Tuesday, 11 August 2015

See Gariné by Tchouhadjian – the Ottoman Empire’s answer to Verdi – this weekend at the Arcola


Opera became one of the most popular art forms in Constantinople (Istanbul) in the nineteenth century. International troupes would regularly perform in venues packed with city-dwellers, mainly from the Empire’s minority communities.

Constantinople soon became one of Europe’s top destinations for opera productions. Verdi’s Il Trovatore was performed there before it was staged in Paris. Some operas were so popular they were performed at several theatres on the same evening, such as Aida, which had three productions running simultaneously on 8 July 1899.

Dikran Tchouhadjian, father of
Armenian & Turkish opera

Born in Constantinople in 1837 and of Armenian heritage, Dikran Tchouhadjian is considered the first opera composer in the Ottoman Empire. Known in his lifetime as ‘the Armenian Verdi’ and ‘the Oriental Offenbach’, he fused European and Eastern traditions to pioneer a thrilling new musical style.

Keen to promote Armenian culture, he composed many pieces for piano, along with chamber and symphonic works, and operas. Tchouhadjian is also credited as composing the first original opera in Turkish, Arifin Hilesi (Arif's Deception) in 1872.

This weekend, as part of its annual Grimeborn opera season, the Arcola Theatre stages Gariné, commemorating the 140th anniversary of this impressive work. Since its composition in Turkish as Leblebici Horhor Ağa (Master Hor Hor the Chickpea Vendor) in 1875, Gariné has been adapted three times for film, including by Nazim Hikmet, delighting audiences all over Europe and the Middle East.

Gerald Papasian
The story centres on Armen, who dreamed of creating the first great theatre company in Constantinople. But on opening night, disaster – his leading actress defects to a rival troupe.

Everything seems over until Gariné arrives on the scene. Armen is inflamed with passion for her voice, but her father detests the theatre. Can she be persuaded to defy him and to sing on opening night? Will it be Gariné that saves the day?

Gerald Papasian directs a variation of his own adaptation that was previously performed at the Theatre of Saint-Maur, Paris, and the Theatre de L'Odeon, Marseille. Combining both Armenian and Turkish elements, this rare London production – playing for two nights only – will mark Tchouhadjian's extraordinary contribution to Turkish and Armenian opera.

Dates: Friday 14 and Saturday 15 August 2015
Start time: 7.30 pm
Address: Studio 1, Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL

Ticket prices: £15 (£12 concs)

Info & tickets:   Seats are allocated.
Box Office:  020 7503 1646 


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