Night at the Ballet

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).

Awkward wedding cake. Maybe it’s just me who thinks that, but architecture is art which means we’re allowed to have different opinions.

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.

Inside the opera/ballet theatre.

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.

Me and Victoria with the ballet poster

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.

Quite ridiculous chandeliers, no? The ceiling looks like it’s covered in cake icing designs.

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.

The side balconies.

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??

More crazy chandeliers and the frilliest curtains to ever exist.

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.”

So much frillage

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.

The hallway on level 3 where our seats were (still definitely not a bad view!)

We obviously spent a little time frolicking around the building like ballerinas because that’s what you do after you go to see a ballet. Luckily, people cleared out pretty quickly, so we had some privacy.

Welcome to Armenia!

I’m exhausted! Do you want to know what time we finally got to our Airbnb in Yerevan (the capital of Armenia) after the delay in Kiev? 3:30AM! Sarah and I were about ready to collapse. Of course, though, that thing happened where when you’re really tired, you cross a line into being semi-delusional and then you’re all wound up, and it’s hard to fall asleep. We managed to pull ourselves together by around 4:15 and decided to push our wake up time back by a few hours… we were originally planning for 8AM, and there was a zero percent chance of that happening.

The opera house

We rolled out of bed around 11 and managed to get moving by noon. The first thing we wanted to do was get our bearings, so we set off without much of a plan, ready to roll with whatever came our way. Sarah steered us in the direction of the Opera Theater which is in the southern part of an area with a bunch of really well-done public spaces. That’s one of the things we’ve noticed and enjoyed the most about Yerevan so far. Unlike some cities, the public spaces here have plenty of benches and shade trees and other things to make the space actually usable! It’s no fun sitting in on a hot, direct-sun covered bench when you’re trying to take a breather. Plus, there are fountains and little man-made lakes, and it makes the city feel much more livable. There is also a lot of public art which I really enjoyed. Yes, sometimes (often) public art is weird, but it’s fun to look at (and pose with!).

We thought this was funny. We didn’t need to come all the way to Armenia to take this picture… the nearly identical (except it’s red instead of blue) love statue in Philly is much closer to home!

Perfect

Nailed it.

Check out that landscaping. And that beautiful tower crane over the stairs.

From there, we headed up the Yerevan version of the Spanish Steps (in Rome), the Cascade Complex. As someone who’s experienced both though, I can say that these stairs are way cooler! Apparently, there’s a free escalator that runs all the way up underneath the stairs, but Sarah INSISTED that we walk. I’ll admit that it was cool getting to see the view of the city get better and better as we climbed higher, but it was less cool realizing how out-of-shape I’ve gotten in the past few weeks. Ugh.

The entire staircase was like a celebration of water… which we definitely didn’t mind because it was HOT, and getting splashed was a great way to cool off!

There are also fountains/water features and plants throughout the staircase, and stopped at all of the landings to check out what new and interesting things were happening at each (not because we were dying or anything… no, of course not). About halfway up, we were thrilled to see a drinking water fountain… My other favorite thing about Armenia so far? You can drink the water!!! I’m tired of not being able to drink tap water, so this is beyond fabulous! For anyone who doesn’t understand this struggle, say a big THANK YOU to whoever is responsible for the clean water where you live. It’s nice to not have to worry about drinking arsenic or dysentery-causing bacteria and getting skin infections from shaving your legs with bacteria-filled water (that last one actually did happen to me in Ghana… not cool).

At the top, we were welcomed by an awesome view of the city with Mount Ararat in the background. I’ve seen millions of pictures of that mountain, but let me tell you, it doesn’t make it any less incredible when you see it in person. Sarah and I were completely geeking out.

I ❤ public art

Divers!

Flowers and Ararat!

Victory Park, one of the many Yerevan parks, is also at the top of the stairs, so we took a stroll through the amusement park, rode on mildly questionable ferris wheel, and fell in love with the statue of Mother Armenia. Check out the pictures below. Have you ever seen a more empowered looking woman?? She looks fierce and like she’s about to kick some serious butt.

Lunch is served!

Ferris wheel! I promise these are happy smiles, not “I’m kind of terrified that this ferris wheel is going to collapse” smiles

Mother Armenia, looking over her kingdom

She’s so cool.

We were about ready to collapse after all of our walking in the hot sun, so we headed back to the apartment to regroup. That was followed by a shopping trip, after which we were confident in the true identities of about 3/10 things that we purchased (you try shopping in a country where the alphabet isn’t even the same… it’s not easy!). Example of our shopping conversations:

“Okay, we need butter.”

“This looks like butter… I think? Do you think?”

“Yeah I think so… yeah. Yeah that definitely looks like it’s probably butter.”

“Okay well… I guess we’ll find out.”

Repeat for every item on the list.

We spent a good 10 minutes standing in front of the meat counter trying to identify literally anything. In case you were wondering, that ended with us purchasing zero meats after we 1) failed to identify even one, 2) realized that we didn’t know how to order them, and 3) were not really in the mood to break out a full-on charades act.

Also, fun fact, it’s about $8 for a regular sized jar of peanut butter. Darn imported goods.

Pop up stage

As much as we wanted to go to sleep after all of that, we dragged ourselves back out of the apartment to listen to some live Armenia music at the base of the Cascade Complex before calling it a day. All in all, a solid first day of our first Sarah/Lara (you can call us Slarah…I know, not the best thing we’ve ever come up with, but it’s really the only way to combine our names) international vacation. Stay tuned… I’m sure that plenty more language-struggle-filled adventures lie ahead.