I have a new obsession. My friend Victoria asked me if I wanted to go to the ballet with her last week, and I figured why not? You can get tickets for super cheap, and even though we got there only 15 minutes before the show started, we got decent seats in the 4000 dram section (about $8).
The opera house isn’t one of my favorite buildings from the outside. People would probably disagree with me, but I think it’s blocky and kind of looks like a weird wedding cake. The inside was a pleasant surprise. While the outside looks bulky and heavy, the inside is a little more graceful and light. I think I also just have a problem with the exterior because of the lighting. I don’t think that I was as bothered before I saw it at night, but just like so much of the exterior lighting here, it’s almost painful to look at. Again, maybe that’s a me problem… but I really am not a fan. I wish I had a picture but am pretty sure I’ve avoided photographing it because I don’t want to have to look at it. I promise I’ll take one next time I’m there so you can either agree with me or decide that I’m a hard-to-please grump.
Anyway, the building opened in 1933 and was designed by the Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian. That’s the same guy who created the master plan for the center of Yerevan as it is today. He did the master planning for a bunch of other Armenian cities too, including Gyumri and Stepanakert. The layout and buildings of Republic Square in Yerevan are his as well. I have some mixed feelings about his work, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve bored you enough for now with my opinions.
Back to the ballet… Wow, I got very sidetracked… Okay, so Victoria and I decided to go without having any clue what it was about. It was called “Masquerade”, and that brings up pictures of fun parties and princes and such in my head. Safe bet, right? Wellllll… maybe not. Yes, it does include a very fun looking masquerade ball and a prince, but it’s no happy Cinderella story. Let me give you a plot summary (which is a fun mash-up of the summary in the program, one that we read online, and my own interjections).
Once upon a time, there was a man who was happily married to the love of his life. The man meets the prince who invites him to a masquerade ball. His wife is also there, but he doesn’t know that. Everyone is wearing masks that only cover the area right around their eyes, so obviously it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell who anyone is.
The woman loses her bracelet, and it is found by a baroness. The baroness has eyes for the prince, so what does she do with the bracelet that isn’t hers and she just found laying on the ground? She gives it to him, of course! And since she’s wearing such a confusing mask, he has no idea who she is.
Meanwhile, there’s a very mysterious character who the program calls “The Unknown”. Victoria and I couldn’t decide if he was an actual person or just a personification of jealousy/anger/supernatural forces trying to prevent the happiness of the characters. He’s always lurking in the shadows, and it looked like he was the reason why the woman’s bracelet fell off. Oh, who knows.
The prince is all excited about his new women’s jewelry, so he shows it to the man. The man thinks it looks familiar but doesn’t realize it’s his wife’s until later that night when he sees that her bracelet is missing. He questions her, but obviously she doesn’t know where it is because that’s what it means to lose something.
The woman goes looking for her bracelet. The prince hears and thinks that she’s the one who gave it to him, and the baroness is afraid to tell him that it was actually her. The Unknown starts spreading gossip about the woman and the prince, and the man hears. He is furious and decides to do what anyone would do in this situation: publicly shame the prince and kill his wife. Duh because what other options did he have??
He shames the prince by making it look like he cheated at a card game (supposedly… all we saw was the two of them dancing and then the prince tearing off his jacket and rolling on the floor in distress) and goes home to poison his wife’s ice cream. What a way to add insult to injury, right? Did it have to be the ice cream? After he poisons her and she’s dying, he tells her what he did and why. Her claims of innocence are ignored, and she dies.
The next day, the baroness and the prince come to clear up the confusion. The man is horrified when he realizes that he killed his innocent and beloved (though not beloved enough for him to believe that she wasn’t lying to him) wife and rolls around on the ground in distress (that’s apparently what you’re supposed to do when you’re upset. I’ll have to give it a try sometime). The End.
If you’re thinking, “huh?” then you’re on the right track. Maybe I’m not an artsy or cultured enough human to fully appreciate the storyline, but my response was something along the lines of, “DUDE, CHILL OUT.”
That aside, I enjoyed the show. The music was beautiful. It was all composed by Aram Khachaturian who is the pride and joy of Armenia even though he was born in Georgia but SHHHH! He composed the music for a bunch of ballets (and other things), and one of his songs from the ballet “Gayane” (Sabre Dance) is so mainstream that you’ve probably heard it before.
The orchestra did a fabulous job, and the sets and costumes were nicely done too. There were a few parts where they used this big projector screen that I thought took away from the performance and wasn’t necessary, but otherwise it was good. The dancing wasn’t like the ultimate best ballet I’ve ever seen (I’m saying that like I’m some ballet expert, which I’m not, but I do know a few things), but I still enjoyed it. Honestly, I would have gone just for the music, so everything else was just a bonus.
In conclusion, the music was great, the building was sparkly, the dancing was fine, and I’m going to buy as many $8 ballet tickets as possible before I leave.