was first placed in September 2002 claiming that it was too ugly and more like a fun caricature of the composer.
The statue was removed and placed back after some more work had been done on it by the sculptor, Davit Bejanyan. It was officially unveiled on July 4th, 2003.
Arno Babajanyan’s songs can be heard in many films. He has composed over 200 songs, among them ‘Beautiful Girl of Yerevan’ («Երևանի սիրուն աղջիկ»), ‘Elegy’, ‘Wonderful Dream’ («Չքնաղ երազ») and others.
The statue is made of bronze and granite.
The ‘Melody’ Statue: the Mysterious Girl Playing the Lyre
Not much is known about this statue, unfortunately. Probably only that it was placed in the Swan Lake in 1965, and that its sculptor was Sargis Baghdasaryan. The latter was a Soviet Armenian sculptor best known for his 1967 work called ‘We Are Our Mountains’ which is a monument carved into a tuff volcanic stone north of Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh.
The monument is also called ‘Tatik Papik’ monument by the locals as an old man and woman are depicted.
We used to play by ‘Melody statue’ as kids and sometimes even hug her like an old dear friend. It seemed as if we could actually hear the girl play some wonderful music, the music of our childhood.
The ‘Melody’ statue is made of aluminum and granite.
The Opera Building: Where Our Feet Take Us
As for the Opera building itself, it was officially opened on January 20th, 1933 with Alexander Spendiaryan’s ‘Almast’ opera performance. Having been designed by the Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan, the building has two concert halls – the Aram Khachaturyan Concert Hall with 1,400 seats, and the Alexander Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet National Theater with 1,200 seats.
‘Swan Lake’ by the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky was the first ballet performance to take place here in 1935. That is probably the reason why the artificial lake in the neighborhood is called Swan Lake. The lake has a shape similar to that of ‘Armenia’s blue pearl’, Lake Sevan.
The Swan Lake was constructed in 1963 and occupies an area of 2,490m2. Since 2005 one part of it, an area of 1,200 m2, has been turning into an open-air skating rink in winters. If you skate with your own skates, the rent is 500 AMD (app. $1) per hour, if you need to rent them as well, you will have to pay 1,000 AMD (app. $2) per hour.
The Freedom Square used to be surrounded by many open-air cafés until two years ago. With the coming of the new government, however, some of them were uninstalled, and trees were planted in their places.
The Opera remains the most favorite place of all Yerevan residents and visitors. If you happen to pass by, make sure to approach each statue and listen carefully – you will definitely hear the great composers’ works, Hovhannes Tumnyan’s great poems, and fables, and, of course, the mysterious girl will play something divine for you to make sure you will visit again.
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