Ruzan Mantashyan

The Heavenly Début of Ruzan Mantashyan Royal Opera House in London

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By Hasmik Seymour

LONDON — On  January 24, Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan made her much-anticipated début of at the legendary Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in Puccini’s “La Bohème”(https://www.roh.org.uk/tickets-and-events/la-boheme-by-richard-jones-details).

Despite her young age, Mantashyan is already a sought-after soloist across European opera houses, however her London début was delayed for several years due to the COVID outbreak.

“I love the receptiveness of the London audience, and the ovations following my arias are extremely flattering,” Mantashyan said after the February 9 performance.

Mantashyan is the face of the modern-day opera: slender, cool, and unassuming, more reminiscent of a jazz singer than an established opera star. Yet her biography is traditional and comparable to most classical musicians and singers from Armenia shining on the international arena for several decades.

Born in Yerevan, Mantashyan studied piano from age 7, and started voice lessons with Valery Harutyunov at Komitas State Conservatory obtaining her BA degree. She perfected her singing at Mirella freni’s Accademia di Belcanto in Modena (the hometown of opera colossus Luciano Pavarotti), where she also performed in the tribute concert for Pavarotti in 2011. She has performed major roles at prestigious opera houses in Modena, Reggio, Konzerthaus Berlin, Opéra de Paris Bastille, Lille, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Seoul and Zurich, Montpellier, and Hamburg, at the Opéra de Paris as well as the Glyndebourne Festival in Great Britain.

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Among her more recent roles are Natacha Rostova (“War and Peace”) in Geneva, Tatyana (“Eugene Onegin”) in Liège, Fiordiligi (“Così fan tutte”) in Zurich, Tatyana and Alice Ford (“Falstaff”) at the Komische Oper Berlin and Rachel (“La Juive”) at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. Mantashyan’s Mimi (“La Bohème”) is certainly one of her most acclaimed roles, performed in Geneva, Zurich and London.

Mantashyan was a finalist in the Francisco Vinas International Singing Contest in Barcelona, winning the competition’s Special Prize. She is also the winner of the Italian Toti dal Monte International Singing Competition for her role as Musetta (“La Bohème”).

Currently Mantashyan lives in Germany with her Ukrainian husband, who is also opera singer, and their baby boy, she told me. Curiously, she is not represented by a top agency but by a small Paris-based firm called Masis, yet their collaboration has proved fruitful and mutually rewarding.

“La Bohème,” Puccini’s much-loved opera about friendship, passion, poverty and endurance, is set in the bohemian Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1890s. A group of young artists and intellectuals care more about their artistic integrity and freedom than financial gain, sharing what little they have with one other. The central characters of the libretto, written by playwright Luigi Illica and poet Giuseppe Giacosa, are Rodolpho – a penniless poet — and his young and beautiful neighbor Mimi — a poor seamstress, who suffers from tuberculosis (TB).  The opera was first performed in Turin’s Teatro Regio in Italy under the baton of mythical Arturo Toscanini in 1896; a year later it premiered in Covent Garden, in 1897. Since the London inauguration, “La Bohème” has been one of the most beloved operas of London audiences, and the most performed opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

The current production was the revival of the 2017 version directed by Richard Jones, with three sopranos performing the title role on different dates: Romanian diva Angela Georghiu, Chilean soprano Yarotza Veliz and Ruzan Mantashyan. Nonetheless, the Armenian soprano, performing on opening night, immediately caught the attention of the British critics, while spectators greeted her performances with fervor and excitement.

Ruzan Mantashyan in “La Boheme”

The British press did not delay praising Mantashyan’s début with a rare enthusiasm. Thus, The Express (25.01.2024) reviewer stated, “a glorious Covent Garden début for Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan.” Meanwhile Stephen Pritchard advised his readers: “choose a night when the Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan is singing Mimi. You won’t be disappointed – she’s a star. On opening night, making her Royal Opera House début, Mantashyan swept all before her in a delightfully controlled, touching performance, enhanced by a voice that would melt the stoniest of hearts” (https://bachtrack.com/review-boheme-mantashyan-pirgu-timoshenko-fagan-royal-opera-london-january-2024).

Another leading British newspaper, The Guardian, confirmed: ‘The Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu, ardent and bright-toned as Rodolfo, and the Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan, persuasive and warm as Mimì, were convincing lovers” (27.01.2024). The critic of The Times, one of the most influential papers, stated: “The gutsy Armenian has a powerful, dark-toned instrument that – thankfully – could keep up with the wall-shaking high notes” (25.01.24).

Following Mimi’s aria in the final scene, I was left sobbing in the auditorium for some time, before composing myself and heading backstage to greet the Armenian star. And I was certainly not the only one: numerous admirers of all nationalities had gathered backstage of the Royal Opera House to congratulate Mantashyan.

The schedule of Ruzan Mantashyan’s past and future international performances can be found on:  https://www.mantashyanruzan.com/

 

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