By Hagop Vartivarian
NEWARK, N.J. – The artist Arshile Gorky’s life was transformed into a musical theater opera called “Gorky’s Dream Garden” by composer Michelle Ekizian. It was performed on September 7 at the Newark Museum of Art to an audience full of artists and intellectuals from New York and New Jersey.
Among the performers were Brent Barrett, in the role of Gorky; Karen Lubeck as Gorky’s talented wife; mezzo soprano Hasmik Mekenejian as the ghost of Gorky’s dead mother, Shoushan; Adela Maria Bolet as Gorky’s sister, Vartoosh; and actor John Sannuto, as the memorializer of Gorky’s art. The members of the Motion Dance Theater created moving scenes throughout the performance, accompanied by music.
The composer Ekizian has worked on this project for more than 10 years. It is set in an era of American society which required immigrants to assimilate culturally. This was not an easy situation for Gorky, especially from his creation of his dream world in 1939 to 1948, and on occasion he would dream of his ancestral home and village, in its simplicity, and its apricot trees.
It was pleasant to hear in the musical sections of the opera, here and there, Armenian melodies which remind us of our recent past, such as in the Lullaby. Gorky, this survivor of the Armenian nation, managed to impose his creations on the world with the art he inherited from his people.
This reminds me of a beautiful day many years ago, when art critic Shahen Khachaturian, arriving from Yerevan, asked me to take him to the Newark train station, where Gorky had created a large mural on one of its walls. This was the first time I had communed with Gorky’s art, and afterwards, each time I visited New York’s art museums I went to see his works.