Apigian-Kessel: Opera Sensation Isabel Bayrakdarian to Perform for St. Sarkis Benefit

Opera sensation Isabel Bayrakdarian will soon be coming to thrill the Metro-Detroit area audience for a solo appearance on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Dearborn Performing Arts Center, Michael Guido Theater, on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. The dazzling warbler will be accompanied by her equally talented pianist husband Serjouj Kradjian.

Bayrakdarian’s performance is under the auspices of Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan and St. Sarkis Pastor, Rev. Fr. Daron Stepanian.

A concert committee has been formed, chaired by Michael Hagopian. They are excited by the prospect of bringing such operatic greatness to benefit St. Sarkis Church, further enriching a community that has an appreciation for great talent. Hagopian is assisted by a host of dedicated music lovers and community activists determined to make this event a huge success.

Bayrakdarian, who is as good to gaze upon as she is to listen to, was a student at the University of Toronto after coming there as a teenager from Lebanon. The Canadian Armenian earned her bachelor’s in engineering science, while also taking voice lessons and singing in the Armenian Church. Her career took an amazing turn when she won the New York Metropolitan Opera National Council Award in 1997.

In 2000, she won first prize at the Operalia International Opera Competition founded by Placido Domingo, thereby launching an international opera career appearing at the Metropolitan, Royal Opera House, La Scala, Salzburg Festival, Bavarian State Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company. Other awards followed.

Her concerts have included appearances with the Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco symphony orchestras. Hers is an illustrious career of international success with no end in sight. Not since Lucine Amara and Anita Darian hit the music scene has a woman of Armenian heritage created such a stir. We are immensely proud of her.

So why Detroit? Why St. Sarkis Church? Well, it seems that one of its altar servers who has also sung in the choir, Antranig Karadolian, is well connected. In this instance he is cousins with Isabel Bayrakdarian, and his wife, Vartoug Karadolian, is the congenial St. Sarkis secretary. They are a close-knit family and her agreeing to appear in concert to benefit the church is considered to be a real coupe. What a plum of a situation for all of us!

She is fresh, young, and beautiful, possessing a natural command of the stage, and she is a polished, sought-after soloist who is considered to be one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the international world of opera. And soon you will be able to be in the presence of her immense talent right here in our town taking pride that she shares the same Armenian blood as you. Isabel Bayrakdarian is pure Armenian.

Who can forget her CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) performance on the show called “Opening Night,” which chronicled Bayrakdarian’s emotional first visit to Armenia, the homeland of her ancestors? It showed her in the modern capital of Yerevan, and at the churches and ruins in Armenia’s remote mountain regions. How touching was her performance in the remains of a pagan temple and her visit to the tomb of a saint.

I can guarantee you will be moved beyond belief. Goose bumps will occur. You will be submerged in deep thought, possibly moved to tears. Bayrakdarian is the epitome of Armenia rising out of the ashes of what was meant to be the total annihilation of an ancient people, proving the culprits failed miserably and that we Armenians remain victorious.

The opera sensation is known for her famous rendition of our beloved Gomidas Vartabed’s music. He was the beleaguered holy man, a survivor of the 1915 genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. In his music her voice interprets his pain, his sorrow of the destruction of an innocent Christian nation. It is mournful, woeful, yet beautiful.

Perhaps it could be arranged for Isabel to be taken to view the statue of Gomidas on dowtown Detroit’s busy Jefferson Avenue so that she can pay her respect and place flowers at the site. It would be memorable if a brief religious ceremony could be performed with candles. Perhaps she could sing one of his beautiful songs there.

Gomidas and Bayrakdarian can be a serene distraction to passersby. He is ours, she is ours. I would hope his soul will feel her presence. Perhaps her homage can in some way become a long-awaited release for him from his terrible depression.

Gomidas and Bayrakdarian—an unforgettable duo, a once in a lifetime meeting of greatness.

The Detroit Area Armenian community welcomes everyone to attend this benefit concert. It is expected her fame will attract many non-Armenians as well. Bayrakdarian is very well-known in operatic circles so it is advisable to purchase tickets early. They are reasonably priced at $50, $40, and $25. Seating is reserved and promises to be fastly sold out. CD’s and videos will be available for purchase. Make plans to attend now.


Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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