A great artist who has left a lasting mark on world culture. Founded in 2013, the theatrical group ‘Yolcu’, which means ‘traveler’, describes composer Komitas in this way and invites the audience to a journey to the life of musician and musicologist Komitas. The theatrical performance called ‘Komitas’ ('Gomidas') was presented to the audience with its premiere on October 22 at the Church of the Holy Thunder Sons adjacent to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul.
“It was a long and laborious process. I have researched a number of sources and books. I did not want to make a mistake! Whatever we do, will not be enough for this story. Words are not enough to present the story of Komitas. We had to make a decision - either we were going to present an episode from Komitas’ life, or the whole life story. We decided to do the second one, because the audience in Turkey is not familiar with Komitas’ life,” says Ahmet Sami Özbudak, playwright, director.
The whole process of the performance staged in the church is accompanied by the Komitas performances of the Armenian ‘Lusavorich’ (Illuminator) choir.
Turkish and Kurdish artists are involved in the troupe, who got acquainted with the story of Komitas and made an effort to present it to the audience. According to the director of the play Ersin Umut Güler, by presenting the story of Komitas, they also tell their story.
“It is a very exciting project for us, which we like very much. The story of Komitas is also our story. We have a very good staff. The 40-member ‘Lusavorich’ choir, led by Hakob Mamikonyan, as well as Turkish-Kurdish artists who present the story of Komitas. A number of works in Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish have reached our days thanks to Komitas,” says Ersin Umut Güler, director of the play.
Güler emphasizes that staging a play in a church is both magical and difficult. According to him, the Turkish audience should get acquainted with the story of Komitas’ life, the topic of the Armenian Genocide.
“We consider it very important that non-Christian spectators also come to the church to watch this performance, to understand Komitas and the 1915 right here. We want to go to other cities, different cities of Turkey, as well as to Armenia, France, Germany,” Ersin Umut Güler says.
The play is based on the memoirs of Komitas Vardapet in a psychiatric hospital in Paris, which take the audience to the composer's birthplace in Kütahya, Armenia, Berlin and Paris. It presents the horrible reality of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the acquaintance with Margrit, the years spent in the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin. Komitas is played by famous Turkish actor Fehmi Karaarslan. The play can be watched in both Turkish and French.
“I have to say with shame that like many Turks, I did not know about Komitas. This was an occasion. We must know him. It is our common value born in these lands. It is a very powerful figure and value. I was very excited when I was told about the play. I started reading. I became a fan of Komitas’ music. The story is very touching. It is a sacred duty to bring him to life on stage, to introduce him to the people,” says actor Fehmi Karaarslan.
During the performance, various works by Komitas are performed Karaarslan. The actor, who has become a fan of Komitas’ music, mentions that it is not easy to present the whole story of Vardapet.
“History is multi-layered. The play begins in a psychiatric hospital in Paris, where Komitas and his imaginary lamb fall into the arms of his memories. We see childhood in the footsteps of a lamb, Berlin, Paris. The scenes of leaving Istanbul and being taken with the other 235 people are sent to Chanker. What is happening there ...” says Fehmi Karaarslan.
Karaarslan speaks about his desire to stage ‘Komitas’ in Armenia one day.
“I hope one day we will stage it in Armenia and meet the audience there. I would very much like to. This play is about how naivety and innocence were destroyed in savagery. Our goal is to show this. When you present people with one person's life, a very painful story, people are able to sympathize,” Fehmi Karaarslan says.
The performance ‘Komitas’ with the cooperation of ‘Yolcu’ theater and ‘Lusavorich’ choir aroused great interest. It ended to the standing ovation of a packed hall.