Denouncing the war, Ukrainian musicians unite for a world tour
The Russian invasion devastated cultural life in Ukraine, forcing renowned musical ensembles to disband and leading to an exodus of conductors, composers and performers.
Today, some of Ukraine’s greatest artists, with the help of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Polish National Opera in Warsaw, are uniting to use music to express their opposition to Russia’s continued attacks. . They will form a new ensemble, the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, and will tour 11 cities in Europe and the United States in July and August, the orchestra announced on Monday.
“It’s something we can do for our country and for our people,” Marko Komonko, a Ukrainian violinist who will be the orchestra’s concertmaster, said in an interview. “It’s not much, but it’s our job.”
The 75-member orchestra, which will be made up of Ukrainian refugees as well as musicians still in the country, will perform at several European festivals, including the BBC Proms in London for a televised performance on July 31. It will stop in Germany. , France, Scotland and the Netherlands, before traveling to the United States to perform at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington. Proceeds from the concerts will benefit Ukrainian artists.
The orchestra will be led by Ukrainian-Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who came up with the idea for the ensemble, wanting to find a way to help musicians and others in Ukraine.
“We want to show struggling Ukrainian citizens that a free and democratic world stands with them,” Wilson said in an interview. “We fight like artistic soldiers, soldiers of music. It gives musicians a voice and the emotional strength to get through this ordeal.
Wilson introduced the idea to her husband, Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met, who offered the company’s support and persuaded the Polish National Opera to help as well. The orchestra will meet in mid-July in Warsaw for rehearsals and will perform an opening concert at the Wielki Theatre, home of the Polish National Opera.
Gelb said it was important for art groups to speak out against the Russian invasion. Shortly after the invasion began, the Met announced that it would not hire artists or institutions that supported Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Last month, the Met hosted a concert in support of Ukraine; streamers forming the Ukrainian flag stretched outside the theater, bathed in blue and yellow spotlights.
“It’s a global situation that goes way beyond politics,” Gelb said in an interview. “It’s about saving humanity. The Met, as the largest performing arts company in the United States and one of the leading companies in the world, clearly has a role to play and we have played it.
The Freedom Orchestra will perform a variety of works, including the Seventh Symphony by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov; Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova; Brahms’ Fourth Symphony; and Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony.
How the war in Ukraine affects the cultural world
Renowned Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who is currently performing the title role in Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Met, will perform an aria from Beethoven’s “Fidelio” that addresses themes of hope and peace.
The musicians represent a mix of Ukrainian ensembles, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyiv National Opera and Kharkiv Opera. Some are part of European ensembles, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Tonkunstler Orchestra of Vienna and the National Orchestra of Belgium.
Ukraine’s culture ministry will allow the orchestra’s male musicians to take part in the tour, despite rules prohibiting men of military age from leaving the country, the ensemble said.
Komonko, the violinist, who left Ukraine last month with his family for Sweden, where he plays in an orchestra, said music could be a distraction from violence.
“When you go through all of this, you look at music differently, through different lenses,” he said. “It makes me forget the war. This allows people to continue to live.