The famous Lviv opera, its silence and the assertion of its director: “Only NATO can protect us”

Lviv’s magnificent Opera House – formerly the Solomiya Krushelnytska Opera and Ballet Theater – has been accumulating prestige for 120 years. Those who know the subject assure that its acoustics are comfortably among the most remarkable of the great opera houses. The best musicians, singers and dancers have taken to its stage.

It is so important that its facade appears on the back of the banknote of 20 hryvnia, the currency of Ukraine. But what many don’t know is that it must be the only one of its kind that a river passes below.

It so happens that the Polish architect Zygmunt Gorgolewski built it, between 1897 and 1900, in the center of Lviv, in the marshy area left by the “burial” of the Poltva River, which crossed the city and flows today Today along and down Prospekt Svobody, Liberty Boulevard, which ends right at the Opera House.

This Saturday an authentic classic was going to be represented: La Traviata, by Verdi. A full house was surely expected, about 1,000 spectators. But no.


Lviv Opera canceled its activity after the Russian invasion. Photos Marcelo Ferreiro / Special Envoy

The war has silenced the theater since the imposition of martial law by the Ukrainian government on February 24.

Vasyl Vovkun, former Minister of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine and now general and artistic director of the Lviv National Opera, tells Bugle He hopes the damage will not be greater. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces are showing the world unprecedented courage and bravery. Corn Russian cynicism has no limits and transcends the human dimension. We know that their aim is not only to destroy Ukrainian strategic sites, but also the national history and culture, as well as the civilian population. It’s a new genocide against the Ukrainian nation”.

Vovkum, like almost all Ukrainian leaders, asks for NATO help and the closure of airspace. “The Lviv Opera House, like other historical sites, can only be protected by NATO, closing the Ukrainian sky. But he does not dare, and this delay may soon be costly.

“We call for the introduction of Alliance peacekeeping troops into our country, military assistance to Kiev and support for the Ukrainian people, as has already been done, for example, in Israel. NATO, unfortunately, is in no rush to do this, because concrete actions scare them and they fear getting involved in war,” he says.

In any case, the director, 64 years old and trained as an actor, director and screenwriter, is not giving up on the season, which also speaks of Ukrainian hopes.


“Russian cynicism knows no borders and transcends the human dimension,” says Vasyl Vovkun, director of the Lviv Opera.

“This year’s season is difficult and unpredictable: everything will depend on the end and the consequences of the terrible Russian invasion. But we do not cancel it in any way. We continue to work. For example, we have created an online library of opera scores by Ukrainian composers on the theater’s website, which is already in great demand among our foreign colleagues.

He adds: “This season is special for us because we are celebrating the birthday of our patron saint Solomiya Krushelnytska, who, by the way, sang in Argentina. We plan to hold the 6th Solomiya Krushelnytska International Singing Competition and the International Opera Festival named after her.

The interior of the Lviv Opera House.

The interior of the Lviv Opera House.

The interior of the Lviv Opera House.

The interior of the Lviv Opera House.

Work has already begun on the opera “Dialogues de Carmélites” by Francis Poulenc and on the first reading of the opera “Terrible Vengeance” by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych. He is also planning the staging of the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev and one-act ballets to music by Mozart and his famous “Requiem”. The reality of events is likely to adjust our plans, but we will try to carry them out.

The last question, it must be admitted, is a little naive, but it imposes itself in this lyrical temple: Can music help peace? Vovkum’s response is forceful, pragmatic. He’s an artist, but he’s at war: “No! Unfortunately, it’s a utopia… The world has become too pragmatic, cynical and complacent”.

Special Envoy to Lviv, Ukraine

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