Among the most significant Armenian singers in the early twentieth century, Zabelle Panosian made a small group of recordings in New York City in 1917-’18. Unaccountably, she was then largely neglected as an artist for more than half a century. This volume by three dedicated researchers is the first effort to reconstruct the life and work of a woman who had an exceptional and cultivated voice — who toured the world as a performer and made a significant contribution to the cultural lives of the Armenian diaspora, the elevation of Armenian art song, and the relief of survivors of the Armenian genocide.
Panosian’s music is derived from a syncretic experience of the Western Armenian village near the sea of Marmara where she was born and a passion for the coloratura sopranos she encountered in Boston. As an immigrant carrying the traumas of dislocation and the loss of her home, she transformed her grief into action, dedicated her life to an expression of the greatest art she could imagine, both from her former life and her new life in America, and she created a path in her wake for her daughter to become a renowned dancer.
Tracing her story from the Ottoman Empire to New England, from the concert halls of Italy, Egypt, and France to California, Florida, and South America through two World Wars, the story of Zabelle Panosian is that of a serious talent recognized and celebrated, dismissed and forgotten, year by year, waiting only to be known and loved again.
Ian Nagoski is a music researcher and reissue record producer based in Baltimore who has specialized in the musics of immigrants to the U.S. during the early 20th century, especially speakers of Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, and Greek.