Apigian: Bayrakdarian, Kradjian Wow Detroit Audience

Flawless! Breathtaking! Magnificent! Perfection! Class Performance! Remarkable!

Those were some of the comments enthusiastically volunteered from fine music devotees exiting the Dearborn Performing Arts Center Michael Guido Theatre on the evening of Dec. 4 at the conclusion of world-famous operatic soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and her musicologist/concert pianist husband Serouj Kradjian’s performance. They were witness to history.

I could not have said it better myself, even if I were given to an effusive description of what I viewed as I sat spellbound by the exciting duo of Kradjian and Bayrakdarian. From my vantage point of near box seats, I could see the audience below silently mesmerized by her command of the stage, with her combination of exotic beauty and an exceptional voice, and his piano virtuosity. They did not want the joy to end.

The benefit was under the auspices of His Grace Oshagan Choloyan, the Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, in conjunction with Fr. Daron Stepanian and the Board of Trustees of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church of Dearborn. Attending with the archbishop was Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian.

Yes, historic! The star talent people saw this evening was truly that. Will we ever again be privy to the likes of such an outstanding performance gracing a stage in our area, of two such sensational artists of Armenian heritage wed to each other? It is like a fairy tale story. The “ian” ending of their surnames leaves no doubt they are Armenian. They bring immense honor to all of us who share their ethnic heritage.

In 1915, if Armenians were fortunate to survive the genocide, they became scattered all over the face of the earth. Bayrakdarian and Kradjian’s ancestors, too, were part of this history, finding their way to Lebanon and then to Canada. They are a symbol of Armenian endurance and triumph, and we applaud them for that.

I have my own interpretation of Bayrakdarian’s body language as she exited after each musical grouping, followed by Kradjian. It was that of a confident, beautiful, yet gracious woman who, with her head held high, had a little swing in the back door. Quite effective. Why not? She said, “When you feel good on stage, the stage becomes home.”

Just days after a successful performance in Italy, Bayrakdarian and Kradjian arrived here, soon to be followed by a concert in Paris. Their performances are booked a year in advance. They have graced the stages of the finest concert and recital venues of Europe, Canada, and the States. The world may have become their oyster but this evening the residents of Metro-Detroit were the beneficiaries.

The wide smile on Isabel’s cousin’s face, Antranig Karadolian, said it all. Afterwards in the glow of the moment I asked him, “How do you feel now Anto? Are you happy?” He was the conduit who brought the couple here to perform.

Bayrakdarian intertwined singing lessons with garnering an honors degree in engineering bioscience from the University of Toronto. Kradjian has a B.A. in piano performance and a solo performance degree, earning his masters in Germany. Their destiny may have become international stardom, but family and faith keep them grounded as two very down to earth people.

The program included the music of Viardot, Bellini, Mozart, Rossini, Ravel, Obradors, and a favorite of the performers and all Armenians, Reverend Gomidas. Kradjian and Bayrakdarian are dedicated to the music of the 19th century Armenian composer, and Bayrakdarian’s recording of his songs—arranged by Kradjian—was nominated for a Grammy as the Best Classical Vocal Performance category in 2008.

The Greeks had Maria Callas, who lived the title of diva to the hilt, and the Armenians have Isabel Bayrakdarian and Serouj Kradjian. When I asked Kradjian if his wife was a diva, his gentlemanly response came after a moment’s pause and a toss of his head to one side. He said with a grin, “In her own way,” of the first prize winner in 2000 of the Operalia Competition founded by Placido Domingo.

The curtain came down to thunderous applause and shouts of “Bravo!” and roses from an appreciative audience of over 800 guests. They out-did themselves, leading many to say that Kradjian’s talent was at the very least equal to that of Bayrakdarian’s. The reality is they are both stars and masters of their craft, and this evening ended on a Hye note.

Bayrakdarian and Kradjian had just finished their concert, taking bows with broad smiles that said it all. They were the smiles of a couple who knew they had pleased beyond expectation. There was no doubt the Armenian couple had captured the hearts and minds of all in attendance.

There were other elements that endeared Bayrakdarian and Kradjian to us. They were two young, attractive, and extremely talented performers of Armenian descent wed to each other. The glare of success has not led them astray from their Armenian roots. They are a perfect fit of hand and glove.

An elegant afterglow reception for donors followed. Bayrakdarian was presented with a precious stone-encrusted stylized Armenian letter of her name designed by Murat Kasparian. Kradjian was presented with an original artwork by artist Kegham Tazian.

All area Armenian churches were represented, with Rev. Fr. Daron Stepanian of St. Sarkis Church; Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, Rev. Fr. Diran Papazian, and Rev. Fr. Abraham Ohanesian of St. John’s Armenian Apostolic Church; Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian and Pastor Darawi Makarios of the Armenian Congregational Church; and Fr. Andon Atamian of St. Vartan Armenian Catholic Church.

The planning committee for this concert was comprised of representatives of the Armenian community headed by Michael Hagopian, chairman of the St. Sarkis Board of Trustees, assisted by Gregory Vartanian, Ani Kasparian, and Rita Dilanian. Other committee members included Ani Attar, Toros Bardakjian, Margaret Benian, Pam Coultis, Gayaneh and Robert Kachadourian, Tamar Kadian, Antranig Karadolian, Betty Apigian-Kessel, Hovagim Manoogian, Helen Mempreian Movsesian, Sue Sarkesian, and David Terzibashian.


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.”

1 Comment

  1. Indeed, it’s a rare phenomenon to see an Armenian genius married to another Armenian genius. This is the best demonstration of the glory of the Lebanese Armenian community which is no more.
    Being in the 21st century, the age of technology, any videos available to share the triumph?

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