The contrasts in life here, even in what one sees or hears in a single day, are nothing short of amazing. To start with, news last night, and again this morning, told about the misfortune hetq.am’s editor, Edik Baghdasaryan, had yesterday. While walking somewhere in the city center, he was attacked, Baghdasaryan resisting until a hit on the head had him unconscious. Doctors listed his condition as satisfactory. Visitors at the hospital included the prime minister, natural being hetq.am is both oppositional and investigates injustice, wherever it might occur, as the government is showing Europe and others how Armenia has a free press, etc. In the past, Baghdasaryan was threatened by a certain oligarch, for writing less than positive remarks about his operations. Some here think that whoever the attackers were, their orders were probably made not by whichever oligarch or big businessman who might have been angered by Baghdasaryan, but by the thugs themselves, who likely work for this or that person and decided to take matters in their own hands, teaching Baghdasaryan a lesson without the knowledge of their boss.
The day continued with a meeting downtown with a musician who now runs a shoe store. “You were at Barsegh Tumanyan’s concert a few days ago. You saw the people in the audience. I was happy to see that such high class people are still in Yerevan. Now that the leadership of the opera has changed, they’re inviting Barsegh to sing the opera Almast. What a treat. But what we’re up against here is something. This morning I was buying fruit at a little stand, and a six-year-old boy started talking to me like they do on the Mafioso serials that are rampant on television here. When I told the boy he was a little out of line, his mother thanked me, but said that the boy is learning it on television. Picture this…National Television and its second station, Armenia, and its second station, Shant, and others — they’re all running these serials, it seems all day long. They’re propagandizing immorality and filth. Some will rise above it, true, but the masses, I’m not so sure.”
From our meeting, we went to the Pokr Talij (Small Auditorium or Hall) on the central square. We arrived in time for the last four singers of today’s Gohar Gasparyan concourse, in which singers trained at the Komitas Conservatory are competing, with several judges deciding the singers’ progress. Although the singers all had fine voices, and were fairly well trained, only the last one showed signs of heading towards the big stage. The opinion here is that opera hopefuls, at least most of them, are going straight to the Conservatory, without first attending the Arno Babajanyan music college, or similar music schools, thus their not being completely ready for these competitions.
Afterwards, we crossed the street to the Marco Polo restaurant, where we had lunch with Barsegh Tumanyan and his son, Davit, who had participated in his father’s recent concert. We talked about the concert celebrating Tumanyan’s fiftieth birthday, his current plans, including concerts and recordings, and hopeful participation in local opera productions, something he hasn’t done up to now. After I told him the concert hall seemed like it was going to explode during his finale, “Grenada,” on Sunday night, he modestly answered, “It’s a song everybody likes.” This, hardly, was the reason for the audience’s reaction, as Tumanyan’s singing was unbelievable, as was his communication with the audience.