"The Illuminator", opera on the life of St. Gregory of Armenia

December 14, 2016

(submitted, or rather, revised, March 21, 2018)
On April 4, 2017, my new opera, "The Illuminator", was premiered in Yerevan, Armenia!

The librettist for The Illuminator is Andrea Mellis, a singer and director (and now my wife) with many productions to her name (see http://andreamellis.com), and the cast consisted of 2 adult professional performers and about 50 young people from the many music and dance studios in Yerevan. Andrea has done several operatic productions with young singers and actors, including the Austrian premiere of Britten's "Noyes Fludde". The cast was chosen by audition singers and we were stunned by the quality of the voices we heard. There must be something in the water, for Armenians all seem to have exquisite voices!

This is not just an opera for children however. Its theme is survival in a truly dreadful situation. Historically, Gregory was imprisoned in a hole in the ground for many years. What sustains a person in such a position, what faith, visions, memories might he have had to keep him alive? Legend has it that he was brought food and water by an elderly widow, so she and Gregory will be the only adults in the production. The young singers (some aiming toward professional operatic careers) will play insects, angels, apricot pickers, cranes (the national bird of Armenia), even the King who imprisoned Gregory. On one of our visits, we went to Khor Virap, where Gregory languished, and we descended into the deep and dreadful hole. I don't think I would have survived 13 (some legends say 14) years down there. For more details, to download Andrea's delightful libretto, and to see a very good video, please go to http://ronhannah.com/The_Illuminator.php

To my knowledge this is the first Canadian opera to be premiered outside of North America. Please let me know if this is not the case. I know that Harry Somers' "Louis Riel" has been performed in the United States.

"The Illuminator" was performed by the State Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, conducted by Harutyun Arzumanyan, at the Paronian Theatre in Yerevan. The part of Gregory was sung by Andranik Malkhasyan, and most accomplished and handsome baritone - a young man who deserves recognition!