In Armenia, The Works Of William Shakespeare Have A Special Place

Petros Adamyan is widely considered the best Hamlet of the second half of the 19th century.

In Armenia, the attitude towards the works of William Shakespeare is special. This is evidenced by at least the familiarity of many Armenians with Shakespeare’s characters. Of course, this fact seems secondary when we recall the Shakespearean images embodied on the Armenian scene.

The play of actors Petros Adamyan and Vahram Papazyan received recognition and praise throughout the world. Together with them, the Armenian theater school as a whole received world recognition.

Petros Adamyan became famous for playing the roles of Othello, King Lear, and especially Hamlet. For the first time, he played on stage in the Armenian Theater in his home town of Constantinople.

After the closure of the Armenian theaters in the Ottoman Empire, Adamyan moved to Russia with some other actors. There, he performed on stage in Tiflis, Baku, Shushi, and Alexandropol (now Gyumri).

Petros Adamyan became the first artist to perform the role of Hamlet in the Armenian language (translation by Senekirim Artsruni). It happened in 1880. From 1883 to 1888, he toured Russia, performing in Armenian and French.

In the Russian press, Adamyan was recognized as one of the largest tragedy actors in the world. The weekly “Art” wrote that Adamyan invested in the role of Hamlet with “much more passion and energy than, for example, the famous Salvini and Rossi…”. Ernesto Rossi and Tommaso Salvini also were actors who brought worldwide fame to roles in Shakespearean plays.

Adamyan was recognized as the best Hamlet of the second half of the 19th century on a global scale. After seeing Adamyan in the role of Hamlet, Ernesto Rossi, who was himself considered unsurpassed Hamlet, presented Adamyan with his photograph with the inscription “Adamyan, the first Hamlet in the world”.

The work of Petros Adamyan influenced many Armenian theater actors. Among them was Vahram Papazyan.

Vahram Papazyan was also born in Constantinople. He studied first in Venice and then in Milan – namely, the Milan Academy of Arts. Papazyan played in the troupes of such famous Italian actors as Eleanora Duse, Ermete Novelli, and Ermete Zacconi.

From 1907 to 1922, Vahram Papazyan periodically worked in the Armenian troupes of Constantinople. The actor toured the cities of Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Thrace, and performed in Baku and Tiflis.

In 1922, Vahram Papazyan with a group of actors, including Hrachya Nersesyan, moved to Soviet Armenia. Then, they had tours throughout the USSR, as well as in France, Iran, Bulgaria, and Lebanon.

Up until 1954, Papazyan has played and staged performances in the Armenian and Russian troupes of Yerevan, Tbilisi, Baku, Leningrad, Moscow, and Odessa. The performances were given in Armenian and Russian.

In 1926, at the Tiflis Armenian Theater, which in 1991 was named after Petros Adamyan, Vahram Papazyan staged Mikhail Lermontov’s drama “The Masquerade”. He himself also played the role of Eugene Arbenin. In 1932, at the Odéon Theatre in Paris, Papazyan played the roles of Othello and Hamlet. The role of Othello brought him special fame.

Ruben Simonov, describing the best “Hamlets” on the Russian stage, spoke of Papazyan as follows: “Vahram Papazyan in the role of Hamlet sought to reveal the hero’s struggle with his own indomitable character, playing a man who was unable to cope with the elements of his passions.”

Another actor who embodied the images of Shakespearean heroes was Khoren Abrahamyan. He played the roles of Othello, Romeo, and Coriolanus. Let us talk more about Coriolanus who was among the best roles of Ernesto Rossi mentioned above.

Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus” was first published in 1623. Its plot is based on the antique autobiography of the semi-legendary Roman commander Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Among other sources for Shakespeare’s work were the works of Plutarch and Titus Livius.

Coriolanus distinguished himself in the capture of the Volscian city of Corioli in 493 BC. After the gallant victory, he was nicknamed Coriolanus in honor of the conquered city. The military triumph and glory of Coriolanus were followed by a struggle against the enemies inside his camp, his expulsion from Rome, and his attempt of revenge.

In 1981, the Armenian Sundukyan Theatre jointly with the TV studio “Yerevan” aired the show “Coriolanus”. The directors of the production were Arkady Hayrapetyan and Hrachya Ghaplanyan. The role of Coriolanus was played by Khoren Abrahamyan.

The text of Shakespeare was taken from the translation of the Armenian writer and translator Khachik Dashtenets, the author of the epic novel “Call of the Plowmen” and the poem “Phaeton Alek”. Khachik Dashtent translated many of the tragedies and comedies of William Shakespeare.

The music for the performance was written by Tigran Mansuryan known for his works for the films “Tango of Our Childhood” and “Song of the Past.” Musical accompaniment was performed by the Armenian Symphony Orchestra of Television and Radio.

The character of Coriolanus was distinguished by such qualities as courage, straightforwardness, honesty, and frankness. Here is what one of the heroes of the tragedy, the first patrician, says about him:

“His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for’s power to thunder. His heart’s his mouth:
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;
And, being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death.”
Hripsime Galstyan


Theatrical Encyclopedia,

Petros Adamyan ǁ
Vahram Papazyan as Othello. As Desdemona Ars Voskanyan ǁ
Khoren Abrahamyan as Coriolanus
John Gilbert. “Shakespeare’s Plays”, 1849 ǁ

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