Wednesday, April 27, 2016

An Hour at the Theatre.

The Armenian State Dance Ensemble "Barekamutyun" in performance at the Opera Theatre in Yerevan.

We ended our long day back at the Opera Theatre in Yerevan for a dance performance.  Bless his heart, Gurgen got us the tickets.  They were only available for purchase in person so he called on one of his friends to get the tickets for him.

More about that in a bit but for now, we flash back earlier in the afternoon.

It was almost 2:30p by the time we left the parking lot at Tatev.  Without stops, it would be about a 4 hour drive, give or take a few minutes depending on how fast Gurgen drives :-)  We had to be back in Yerevan in time for our 7p dance performance so there was little time to waste.

There was the occasional herd to slow us darn. Love cows but damn them! :-)

Gurgen stopping to get another small boulder for his garden.  He liked the lichen on it.

I don't there's any more room left for rocks but who knows :-)

Tempted to stop to buy the wild mushrooms but we moved on.

Road's been fixed otherwise potholes would have slowed us down.  No cars on the road so Gurgen put the pedal to the metal!

Aside from a few minutes for Gurgen to pick up a boulder for his garden, we only made two stops on the way back to Yerevan.  The first was at a home in a small village where Gurgen knew the owner.....a local cheesemaker.



I have no idea what kind of cheese this is but given that the woman was reaching for it inside a large plastic barrel, I assumed it was some sort of a brined cheese.



Gurgen had a small sample and obviously declared it was good because he bought the entire block.  That's a lot of cheese.  It would take me months to finish that on my own but most likely it might take an Armenian family just a few meals to devour it.


I had to take a photo of the woman's stack of dung patties for heating and/or cooking fuel.

Paying for the cheese.

Off to our next stop.  As we approached Areni, we once again passed by the *invisible* church.  Do you see it, nicely camouflaged against the background?  


Now you see it?  This is Surb Astvatsatsin or the Holy Mother of God Church in Areni. It was completed in 1321.  Had we had time, we could've stopped.  Next time!


Areni is known as the wine producing region of Armenia so it made sense for Gurgen to stop here.  He wanted to buy some wine.  There were several roadside stands I don't know if he just picked one to stop at or if he knew the owner.


Notice how the home made wine is simply resold in repurposed plastic bottles.  If it can be reused as is, it is.  No need to recycle.

Clean bottles waiting to be filled.

She's got a lot of wine for sale but before you buy, you must sample :-)

Sampling wine.  Not Pat's glass of wine.  She still prefers what she had with Yuriy at Maspindzelo in Tbilisi.

Gurgen decided he liked the wine so he bought a 2 litre bottle's worth of the red wine.

While I was taking photos and Gurgen and Pat were wine tasting, Anush was in the back seat of the van making a snack for herself.  Armenians love to just wrap a bunch of herbs inside a piece of lavash and munch on it.  I've still not learned how to appreciate eating fresh herbs that way so I graciously declined her offer of a lavash wrap.  In hindsight, Anush was smart to eat a bite.  We would arrive back into Yerevan too late to grab a bite before the dance performance.


We still had quite a ways to go and when the road was free of cars, Gurgen zoomed along.  Smart as we would be arriving into the city around rush hour and I am certain we will be sucked into the evening rush hour which means a traffic jam!


As we neared the city, I think we were all checking our watches for the time.  Every now and again, Pat would chime in to say we were running late.  I swear that every time she said that, Gurgen pressed further down on the accelerator.  It might have been my imagination but I swear that at one point in time, he was going 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour on a road where the limit was less 100 kilometers per hour!  I kept an eye out for police! 

Flash forward and it's almost 6:15p.  We're back in Yerevan.  Gurgen is on his mobile.  He hangs up.  A short while later, he slows down the van and rolls down his window.  On the other side is a young woman with our tickets in her hand. He's got a 10,000 dram bill in his.  She hands him the tickets but refuses the money.   He drives off without losing his position in the traffic.  I was astonished!  What a way to do a transaction.  Hopefully, he'll pay her back later.

I was expecting that the tickets were only for Pat and I but he had four tickets in hand.  He and Anush would be joining us.  I was so happy to hear that!  I know they must be tired from the day but it just wouldn't have been the same going to the show without them.  Besides, I thought it was very thoughtful of Gurgen to take his mother to the theatre.  Good son!

Gurgen drove like, well, a young man his age.  He was fearless about squeezing between cars, changing lanes with barely a car's length of space, slamming on the brakes to stop within inches of the car in front of us.  You get the picture.  I think my heart stopped beating a few times as I was certain he was going to get into an accident.  I think my heart lost a few beats and my head a few hairs on our short drive through the city.  Even Anush was feeling nervous about Gurgen's driving.  Even without knowing a word of Armenian, I'm certain she told him to drive more safely.

In any case, it was close to 6:30p by the time Gurgen parked the car outside of our apartment.  We all headed upstairs to take a few minutes to freshen up a bit.  Anush was able to at least comb her hair and put on some lipstick.  Pat changed into a nicer pair of shoes.  All I could do, sadly, was brush the dirt of my blue rubber slipper.  I was tempted to walk without it but the others felt is was okay for me to leave it on.  I will look like a homeless person tonight inside one of the most famous concert halls in all of Armenia.

Polishing my slipper.  Such a sad thing.  Photo courtesy of Gurgen.

Looking as polished as we could possibly get under the circumstances, we made our way to the Opera Theatre which thankfully is less than a 5 minute walk from our apartment.  People were already filing into the theatre as we approached the front entrance.  We headed up the stairs and stopped for a quick selfie before heading inside to our seats on the mezzanine.

Thanks to Gurgen's monumental efforts, we were able to take this selfie before curtain time!

I think we all collapsed into our seats, happy that we finally made and made it on time.  What a relief!  Time to look at the program.  Looking at the cover, I finally got the name of the dance troupe performing tonight.  The other day, when we were walking past the theatre and spotted the poster for dance performance, I was so excited about seeing a dance performance, I didn't really care who was dancing and so I never got the name of the troupe - the Armenian State Dance Ensemble "Barekamutyun".


It took me all of  2 seconds to read the rest of the brochure as it was all in Armenian.  The only characters I could recognize were the numbers, the email address and the website. :-)

Never mind about the brochure, the theatre itself was small but very elegant in design and decoration.  I truly felt under dressed but looking around me, there were a lot of people rather casually dressed so I didn't feel too out of place.

The performance hall is named after Aram  Khachaturian (also spelled Khachatryan) who was born in Tbilisi, Georgia but is of Armenian descent.  Khachaturian rose to fame as a composer and conductor after he moved to Moscow in 1921 following the Sovietization of the Caucasus region.  He is considered a national treasure in Armenia.


Time for a quick photo op before the show started.



As we waited for the show to start, Pat and I had noticed that there were a lot of empty seats.  We spotted two that we could move down to if no one showed up.

Thinking back on the price of the tickets and assuming Gurgen paid 10,000 dram for the four tickets, that meant each ticket only cost 2,500 dram ($5.25) each.  That is dirt cheap and I mean DIRT cheap by US standards.  If I were to attend a dance performance in a venue of this caliber in the US, those tickets would cost well over $100 USD each!  You can't even go to movie theatre in the US and see a movie for that price!  I don't know how this troupe can make money, charging such low prices but all I can say is that I really appreciate how affordable it is for ordinary citizens to come and see a performance.

The curtain went up shortly after 7p and the two seats that we had had our eyes on were empty so we moved down to the front row of the mezzanine.

While the sign outside the performance hall indicated that photography was not allowed, I saw a lot of people taking photos and videos with their cellphones.  I decide to take a few photos as well.  I have to say it was a sizeable troupe of performers.

I was okay for the first couple of performances but after that, my attention started to fade.  In part, I was tired and in part the dance style and the music were not my cup of tea.  By the 4th or 5th act,  I was dying for intermission to roll around so I could tell Pat that I was going to skip out on the second  half.

If you want to watch the troupe perform, there are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch.





Intermission could not come fast enough and when I told Pat I wanted to leave, she was relieved as she had lost interest in the performance as well.  We both got up from our seats and delivered the news to Gurgen and Anush.  As you might expect, they were surprised but I knew I would not last through the second half.  I have to admit, this is not the first time I've not stayed for an entire performance and I'm certain it will not be the last. 

Pat and I made our way back to the apartment.   The first thing I did was post a photo of the performance on Facebook with a note of appreciation to what Gurgen had to go through to not only get us the tickets but to get us  back into the city on time.  Pat immediately posted a comment with her thank you.  We both didn't want Gurgen to feel slighted given the effort that he had gone through to get us the tickets, driving like a mad man to get back to the city in time and then the two of us bail out at intermission.

That done, all I wanted to do was take a shower, get into my pj's and just relax.  Too tired even to eat anything. 

It's been a busy three days on the road but we've had a lot of fun.  Tomorrow, we have some more sightseeing to do with Gurgen.  Until then, it's lights out for me.

Goodnight from Yerevan!