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Dikran Tchouhadjian, compositeur

 

En tant que fondateur de l'opéra arménien, Tchouhadjian est une figure importante de l'histoire culturelle et de la musique classique de l’empire Ottoman et du Moyen‐Orient.


Dikran Tchouhadjian naît à Constantinople en 1837. Ses dispositions exceptionnelles pour la musique se révèlent assez tôt. Son père confie tout d'abord son éducation musicale à Mangioni, puis, quelques années plus tard, c'est à Milan qu'il suit des études de perfectionnement (1862‐1864). Milan est à cette époque un centre des plus importants pour l'opéra en Europe et le jeune Tchouhadjian se jette à corps perdu dans une passionnante vie musicale. En étudiant l'harmonie et la composition, il se nourrit avidement des grands classiques. Il est alors particulièrement attiré par l'opéra, au point que certains le qualifient de "Verdi arménien".

 

La ville cosmopolite de Constantinople, où vivait alors la majorité de l’intelligentsia arménienne, connaît à cette époque un essor artistique et culturel considérable. En 1861, est fondé à Constantinople le Théâtre oriental, bientôt remplacé par le Théâtre ottoman de Hagop Vartovian (alias Güllü Agop). À son retour, Tchouhadjian participe aux activités de la Société musicale arménienne, publie le journal Kenar Haygagan (La Lyre arménienne) avec Kapriel Yéranian, donne des conférences et des concerts, met sur pied un petit orchestre et travaille avec le Théâtre musical Kousanerkagan et l'Arevelian Tadron ("Théâtre oriental"), l'un des principaux théâtres arméniens de Constantinople.


C'est à cette occasion que sa musique de scène pour la pièce de Romanos Sedefdjian, Vartan Mamigonian, pergich hayreniats (Vartan Marnigonian, sauveur de sa patrie), est jouée pour la première fois. En 1868, il achève l'opéra Arsace secondo (Arshak II), d'après le livret en italien de Tommaso Tersian, marquant ainsi la naissance de l'opéra arménien. Seuls des extraits seront donnés de son vivant, notamment à Constantinople, Venise, Paris et Vienne. La partition, que l'on croyait disparue, sera découverte et envoyée à Erevan dans les années 1930. Une version musicalement remaniée par Alexandre Chahverdian et Levon Khodja‐ Eynatian, d'après un nouveau livret "politiquement correct" d'Armen Goulakian, y sera présentée en 1945 selon les exigences de l’Arménie soviétique de l’après‐guerre.


Dans les années 1870, Tchouhadjian écrit les opéras‐bouffes L'Imposture d'Arif (d'après la comédie de Gogol, Le Revizor), Keusé‐Kéhia (Le Notable imberbe), Léblébidji Hor‐Hor Aga (rebaptisée Gariné) et, vers 1880, l'opéra semiseria Zémiré, sur un livret inspiré de contes arabes.


Tchouhadjian compose également de la musique de chambre, de la musique pour orchestre ainsi que des pièces pour piano (danses, marches, fugues, fantaisies, paraphrases) qui seront publiées à Constantinople dans les années 1870‐1880. Il meurt à Smyrne le 25 février 1898.

 

 

In the nineteenth century, the cosmopolitan city of Constantinople, where the majority of the Armenian intelligentsia used to reside, experienced major artistic and cultural developments. In 1861 The Oriental Theatre was established, soon replaced by Hagop Vartovian’s (aka Güllü Agop) Ottoman Theatre.
Dikran Tchouhadjian was born in Constantinople in 1837 and died in Smyrna February 25, 1898. His natural talent for music blossomed quite early. His father entrusted his musical training to Mangioni then a few years later he went to Milan to round out his education (1862-1864). At that time Milan was one of the major centers for European opera and the young Tchouhadjian plunged enthusiastically into a heady life of music. He studied harmony and instrumentation, he learned to master composition, and at the same time he devoured the great classics. This was when he was drawn to opera, in particular.
Upon his return to Constantinople he became an active member of the Kousan Musical Society. He published newsletters and gave lectures and concerts. He founded a small orchestra and worked with the musical theatre Kousanerkagan and with the Oriental Theatre where he composed scores of incidental music such as Romanos Sedefdjian’s play Vartan Mamigonian, Pergich Hayreniats (Vartan Marnigonian, savior of his Fatherland) presented for the first time in 1867.
In 1868, he completed the opera Arsace Secondo working on the Italian libretto by Tomasso Tersian, marking the birth of the Armenian National Opera. The entire opera was never performed during his lifetime, though excerpts were presented in concert form in Constantinople, Venice, Paris and Vienna. The score, which was believed lost, resurfaced in the 1930's and was sent to Yerevan – Soviet Armenia. In 1942 Alexander Shahverdian and Levon Khodja-Eynaytian created a revised version based on a new "politically correct" libretto by Armen Gulakian and it was performed in 1945. Thanks to the restoration made by The Dikran Tchouhadjian Institute, the real world premiere of the original 1868 score took place in 2001 at the San Francisco Opera House, directed by Francesca Zambello.
In the 1870's Dikran Tchouhadjian composed several operettas: Arif's Imposture (based on Gogol's comedy The General Inspector), Keosé-Kehya (The Beardless Elder), Leblebidji Hor-Hor Agha (Hor-Hor Agha, the Chickpea Vendor), as well as the opera Zemireh in the 1880s, inspired by Arab folktales.
Tchouhadjian also composed chamber music and orchestral works as well as piano music (dances, marches, fugues, fantasies), which were published in Constantinople in the 1870's and 80's.
As the father of Armenian opera, Tchouhadjian is a major figure in the cultural history and the insertion of classical music of the Ottoman Empire throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe. He knew how to use his European musical education in the service of his Levantine roots. His operettas became famous in many countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Vienna and Egypt. His work has also contributed to the Armenian emancipation movement in the Ottoman Empire during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Tchouhadjian’s style was forged from several influences: the Italian school of opera (in Italy he was known as "The Armenian Verdi"), French operetta (when he performed his music in Paris, where he lived in 1891 and 1892, the Parisian press nicknamed him the "Oriental Offenbach"), and, above all, Armenian urban folklore.
French musical critic Adolphe Talasso wrote in La Revue Théâtrale: "Dikran Tchouhadjian was the first composer to use European techniques in Eastern music. His extremely innovative ideas, the originality of his musical language, his colorful orchestrations and his compositions flooding with the light and sun of the East, full of power and enchantment, are remarkable in their mastery of harmony and counterpoint."

Takvor Nalian, librettiste

 

Il existe peu de renseignements sur Takvor Nalian. Né en 1843, c’était un acteur très populaire à Constantinople, réputé dans les rôles de comédie. Directeur de troupe, il intervenait également dans la mise en scène et
l’élaboration des livrets de ses spectacles.


Tel Emanuel Schikaneder avec Mozart, il commanda ainsi la musique de son opérette Léblébidji Hor Hor Agha à Tchouhadjian, alors au sommet de sa notoriété, et en créa le rôle‐titre.