The Odesa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet has eliminated Russian music from its programming.
The theatre’s artistic director, Nadezhda Babich, said, “We have stopped working on Russian music altogether. I think it’s obvious why. We have to win the war and afterwards we can return to that question again.” In July, the Ukraine government banned the sale of contemporary Russian music and books.
The ballet repertoire above all will suffer without the presence of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. One of the theatre’s principal dancers, Stanislav Skrynnik, told Catherine Philp of The Times, “From one point of view it is a loss because there are so many classics that have been danced for many years. From another point of view, it is a new opportunity to give birth to new Ukrainian art.”
So in September, Kateryna, a new opera by Ukrainian composer Oleksandr Rodin, will receive its premiere. In the pit there will be traditional Ukrainian instruments including the lute-like bandit and the trembita pipe as heard at the Eurovision Song Festival this year, played by the winners from Ukraine, the Kalush Orchestra.
The opera house is the first built in Ukraine, having been constructed over a three year period – from 1884 to 1887 – on the site of the first City Theatre, which burned down in 1873. Forbes included the Odesa Opera in the list of the most significant monuments of Eastern Europe. It was hardly surprising therefore that at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February the theatre was boarded up, but a month ago it reopened, though many of its workers, including singers and dancers, are no longer in Odesa having left the country or gone to fight. The current capacity of the 1,500-seat auditorium is just 300 to allow the entire audience to be escorted to the air raid shelter if need be.
Babich said, “Odesa cannot breathe without the theatre. It brings us life.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.