New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Polish National Opera will organize an orchestra tour this summer that will include Ukrainian musicians to raise funds for the nation’s artists. After its opening performance in Warsaw on July 28, the group is expected to travel across Europe to cities including Munich and Amsterdam before concluding at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The string of performances comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters a new protracted stage. Fierce Russian bombardments are wreaking havoc on southern and eastern Ukrainian cities, and over 5 million civilians have already fled the country. Amid the destruction, there have been repeated images of Ukrainian artists seeking to lift people’s spirits with music.
“Music can be a powerful weapon against oppression,” read a joint statement from general manager of the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb and Waldemar Dabrowski, director of the Teatr Wielki. “This tour is meant to defend Ukrainian art and its brave artists as they fight for the freedom of their country.”
Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who will lead the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, is credited with proposing the charity effort. This tour, she said, is an expression of love for Ukraine and to honor those who have died and suffered.
The ensemble will feature musicians — some of them refugees — from Ukraine’s top performance groups, such as the National Opera of Ukraine and Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra. It will also draw talents from other European orchestras.
Authorities in Kyiv have exempted some male artists from military duties so they can use “their instruments in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity,” according to a news release from the Metropolitan Opera.
The tour’s repertoire will include Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s “Seventh Symphony” and showcase Ukrainian artists like concert pianist Anna Fedorova and leading soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska.
Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko lauded the collaborative effort to help Ukrainian artists, adding that his country’s culture is “original and deserves to be at the center of attention abroad.”
The Metropolitan Opera was among the first performance arts groups to organize charity events for Ukraine. Last month, it put on a 90-minute program for a full house of some 3,600 attendees. The prominent New York-based opera company, joining a chorus of fellow arts institutions in the early days of the war, also moved to sever ties with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko for failing to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.