marvelous!Music at reopened Kyiv Opera House replaces noise of Russian cannons | Ukraine

The lights dimmed, the auditorium fell silent, and the orchestra played the first note of the overture. The ceremony has been performed thousands of times at Kyiv’s Grand Opera House over the past century, but Saturday afternoon’s performance was different.

in the city that has been accustomed to in the past three months The wailing air raid sirens and the roar of cannons Audiences from the suburbs were instead drawn to Rossini’s frothy melodies Barbers in Seville.

It was the first performance since Vladimir Putin’s incursion of missiles and artillery shells brutally interrupted the opera season and everything in Ukraine in the early hours of February 24.

Now, less than three months later, in the still raging battle in the eastern part of the country, the opera is back, albeit with a few changes. Shows are held only on weekend afternoons, with up to 300 tickets sold, and audiences must be prepared to move quickly to underground cloakrooms if air raid sirens go off during the show.

A man in military uniform enjoys an afternoon at the Kyiv Opera House.
A man in military uniform enjoys an afternoon at the Kyiv Opera House. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

Saturday’s audience was a chance for couples to don their most elegant outfits for the first time in weeks, as well as soldiers in uniform taking a break from their military service and enjoying some high culture.

Only the stalls are full and four-storey gilded balconies are off-limits to ensure quicker evacuation should the need arise.

“I can’t say opera is my usual entertainment, but it’s an incredible feeling to hear this kind of music and be in a different world for a while and then come back to our reality,” just wanted to give his name .

Many of the troupe are still abroad, and some of the orchestra have fought on the front lines or served in the Homeland Defense Forces.

Audience in costume watching
Audiences in costumes watch “The Barber of Seville”. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

Oleksii Potiomkin, Principal Dancer balletjoined and served in the military, posts daily updates on Instagram.

But enough artists and technicians have returned to work to allow the company to put on a full-scale opera production.

Soprano Olha Fomichova, who sang the Rosina diva on Saturday, struggled to hold back tears as she spoke about her emotions before taking the stage.

“I had a feeling this morning that I was going to sing the debut, even though I’ve been singing the role for years. I feel like I’m standing on this stage that I’m very familiar with for the first time,” she said.

Fomichova remained in Kyiv for most of the invasion, but sent her son to safety in Germany.She saw him when she was there recently for a charity gala UkraineFamily reunions and concerts are filled with emotion, she said.

“I can’t describe the feeling in words when you walk up to the stage with the Ukrainian flag and you get a 10-minute standing ovation,” she said.

Singer Oleksandr Kireev backstage
Singer Oleksandr Kireev backstage. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

Soprano Natalia Nykolaishyn, who has worked in the theatre for 20 years, said that for the past three months, the soloists have been in touch in a Viber chat group, exchanging messages about the progress of the war. story.

“We were all very close before, but now we feel like family,” she said.Nykolaishyn to star in opera on Sunday Nataka Poltavka Written by Ukrainian composer Mikola Lysenko.

“We wanted to start with a symbolic performance: first a European classic, then a Ukrainian classic,” said Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenkoattended Saturday’s show.

Over the years, the Kyiv Opera House has seen a lot on and off stage. Opened in 1901 after a fire destroyed the previous building, a decade later a dramatic assassination took place here.

Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, who was watching the Rimsky-Korsakov opera with Tsar Nicholas II, was shot dead in the front row of the stall at halftime.

Theater archivist Larisa Tarasenko said the suspension of performances during the Russian invasion was only the third prolonged interruption of performances in the past century.

The first was between the end of the Nazi occupation and the return of the evacuated Soviet troupes. The second is due to Covid. Otherwise, the show goes on even as regimes, empires and ideologies change.

Now, with the Russian invasion, the theater plans to at least temporarily cancel all of its Russian repertoire.

Spectators watch Seville's barbers.
Spectators watch Seville’s barbers. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

Tkachenko said the Ministry of Culture is Actively lobby foreign opera houses to remove Russian productions from their repertoiresone question sparked a debate Whether Russia’s cultural heritage should be separated from the actions of the Putin government in many countries.

“We tried to argue that in times of war, it was a symbolic move and we should find a way to celebrate French, Italian and, of course, Ukrainian composers,” Tkachenko said.

Nykolaishyn says she grew up on Russian classical music, singing in Tchaikovsky’s “Tatyana” Eugene Onegin was one of her first and favorite solo roles.

“But now, it’s not Russia’s time. Maybe one day it will be possible again, I don’t know,” she said.

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