Asmik Grigorian: Roles and Premieres on Most Important Stages of World

By Rima Jūraitė 2019 10 21
Asmik Grigorian. Photo by Algirdas Bakas
Asmik Grigorian. Photo by Algirdas Bakas

During the last decade, the career of Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian has mainly been developing abroad rather than in Lithuania. Once or two times a year, she used to return to Vilnius to sing for the Lithuanian audience, create roles in the stagings by the company Vilnius City Opera; however, she has almost never appeared on the greatest national opera stage, i.e. the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. Yet following the replacement of the head of the theatre, Asmik Grigorian has managed to find some time in her intensive schedule for several performances of The Gambler (Russian: Игрок) by Sergei Prokofiev (director Vasilij Barchatov) that is going to be presented to the audience of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in February 2020.

The great breakthrough in the artist's international career occurred after the performance at the Salzburg Festival in the summer of 2018, where Asmik Grigorian played the main role of Salome in the opera bearing the same title by Richard Strauss; famous Italian director Romeo Castellucci presented a contemporary interpretation of Salome. Those who saw the dress rehearsal remember that the applause Asmik Grigorian received was deafening, whereas the director, who came to take a bow after the opening night, fell to his knees in front of the Lithuanian soprano thanking her for precisely embodied vision of the main character.

As Asmik Grigorian put it herself before the premiere, she saw Salome as a hurt child with all the consequences arising out of that. “I'm very lucky as the director is a symbolist, expert of visual arts, so my 'psychoanalysis' of the performance - as I'm looking at Salome from a completely psychological perspective - is filled with all the symbols created by him and, it seems to me, that this will all lead to a very powerful joint work.”     

Following the premiere, compliments for the soloist flooded foreign mass media. The Financial Times published the review of the opera exuding euphoria, “If this Salome succeeds - and it does - it has everything to do with Grigorian. Hers is a Salome to end all Salomes. She stands, a slight figure in a white dress, alone on the vast, empty stage, and the entire audience breathes with her. No longer the spoilt brat, more collateral damage than victim, she embodies all the hurt and earning that comes with being the last shred of humanity in an unfeeling world. /.../ In the end, none of this matters. Grigorian's charisma sweeps it all in her wake.”

Stefano Nardelli ( writes, “It rarely happens to see such emotional rapture that involves the whole audience and a consensus so unanimous in an opera, yet sometimes it happens: for Asmik Grigorian it happened last summer in Salzburg with Salome.

The 15-minute monologue of the Jewish princess over the now inert body of the object of her desire has literally nailed the spectators to their chairs until the final applause, almost a liberation. And this has been the consecration of the career that began a little over twenty, perhaps too fast, and came back with full force after thirty.” Asmik Grigorian sang in the same staging of Salome once again during the Salzburg Festival in 2019.

In 2019, Asmik Grigorian made her debut at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Here she performed the role of Marietta in the opera The Dead City (German: Die tote Stadt) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, directed by Graham Vick. The La Scala theatre is highly significant for the soloist not only as the stage receiving the attention of the most influential opera critics but also because of the fact that this is the place where Asmik Grigorian's parents - world-renowned opera soloists Irena Milkevičiūtė and Gegham Grigorian - met. Following the opening night of The Dead City, reviews started pouring in, Asmik Grigorian was referred to as the performer of highly diverse roles; some critics of respectable age still recalled the roles of her father Gegham Grigorian.

“In the role of seductive Marietta, she is a heartbreaker: sexy, often half-naked or in a short petticoat that looks great on her, bewitching even when she dances,” this is what one of the main Italian newspapers La Repubblica writes about the Lithuanian soprano.

The Italian portal presenting the news of the music world, the music journal, writes, “Asmik Grigorian can count on her enchanting voice, she is perfectly sure even in the most difficult moments and absolutely at ease on stage. Her Marietta embodies perfectly the role of a femme fatale, a seductive panther, an expert hostess, a stripper, or even a woman in love.”

In the spring of 2019, Asmik Grigorian was granted the best Female Singer of the Year award at the International Opera Awards and the Best Leading Role at the Austrian Music Theatre Awards 2019. In The "Opernwelt" Critic's Choice Awards 2019 Asmik Grigorian was rewarded as a Singer of the Year. 

The soloist continues expanding the geographical boundaries: in August 2019, she participated at the Edinburgh International Festival as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin by Piotr Tchaikovsky. Over the coming three theatre seasons she is planning to perform on the most prestigious opera stages of the world: the New York Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London, Opéra Bastille in Paris and Vienna State Opera. Asmik Grigorian, who performs highly diverse roles in the operas of varying musical language, claims that she does not have any expectations to perform one or another famous opera part, “I've never had a dream role, except, perhaps, Madama Butterfly. There are some that I wish my father could hear me perform: Adriana Lecouvreur or, for example, Aida.”