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The Last Judgement: Verdi's Masterful Requiem and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

Conductor Konstantin Orbelyan and Visual Director Paolo Micciche

On September 14, 2017, the Armenian National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet after A. Spendiarian performed Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem, but with a visual twist of murals from the Sistine Chapel, done by Michelangelo. The pictures were projected by "innovative technologies of the future" which allowed to create a "three-dimensional reproduction of the images of Michelangelo's masterpieces". Conducted by San Francisco-born conductor Konstantin Orbelyan Jr. (nephew of the famous Armenian conductor Konstantin Orbelyan), soloists soprano Marine Deinyan, guest mezzo-soprano from the USA Eleni Matos, bass Hayk Tigranyan, and tenor Sargis Aghamalyan performed Verdi's Requiem in this new realization of the stunning centerpiece of classical music. The visual effects were created by Italian stage and visual director Paolo Micciche. In Micciche's own words, "[t]he music of Verdi's Requiem has the same dramaturgy and rhythm as the great frescos by Michelangelo, whereas the music itself reproduces the sculpted construction of a human's body, created by the image of God". According to the program, the very nature of Michelangelo's frescos is a spiritual - so to speak - buddy to Verdi's majestic music. Verdi "presents the humanity as a single hero" in his music. "The combination of two geniuses - Verdi and Michelangelo - creates deep spiritual revelation for the audience".

The Sistine Chapel

Now that I'm finally done quoting the program in all its splendour and glory, the performance of The Last Judgement was a strange, yet intriguing evening. At first, the visuals were strangely distracting and unnerving. I always considered the Sistine Chapel's depictions to be one, large whole, never meant to be dissected and enlarged for examination. And yet that is exactly what Micciche did. Characters from the Sistine Chapel were neatly cut out from their designated places in the overall picture and projected onto the screen, creating a somewhat 3D effect. (I'm glad there were no 3D glasses involved, because that would make everything very, very traumatizing.) At some point, photos of the already deceased Verdi appeared on the screen, as well as his lifetime portraits and video recordings of busy cities and building, toppling down catastrophically. Towards the end of the visual, an elderly man with a skull appeared and then a pattern reminiscent of the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. I have included a photograph of it below. The projections were harmonious - hehe - to Verdi's stunning music being performed below on the stage and in the pit. The projections and music reacted to each other and completed each other's emotional fervour, which both parties have plenty of.

Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan

The second the curtains rose, the audience saw an empty main stage. The choir was placed on both of the side stages, and after Maestro Orbelyan's entrance, the choir began monotonously making their way to the center stage. This process was longer than anticipated (by me, of course) and was accompanied by the audience's soft chattering and whispering, even though I presume the point was to have grave silence. The music didn't begin until after about five minutes of this process, during which Deinyan, who had been hidden before by the choir, stayed in the center of the stage as the choir made their way further down the stage, into its depth. The music began with Deinyan, as she made her way close to the edge of the stage.

Verdi and Michelangelo

Every single performer wore the attire of spiritual servants. This setting of costumes really aided the general feel of the entire performance. Men and women alike wore the same clothing (if I remember correctly) , and the soloists wore the same thing as the choir. The unity and wholeness of this costuming made up for the torn apart Michelangelo frescos, which were also meant to be viewed as a wholesome piece of spiritual depiction.

Left to Right: Sargis Aghamalyan, Eleni Matos, Hayk Tigranyan, and Marine Deinyan
The Armenian choir was fabulous as usual, led by chief choirmaster Karen Sargsyan. Alberto Spiazzi designed the costumes and Davide Broccoli was the video programmer.

Armenian Opera Hall
The excitable audience was very pumped during the entire performance; I think I saw one of the tenors in the choir fixing his robe several times (but I could be wrong because the choir was behind the projecting screen); the house was this close to being a fullhouse.

The soloists were all in great shape during the performance and Sargis Aghamalyan - I heard him do SarĂ³ from Armen Tigranian's Anoush a few years ago - possessed a smooth, flowing quality in his voice, perfect for Verdi's beautiful melodies.
Karen Sargsyan, chief choirmaster
pc: Tigran Arakelyan

Konstantin Orbelyan pc: Tigran Arakelyan
Eleni Matos and Sargis Aghamalyan
pc: Tigran Arakelyan
Left to Right: Marine Deinyan, Eleni Matos, Sargis Aghamalyan, and Hayk Tigranyan
pc: Tigran Arakelyan

Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan from the outside

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