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Metropolitan Opera, Polish National Opera to host tour for Ukrainian artists

Ukraine's flag hangs at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York before a benefit concert last month. (Ron Blum/AP)
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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 its tour at the Kennedy Center in D.C.

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

“Music can be a powerful weapon against oppression,” said a statement from Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager, 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.”

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Ukrainian Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who will lead the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, is credited with proposing the charity effort. The tour, she said, is an expression of love for Ukraine and seeks 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 the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra. It will also draw talent 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 statement from the Metropolitan Opera.

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

Ukrainian 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 arts institutions in the early days of the war, also moved to sever ties with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko because she would not denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.