CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (A.W.)—The house of one of the 19th century’s greatest poets, Henry W. Longfellow, served as backdrop for a Sunday afternoon celebration of Armenian poetry in Cambridge on July 22.
Two Armenian opera stars, Victoria Avetisyan and Yeghishe Manucharyan, joined poet Diana Der-Hovanessian at the Longfellow National Historic Site to celebrate the publication of her 25th book of poetry, Armenian Poetry of Our Time, from the Press at California State University, Fresno.
Several of the translated poems—from Tekeyan to Charents to Gaboudigian—were read in English by Der-Hovanessian and other poets from the New England Poetry Club. In turn, tenor Yeghishe Manucharyan and mezzo soprano Victoria Avetisyan, who won the Young Artist Award at her Kennedy Center debut, performed Armenian songs to a mesmerized crowd.
Both artists were born in Yerevan, Armenia. Avetisyan graduated with a master’s degree in vocal performance from Komitas State University and began her career at the National Opera. She made her American debut with the Boston Lyric Opera, where she appears frequently. Manucharyan made his debut at Carnegie Hall followed by joining the Metropolitan Opera Company. New York’s NewsDay has praised the “purity, power, and flexibility of his voice.” He graduated from the Tchaikovsky Central Music School and Komitas State Conservatory of Music.
After the event, Der-Hovanessian signed copies of Armenian Poetry of Our Time.
In a review of Der-Hovanessian’s first volume of translations in 1980, the London Times Literary Supplement called her “a brilliant poet who has opened up the book of her people to the English speaking world.” She has gone on to translate 13 other books of Armenian poetry, including The Other Voice, poems by Armenian women, and volumes by Yeghishe Charents, Sayat Nova, Gevorg Emin, Vahan Tekeyan, and Vahan Derian.
For her own poetry she has won the Paterson Prize and awards from American Scholar, Prairie Schooner, NEA, PSA, and Columbia University. During the post-earthquake years she and singer/actor Michael Kermoyan, and later tenor Vahan Khanzadian, toured universities with a musical play—”The Secret of Survival”—that she wrote for earthquake relief.
The Friends of Longfellow and New England Poetry Club made the program possible.