PROVIDENCE, R.I.—“ARMENIA 100: A Musical, Theatrical, and Artistic Tribute to Armenian Culture in Commemoration of the Genocide Centenary,” with a roster of Armenian luminaries in the arts and internationally renowned composer and pianist Judith Lynn Stillman as artistic director, will be presented on Wed., April 22, at the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at Rhode Island College in Providence.
In “ARMENIA 100,” the audience will experience the world premiere of “When the Music Stopped,” an operatic theatre piece by Stillman that takes spectators on a journey to grasp the horrors of the genocide and to honor the resilience of the Armenian people. Stillman describes it as “an Armenian narrative that begins by harkening back to the miracle of childhood and a simpler time, evolves to expose the 1915 genocide and devastation, and culminates in a celebration of Armenian culture and the promise of the future.
Bringing this work to fruition was inspired by a sentiment expressed in a striking quote by poet and professor Kenneth Rexroth: “Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense—the creative act.”
“100 years ago one of the most horrific atrocities began: the systematic annihilation aimed at eradicating the Armenian people” said Stillman. “As artists, I believe that we are obliged to assist
in transforming perception from historic and analytical to visceral and emotional. Reflecting upon this tragedy by artistic evocation, we hope, will carry the powerful message that we must remember, and never repeat, the tragic mistakes of the past. ‘ARMENIA 100’ will both commemorate the Armenian Genocide Centenary and celebrate the rich cultural heritage and thriving creative arts of an extraordinary people.”
This interdisciplinary tour-de-force includes music and libretto by Stillman; text based on Armenian poetry that spans centuries, translated by Diana Der-Hovanessian; direction by Trinity Repertory Company’s Curt Columbus; performances by the compelling film and TV actor Armen Garo (“The Departed,” “American Hustle,” and “The Sopranos”); the crystalline soprano of Aline Kutan; the rich baritone of Vagarshak Ohanyan; an accomplished chamber chorus; David Gevorkian on duduk; Michael De Quattro on drums; and the deeply expressive paintings of Mher Khachatryan.
The program also features masterworks by celebrated Armenian composers Komitas and Khachaturian; kemancha player David Ayriyan, an excerpt from Bianca Bagatourian’s “Deportations,” remarks by Chief Judge Haiganush Bedrosian and Mayor Scott Avedisian, and prayers by Rev. Fr. Shnork Souin and Rev. Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, with CBS-Boston’s Laurie Kirby as master of ceremonies.
Stillman, who received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the Juilliard School, is the SONY recording partner of Wynton Marsalis, and is the artist-in-residence at Rhode Island College.
She hopes that “When the Music Stopped” will “give wings to poignant words so that, with Ohanyan’s and Kutan’s soaring melody lines, the message will fly off the page and into the hearts of the audience, the driving rhythmic force of Der-Hovanessian’s texts will beat in sync with the pulse of the listener as Garo underscores the poetic structure, and that Khachatryan’s artwork will awaken all the senses, so that, by the finale, each and every one will experience, in the words of Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, ‘the sun sweet taste of Armenia.’”
“ARMENIA 100” will be performed at 1 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. in Sapinsley Hall at the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts on the Rhode Island College Campus, Providence. The event is free and open to the public (suggested donation is $10; first come, first served). For more information, visit www.judithlynnstillman.com/armenia-100.