Tateon

Tateon: A Mystical, Musical Drink Is Launched

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YEREVAN — Armen Karapetyan was born in Vardenis in 1970 and graduated from the vocal department of the Komitas Conservatory. The first time I met him in 2000, in Paris, he had just started his career as a baritone with his wife, soprano Lianna Haroutounian. In the ensuing decades, Lianna gained fame in the Western opera world, but Armen moved from music to another, slightly unexpected field.

Armen, you were working out of Armenia for 24 years. How did you find yourself in France?

In 1995, the Academic choir of Armenia, led by Hovhannes Chekijian, in which I had sung, toured various European countries, including France. From a young age, thanks to literature and cinema, France was a dream for me, and when we got there, we decided to settle in that country. As a young man, unfortunately, you often do not see the future in your country, on the other hand, these were difficult years in Armenia. Since 1997, Lianna and I have always been in France, where we were very busy with our profession, we went to many auditions. I have perfected my vocal skills with various teachers, and for that purpose I often went to Italy, particularly taking lessons from the famous operatic bass Bonaldo Giaiotti.

What did France give you?

First of all, France re-educated the inner person among us, who may have had some merits, some talent, but all that was added to the discipline towards work and human and professional relations.

Armen Karapetyan and his wife, soprano Lianna Haroutounian

Many people go out to the big world and make a purposeful career, but you seem to be very calm about it.

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Making a career for singers is important. We are all careerists when we are young. But for me, my career has never been a top goal. It was more important to understand myself, to find myself. Finding yourself is not about achieving success and getting rich, to say one day that I am a great singer. Self-knowledge is much more important to me. From the age of 17-18 I became interested in mysticism, yoga, meditation. Many people told me that I was strangely calm. In fact, that peace is the work of years. The question is, what is more valuable in life — would being on the big stage make me happier than, say, sitting and talking to you like this? That is why I did not limit myself only to my profession. When the euphoria of the first years in France passed, I realized that it would be right to do something else as well. I have always had a sense of business; I still did something in Armenia during the crisis years. We were two singers at home, and I always saw Lianna ahead of me. She was always more successful in the auditions, taking prizes in competitions. A few years later, I realized that it was impossible for the two of us to move forward, so I left singing.

Wasn’t it painful to do so?

To some extent. There was the issue of raising a family; our son was growing up, but I decided to move on to other activities, although singing has always been with me, until now. There was a time when my son lived in Caen, Normandy, and Lianna and I lived in Marseilles. I decided that it was not right for my son to grow up away from his parents, so I went to Caen and bought an Iranian restaurant there. Adding a few Armenian dishes, a unique Armenian-Iranian restaurant was created, which I ran for nine years.

Lianna Haroutounian is a sought-after famous opera singer today. She is constantly on tour. Isn’t it difficult to be the husband of a famous singer?

(Laughing). This is a very interesting question. It was difficult until the time when I was striving for a career, because no matter how dear a person is next to you, when you see him or her successful internationally, being a person in the same profession, naturally you want to see yourself there, too. But now I absolutely do not have that complex as a singer. Now the difficulty is seeing this person with such a career always under stress to do her best, at least keeping on the same level all the time.

When we met in Yerevan three years ago, you said that you want to start a business in Armenia. Recently I tasted a new Armenian alcoholic apple drink and then I learned that you are the producer of that brand new product. How was the idea born and how did it go?

Before 2018, when I was singing at festivals, mainly secondary roles, I felt that I was far from something, missing a kind of happiness. In 2018, after all that had happened in Armenia, it seemed that we were going to build a strong country and we should all participate in that. Already in June, Lianna had performed at the Yerevan Philharmonic hall (I should say that because of that one concert, she refused 10 performances of the Opera Bastille in Paris). And in the fall, when the apple ripened, I noticed in my native Vardenis that the villagers could not sell it and often fertilized the soil with an apple harvest. They also often cut the apple trees, because it is a headache for them. I was shocked after living in the Calvados region of France, I saw that every single apple was consumed there. And I immediately had the idea to produce apple brandy, calvados, in Armenia. My younger brother Henrik and I started the initial production of two tons of apples in our sister’s garage to understand if we could get calvados in Armenia. After buying those two tons, I realized that we are on a path that will take us all to a pleasant destination. People were going to dump the fruit they had grown, but now they are selling it, so a mutually beneficial deal is being made.

With the help of our relatives, we squeezed the apple, distilled it, got the alcohol, and filled the oak barrels. Calvados seemed ready, but my mind was wandering. Why calvados, and not something completely different? And as often during meditations, the idea arose to create a new apple drink. I started experimenting with the alcohol we got. I probably got 40 different types of drinks, but each time I felt that something was wrong, until one day I thought that the apple tree’s wood could be used in the drink. When I first put the apple branches in the oven and felt the sweet smell of smoke, I immediately imagined it in the drink. Eureka, I found what I wanted! I managed to create a new drink, only from apple fruit and wood. By the way, all that is also connected with music. Every time I wanted to create something, I would walk around listening to Beethoven or Wagner’s overtures, and those thoughts always brought me to the music. There is a lot of music in our drinks. We were supported in this case by our closest friend, Lianna Haroutounian, who believed in our idea, made a significant investment, and last year we bought 60 tons of apples. It was like a festival, when people brought apples to us with their old Soviet Zhiguli cars. I felt that we were doing something that was from my heart, that there was love and beauty in all that. Some said why not call it just “Armenian calvados” or “Armenian liqueur,” but since it is a new drink, it differs from the rest by the production technology, so it is better to give this completely new product a new name.

Henrik and Armen Karapetyan

And that name is “Tateon.” Where does this name come from?

The drink was already ready, with its yellow color, special taste and smell. I started looking for names. I was attracted to mystics, but my son, Vram, said that it would be better to associate the name with my birthplace. I read that my ancestors are from the settlement of Tateon or Diadin in the Ayrarat province of Greater Armenia, who joined the Russian army during the Russian-Turkish war of 1828. However, under the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829, when the Russians returned Tateon to the Turks, most of the settlement’s Armenians were forced to emigrate to Eastern Armenia, settling mainly in what is now Vardenis. Tateon was remembered by Movses Khorenatsi, noting that in 378 a large number of Greek soldiers were killed in the Tateon area due to the war and were buried there. The clergy called that part “dieri tun  — the house of corpses,” and Tateon gradually became Diadin, but we chose the original name. I think it is a valid name for the product.

Yes, both in terms of historical memory and sounding well. It will soon be a year since you started production.

Last year we procured 40 tons of apples, just during the war. When Azerbaijani drones flew over Vardenis, we continued our work. Sometimes our defense is underestimated, but I have witnessed many times in Vardenis how our air defense unmistakably hit the drones that invaded Armenia’s airspace. Both sons of one of our working women were at the front, and she kept working with tears in her eyes. Thank God they both came back.

And where is it possible to get “Tateon”?

Of course, in Vardenis, as well as at the airport and shops in the center of Yerevan. We will try to enter the international market and have online sales. We are going to take part in beverage festivals in France and the US.

I wish “Tateon” success. It is really interesting – a drink created and produced by the singer.

Let me say something at the end, from the field of mysticism. It is known that living bodies are formed during the fermentation of apple juice. I imagined them dancing a waltz in pairs. Billions of living bodies dancing the waltz. And in those barrels, where the apple juice was fermented, we put loudspeakers, and for 14 hours I made them “listen” to classical music. Numerous waltzes from Strauss to Aram Khachaturian. I do not know how much it helped, but I am sure that the drink also has a memory, and the bottled “Tateons” keep the spirit of the high music!

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