Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet after Alexander Spendiaryan

81st season

back Arshak II

T. Chukhachyan
Opera in 2 acts

Main characters

  • Arshak II, King of Armenia
  • Vardan, one of Arshak’s soldiers
  • Parandzem, princess of Syunik, wife of Gnel
  • Gnel, prince of Syunik, brother of Arshak
  • Valencia, prince of Syunik, General of the Armenian Army
  • Olympia, princess of Armenia, daughter of the Roman Emperor
  • Nerses, Catholicos of Armenia
  • Polisena
  • Tiran, son of Arshak
  • Arshak’s ghost/Olympia’s son

Basic Summary

First Act

Scene 1: King Arshak the Second, having defeated the Persian king Shapuh gloriously returns to the Armenian capital. The king welcomes everyone in the royal palace, and wishes eternal glory to the Armenian people. The general swears to crush the enemy for the glory of the homeland. Catholicos Nerses blesses the victorious nation.

Princess Parandzem welcomes the king. She is in mourning since her husband is killed in battle. She begs the king to allow her to return to her country, Syunik. Prince Tirit loves Parandzem and wishes she stays at the royal palace.

Queen Olympia also welcomes Arshak, the victor over the enemies of Armenia and Byzantium. Olympia is accompanied by the ambassadors of Emperor Valens. The king postpones his meeting with them.

The people glorify the Arshakuni and Mamikonian family lineages.

Scene 2: Parandzem has come once again to ask from the king to grant her permission to return to Syunik. She cannot stay here, for everything reminds her of the death of her husband, Gnel, who was killed by the order of the king. Arshak explains Parandzem that Gnel was executed due to act of treason, he had organized a plot with the Emperor of Byzantium against his country.

Without trusting his agitator wife and wishing to halt the treachery in Syunik, Arshak arranges that an elegant palace be built for her.

The insidious Tirit follows the king. He is ready to help the Persian king Shapuh. That way he can get to the throne and have Parandzem as wife.

Olympia and Prince Spandarat come in. The latter announces to Olympia that the king is not coincidentally unamical with the ambassadors of Emperor Valens and it is also not a coincidence that he is avoiding the queen. Spandarat suggests to send away Parandzem from the palace. That is the only to get the attention of the king. Olympia doesn’t conform to the idea that Arshak doesn’t love her.

Scene 3: A group of ministers headed by prince Tirit are plotting againt the king. Help arrives when from king Shapuh and from the traitor Merujan.

Parandzem deplores her harsh destiny. Tirit tells her that by staying in the palace she has become hostage to the king. While him, Tirit, is ready to kill the king and proclaim the throne and making Parandzem his wife. Paradzem is thrilled from the suggestion.

In comes Arshak. The witty king is already aware of Tirit’s plot. He wishes to know what the two were talking about. Tirit tells the king that he loves Parandzem. Arshak is convinced that Tirit is one of the accomplices of Gnel and has denounced him in order to take hold of the love of Parandzem.

Captured Persians, who had sent a letter through the traitors to Shapuh, are brought in. Tirit’s treachery is revealed. Arshak gives the death penalty to Tirit.

Second Act

Scene 4: Arshak and Trasdamat are conversing. Arshak has heard about Spantarad’s plot. He notices Parandzem in the dark. She is very affected by the recent events. All she notices around her are treachery, cheating, fraud, while the king appears to her a frightening figure who is being worshipped by the people due to fear. Arshak explains her that he’s terrifying and frightful towards traitors only.

The king displays the treacherous ministers to Parandzem, including Olympia. Spandarat is convincing the queen to request from Emperor Valens to attack and crush Arshak and turn him into a servant. Only then will Arshak love and worship Olympia. Olympia accepts the offer and oaths to instigate war between Byzantium and Armenia.

The king orders to Trasdamat to arrest the traitors.

King Arshak feels another plot being prepared. He expresses his feelings to Parandzem, who convinces him to let the queen free.

Scene 5: Temple. With the request of the Catholicos Nerses the king forgives the queen and the treacherous ministers.

The Catholicos blesses the people and, in his sermon, exhorts the traitors to forget the evil thoughts, give oath to stay loyal to their king and homeland. Only then stability will reign over Armenia.

Scene 6: The trumpets announce the beginning of truce and reconciliation. Festivities take place in the palace.

Spandarat hands a glass of poisonous wine to Olympia. The queen hands it to Arshak, so that they drink to the reconciliation. Gloomy presentiments worry Parandzem. By approach the king, she asks to drink from the glass.

By being sure that the glass is just, Olympia drinks first, and then passes it to Arshak. Suddenly Olympia throws herself at Arshak and shouts not to drink from the cup. Olympia dies.

The king prohibits everyone from leaving the palace and arrests Spandarat.

Spandarat confesses his guilt. He is condemned to the death penalty.

The king is unbreakable even during dangerous periods of death and treachery. He once again suggests filling the glasses. Parandzem saves the king’s life. Arshak suggests a toast to Parandzem.

The people once rejoice around their king, the unifier of the Armenian Highland.