Born: June 16, 1894; Polvdiv, Bulgaria
Died: June 12, 1960; Pasadena, CA
Of Armenian extraction, this handsome tenor achieved success in both opera and concert work. Armand Tokatyan brought an extraordinarily varied background to his American career, achieving success through cultivated presentation, distinguished bearing, and a voice of attractive quality. As a boy, Tokatyan traveled with his parents to Egypt where he sang in cafés, attracting approving reactions from those who heard him. Sent to Paris to studyRead more tailoring, he instead sang in the cafés of the city's Left Bank. When he returned to Egypt in 1914, he found himself in a precarious position owning to his Bulgarian birth. Permitted by British authorities to remain in the country, he once more turned to the cafés to earn a living. Persuaded to try operetta, he achieved great success, attaining matinee idol status through his attractive appearance and polished stage manner. After being urged by the stage manager of the Cairo Opera to pursue a career in opera, Tokatyan traveled to Milan in 1919 to study voice and repertory. His 1921 operatic debut took place at the Teatro Dal Varme as de Grieux in a production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut. At the insistence of conductor Giuseppe Bamboschek, Tokatyan left for America to try his luck. Through Bamboschek's auspices, he was engaged by Antonio Scotti's interesting but short-lived opera company and while there, made a deep enough impression to prompt a contract offer from the Metropolitan Opera. For the decade beginning with his February 14, 1923, debut, Tokatyan regularly appeared with the company, concentrating on the Italian and French repertories. Critics were for the most part complimentary, citing the passion, fervor, tenderness, and grace of his singing. His stage deportment, no doubt having benefited from his experience in operetta, also aroused enthusiastic comments. Tokatyan participated in the company premiere of de Falla's pithy La Vida breve in 1936 and in 1928, undertook the high baritone role of Prunier in the first Metropolitan of Puccini's seldom-performed operetta La rondine. During this period, his expanding career also took him to Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, as well as to many of Europe's important opera houses. In early 1933, Tokatyan left the Metropolitan to pursue his concert work, make occasional appearances in opera at such large venues at Lewisohn Stadium and the Hippodrome, and to appear on radio broadcasts. His Covent Garden debut took place in 1934 when he sang a generally well-liked Calaf in Turandot. That first performance, however, did not lead to an enduring London career. During the Metropolitan's 1936 spring season, Tokatyan returned to the company and subsequently sang during regular seasons. He remained with the company through 1946. A dedicated linguist, Tokatyan mastered a number of languages, achieving conversational ease in each one of them. He also achieved a reputation among his colleagues for being a capable photographer, snapping portraits of singers during live performances. His recorded legacy attests to his stylish singing, although it suggests a tightness in the upper register not noted in his stage performances. Apparently, his was an instrument whose firmly knit timbre militated against its complete capture on disc. Nonetheless, his recordings are valued as mementos of a special artist, both manly and refined in utterance. Read less
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