Hasmik Papian is an Armenian soprano. Papian was awarded the People's Artist of Armenia title in 2004. Papian was named a Cultural ambassador of Armenia in the World for her contributions to Armenian culture in 2005 by the Catholicos of the Holy See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians Karekin IIand awarded the Order of Saint Sahag and Saint Mesrob and Order of Saint Mesrop Mashdots. Papian has been described as "the best Norma alive" by The Washington Post. Hasmik Papian was born in Yerevan, Armenia on 2 September. Papian first began an interest in music when she started playing the violin at the age of 5. Papian graduated from Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan first as a violinist, then as a singer. Her friends had encouraged her to explore her voice, and Tatevik Sazandaryan, the head of the vocal department at the Conservatory, had told Papian after hearing a few notes, that she had to sing. After Papian's debut at the Armenian National Opera, she was invited as a soloist by Opera Bonn and Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf, Germany. Soon, Papian started an international career and has since appeared at numerous theaters, including the most prestigious operatic stages and concert houses in the world like The Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall in New York, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, La Scala of Milan,Opéra Bastille in Paris, Gran Theatre del Liceu Barcelona, Teatro Real Madrid, London Wigmore Hall, the Vienna State Opera and Musikverein Vienna, Concertgebouwand De Nederlandse Opera Amsterdam, Zurich Opera, Mariinsky Theatre St. Petersburg, as well as the state operas of Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin. Papian attributes her big break to winning the Belvedere Singing Competition in Vienna in 1990. One of the prizes of the Belvedere competition was to sing from her repertoire at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Papian had included Norma in her stock of plays, though hadn't expected to sing it due to her youth and inexperience. Papian accepted a last-minute offer to sing Norma at the Teatr Wielki although she had never sung the part live before, and prepared in five days’ notice, two brief rehearsal days, and a single orchestra rehearsal. Norma would later become her signature role. Papian sang Norma for the first time in Warsaw in 1993, where Giancarlo del Monaco, son of Mario Del Monaco, caught her performance and offered her a contract with the Opera Bonn in Germany. And so her professional career as an opera singer began. This very first contract was for principal roles in Verdi’s La traviata, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen. She sang Tosca for the first time at the Vienna State Opera in 1995. Papian currently lives in Vienna, Austria. Papian calls Yerevan her “beloved city” and has said, “I never left Armenia. I almost look at my absence as a business trip.” She visits her home country every year and plans to live in Armenia at the end of her career.