“In a profession dominated by Italian and German repertoire, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian has had the privilege of performing in two languages that are not normally associated with the standard operatic canon: Armenian and the Elvish tongue known as Sindarin.… Singing in her native Armenian can pose its own challenges because her concerts often attract fellow Armenians.
“They won’t let me get away with anything,” she said.
On Thursday, Bayrakdarian will perform an all-Armenian concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge. The concert, which includes pieces ranging from ancient hymns to 20th century songs, comes on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in what is now Turkey.
“I don’t consider myself political, but I am an artistic activist,” said the soprano, whose grandparents survived the 1915 genocide.
“I grew up hearing their stories. To this day, I feel their pain, because their pain wasn’t resolved. … Keeping the songs alive gives voice to my grandparents and to all the Armenians who were silenced.”
The San Fernando Valley is believed to be home to the world’s largest Armenian diaspora.
“Not only is there a significant Armenian population in the Valley, but there’s a large Armenian student body at Cal State Northridge,” said Thor Steingraber, executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center, which is on the university’s campus.
“I grew up singing some of them,” Bayrakdarian said. “One of them [‘Oror,’ or ‘Lullaby’] is something I sing to my children. … It puts them to sleep!”
The soprano has a young son and daughter with her husband, pianist Serouj Kradjian, who will accompany her on Thursday and who arranged some of the music on the program.
Bayrakdarian, 41, divides her time between Fresno and Santa Barbara, where she teaches music at UC Santa Barbara. Born in Lebanon, she grew up as the youngest of six siblings in a family where they spoke Armenian at home, Arabic in the community and English at school.
As a teen, she moved to Canada with her family and pursued biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, where she graduated in 1997. But music beckoned her.”
Mother Of Light
Armenian hymns and chants in praise of Mary
Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano
Soprano sorceress Isabel Bayrakdarian, acclaimed internationally for her glittering accomplishments on both stage and screen, presents – in this hypnotically alluring album of Armenian sacred music – a more spiritual aspect of her multifaceted musical persona.
Isabel conceived this project as a heartfelt gift to God for sparing the life of her mother, and the entire album is very much a “family affair.” Her husband arranged the pieces, her brother plays the ceremonial percussion instruments, and her two sisters join her to form a vocal trio in several tracks.