Soprano Lianna Haroutounian In Concert!

Lianna Haroutounian
Amidst the bustling mess that Thanksgiving Weekend produced upon most people who celebrate, I was extremely lucky to get to watch Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian performing at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, with Tamara Sanikidze on piano. The program featured a wide variety of different pieces, as well as an Armenian folk melodies set, arranged by Komitas, and a Russian set, which she dedicated to the recently deceased baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Haroutounian also included a solo in the program for Tamara Sanikidze, who performed Frederic Chopin's Nocturne No. 20. This was quite the unusual turn for a solo concert, but I thought the non-traditional move was only an extra bit of enjoyment for the audience, especially considering how moving and emotionally charged Sanikidze's solo performance was.

Haroutounian began the program with a set of Italian songs, all of which were by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. She began with La Promessa, by Gioacchino Rossini, a very lively selection, followed by L'Invito, also by Rossini, and then Vincenzo Bellini's mellow Vaga Luna, and then Bellini's Dopo L'oscura nembo and Gaetano Donizetti's Me voglio fa'na casa. The Bel Canto mood of the first set, performed with exquisite phrasing and story-telling, made way for a surprise during the second set of Armenian folk songs, arranged by the one and only Komitas. I was pleased to recognize almost everything on her program, even the Armenian folk songs. Haroutounian’s execution of the Armenian folk songs portrayed the spirit of each song separately; some were playful, some heartbroken, and some were beautiful love confessions. Whatever the message, Haroutounian added her character and personality to each song.

Tamara Sanikidze
Following intermission came the Russian set, which, as I already mentioned above, Haroutounian dedicated her performance of to Hvorostovsky. The set opened with Tchaikovsky's Cradle Song, a very beautiful piece and one of my favorites! The entire program, really, was an awesome bundle of all my favorite musical compositions. The next piece was Why?, also by Tchaikovsky. The heightened emotional energy behind the second piece counteracted the lulling quality of the first one. The next two pieces were Rachmaninov's The Dream and I Wait For You. Haroutounian and Sanikidze kept the audience's breaths held until the very last sound in both Rachmaninovs. I enjoyed the set very much.

The last set Haroutounian performed were opera arias. She completed the programmed concert with Ah, je ris de me voie si belle en ce miroir from Gounod's Faust, a very flirtatious and innocent aria filled with nuanced phrasing and acting. Haroutounian's performance of Poveri Fiori, from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, as well as her performance of Ecco respiro appena were both inspiring and driven from the very core. I found it impossible to look away from the stage, with both Haroutounian and Sanikidze working together to create such brilliantly sounding music.

Now, several encore pieces proceeded the last programmed piece. Lianna Haroutounian performed Ebben! Ne Andro Lontano from Catalani's La Wally, Gershwin's Summertime, and Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me. Haroutounian also performed an Armenian Sharakan, but I unfortunately was unable to identify which one specifically. The encore pieces varied greatly in style and Haroutounian's performance of each, coming one after the other, was effortless.

The recital took the audience to another place, so to speak, and Haroutounian and Sanikidze created images with the music that were vibrant and memorable.