Renowned Mezzo-Soprano and Scholar Arpinee Sanoukian Berberian Dies

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Operatic Mezzo-Soprano Arpinee Sanoukian Berberian died in her sleep on Saturday, June 28. She was 83.

She was born on November 26, 1930 to Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon. She attended college and earned a diploma in education from the Armenian Evangelical College in Beirut. Shortly after graduation, she decided to pursue a career in music and began her musical training at the Conservatoire National de Musique du Liban and studied voice with Professor Karnaoukoff. Soon after, she attended the Gomidas National Conservatory of Music in Yerevan, Armenia and earned a degree in vocal performance as a mezzo soprano, with emphasis in opera and voice pedagogy. After graduation, Arpinee continued her operatic training at the Conservatoire National de Musique and the Ecole Normal de Musique in Paris, France under the tutelage of Professor Girodeau. She was the recipient of many musical scholarships throughout her education. In 1967, she came to the United States where she briefly settled in Boston. There, she met her future husband, concert violinist Hratch Berberian. They were married on December 24, 1967 in Cambridge, Mass.

In the same year, she and her husband were both offered faculty positions to teach in the Department of Music at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings. At SDSU, she taught applied voice, vocal pedagogy, interpretation of Russian and French art songs, and opera. From 1976-1977, she continued advanced musical studies at the University of Iowa, studying voice with Professor Harvey. She also received a grant to study opera workshop with Boris Goldoski at Southeastern Massachusetts University.

Throughout her career, she gave many solo recitals, joint recitals, chamber music performances and has been a guest soloist with orchestras and choral groups in oratorios, masses and requiems in the US and abroad. She sang in more than seven languages and has also appeared in several operas, such as “Carmen,” “Aida,” “Werther,” “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore” and “Dido and Aeneas.” Her varied recital repertoire has included Armenian, English, French, Russian, German, Spanish and Italian art songs and arias in their original languages.

She was an ardent advocate and promoter of Armenian composers’ art songs. She sang and recorded a majority of the Armenian art songs, including songs composed by her father-in-law, the esteemed composer, Hampartzoum Berberian. Her voice has been described by many as beautiful, rich, dominating and powerful. Her interpretation of arts songs has been described as unique, lush and expressive, always exhibiting her full quality, exquisite pitch and lively communication with her audience.

In 1985, she appeared as a guest soloist for the Silver Jubilee Concert of the KNAR Armenian Choral Society in Philadelphia. Five years later, she and her husband, Hratch, were invited by the Saint Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine, Wis. as guest soloists with the Racine Symphony Orchestra, on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

In addition to teaching, she served as an adjudicator, clinician and lecturer for the National Federation of Music Clubs, and as a guest on “Commentary on the Classics” on South Dakota Public Radio. In 1992, she received the Bronze Staff Recognition Award for 25 Years of Distinguished Service to Young People and Devotion to Music Education from the South Dakota Educators Association.

She retired from SDSU in 1996. After retirement, she stayed active in numerous projects, such as creating compilation recordings of her past performances. She loved taking photographs, cooking and was a master seamstress. She was generous and caring and had a deep love for nature and animals.

She is survived by her husband of 47 years, Hratch; her two daughters, Ani Berberian of Alexandria, Va. and Shoghig Berberian of Minneapolis, Minn.; her sisters, Lillian and Sylvie of Watertown, Mass.; her brother, Harout Sanoukian of Paris, France; nieces and a nephew. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ohannes and Araxie Sanoukian, and her older brother, Mardiros Sanoukian.

Visitation took place on Tuesday, July 1 from 4-7 pm at Rude’s Funeral Home in Brookings. The funeral service was held on Wednesday, July 2 at the funeral home chapel. The Very Rev. Aren Jebejian from St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Chicago presided over the funeral service, and her daughter, clarinetist Ani Berberian, performed Oror by Hampartzoum Berberian.

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