YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Constantine Orbelian, an acclaimed Armenian-American conductor and pianist, has been reinstated as director of Armenia’s national opera theater after winning a court battle against the government.
Orbelian was appointed as artistic director of the Alexander Spendiarian National Opera and Ballet Theater in Yerevan in 2016 and became its director general as well a year later. He is widely credited with breathing a new life into one of the country’s most important cultural institutions chronically underfunded by successive post-Soviet governments.
In March 2019, then acting Culture Minister Nazeni Gharibyan dismissed Orbelian as chief executive, saying that he is not legally allowed to combine the two leadership positions. She also argued that the 63-year-old US citizen is not fluent in Armenian.
Orbelian rejected the decision as illegal and challenged it in court. Most actors and musicians of the state-run theater also condemned his dismissal, demanding that Gharibian be sacked instead.
Dozens of them rallied outside the main government building in Yerevan. Meeting with their representatives, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan defended the legality of Orbelian’s dismissal while pledging to address their concerns.
In October, a district court in the Armenian capital declared the controversial sacking null and void. Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld that ruling on Monday, February 10.