Yesterday Yerevan celebrated its 2792th birthday. I’m not sure how exactly they came up with that age, but it’s a noteworthy milestone nevertheless. Yerevan dates back to pre-Armenian times, back when the Uratu civilization flourished in this region. At some point along the way the city became known as Erebuni, then Yerevan.
And the city has come a long way, from a multi-ethnic small town a century ago in which Armenians were practically a minority to a thriving city of a million people taking pride in promoting the arts. Last night there were five concerts being held at the exact same time. I attended four of them–there was a rock venue at Cinema Moscow, jazz at the Cascade, folk near the Dramatic Theater on Isakahyan Street, behind the Poplovok cafe, and classical music at the park on Place de France, beside the Komidas statue. I didn’t make it to Republic Square, which featured a “gala” performance, I imagine probably consisting of various pop stars lip syncing to their own songs. The evening did not mark the first time that such events have taken place throughout the downtown area, however. If I am not mistaken such simultaneous programs were held at least twice before.
There is one thing I admire about Yerevan and that’s dedication to music and theater in particular. Nearly every day there’s an opportunity to see a stage play, and ballet, opera and classical performances are always being given. For only a few dollars you can hear spectacular music performed by the Armenian Philharmonic. Jazz and rock concerts are also being held more and more regularly every passing year.
The diversity of the arts is just as notable. Cascade park has become a showcase of sculptures made by artists around the world, and the collection always seems to be expanding. The Cafesjian Museum, which is housed beneath the Cascade steps, offers an amazing array of figurines and larger, standing pieces of work made from glass. The National Art Gallery also has amazing permanent exhibits documenting Armenian history and showcasing artifacts thousands of years old that have been unearthed throughout Armenia. The famous oldest shoe in the world is also there, although I’ve heard that it is already deteriorating at a rapid pace due to careless handling. Then there are the museum’s painting galleries that I am ashamed to confess I have yet to explore after all these years of being here. Also, new Armenian films are also popping up in the theaters, which is just fantastic. There will be a festival taking place in the next few weeks showcasing classic Armenian films from the Soviet era, something cannot be passed up. Actual film prints will apparently be screened at Cinema Moscow, probably for the first time in decades.
Anyway, here’s to Yerevan’s birthday and just as important, its enthusiastic, much appreciated promotion of the arts.