This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Gohar Gasparian (December 14, 1924) 

Gohar Gasparian, one of the most brilliant Armenian opera singers of the twentieth century, was a coloratura soprano also known as the “Nightingale of Armenia.” 

She was born Gohar Khachaturian on December 14, 1924, in Cairo. She sang at the Armenian church in the Egyptian capital from the age of nine. She received her elementary education at the Kaloustian National school in Cairo. Then she studied at the Cairo Academy of Music and took classes with European composers living in the city and piano lessons from Greek pianist Georges Temelis. 

She sang as a soloist on the Egyptian radio. The management, as an exception, changed the radio regulations, according to which soloists could only be Muslims. She married scholar Haig Gasparian. In 1948 she received an invitation from La Scala, the famous opera house in Milan, but rejected the offer. In the same year, she repatriated to Armenia at the age of 24. The next year, she had a daughter.  

In 1949 Gohar Gasparian also became a soloist at the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Armenia. She received the State Prize of Armenia in 1951 and 1965. She played leading roles in 23 operas. Her repertory included more than 500 compositions. Gasparian performed in France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Japan, the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, former Soviet republics, and elsewhere. She was applauded in world-famous theaters, including the Carnegie Hall in New York, the Grand Opéra in Paris, and the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. In 1953, at the age of 29, she earned the title of Popular Artist of Armenia, followed by Popular Artist of the Soviet Union in 1956. She also divorced that year and married one of her students, opera singer Tigran Levonian (1936-2004). 

Gasparian taught at the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan between 1962 and 2007 and received the degree of professor in 1973. Many of her students became soloists at the best world stages. She was elected three times deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Armenian SSR. She received the title of honorary citizen of Yerevan in 1984 and was decorated with the medal of Mesrop Mashtots in 1997.  

The famous singer passed away on May 16, 2007, in Yerevan. A street was named after her in 2020.