The Met-led Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra and Polish operas on charity tour

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The Metropolitan Opera of New York and the Polish National Opera will organize an orchestral tour this summer that will include Ukrainian musicians to raise funds for artists in the country. After their opening performance in Warsaw on July 28, the band are set to travel across Europe to cities including Munich and Amsterdam before concluding their tour at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

The tour is being staged as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters a new protracted stage. Heavy Russian shelling devastates cities in southern and eastern Ukraine, and more than 5 million civilians have fled the country. Amid the destruction, Ukrainian artists sought to lift people’s spirits with music.

“Music can be a powerful weapon against oppression,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and Waldemar Dabrowski, director of Teatr Wielki. “This tour is meant to defend Ukrainian art and its brave artists as they fight for the freedom of their country.”

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Ukrainian-Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who will lead the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, is credited with coming up with the charity effort. The tour, she said, is an expression of love for Ukraine and aims to honor those who have died and suffered.

The ensemble will feature musicians – including some refugees – from top Ukrainian ensembles, such as the National Opera of Ukraine and the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra. It will also attract talent from other European orchestras.

Kyiv authorities have exempted some male performers from military duties so they can use “their instruments in a remarkable demonstration of the power of art over adversity”, according to a press release from the Metropolitan Opera.

The tour’s repertoire will include Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s “Seventh Symphony” and will feature Ukrainian artists such as concert pianist Anna Fedorova and principal soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska.

Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko praised the collaborative effort to help Ukrainian artists, adding that his country’s culture is “original and deserves to be the center of attention abroad.”

The Metropolitan Opera was among the first performing arts groups to organize charity events for Ukraine. Last month, he presented a 90-minute program to a packed house of some 3,600 attendees. The prominent New York-based opera company, joining a chorus of art institutions at the start of the war, also decided to cut ties with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko because she would not denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

Corina C. Butler