In the early hours of February 24, the cultural life of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities came to halt as the country braced to endure the invasion of Russian forces. After three months, Ukraine is still fighting the invaders, but a brief and melodic respite was enjoyed this Saturday when the Kyiv Opera House reopened for a performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
Of course, this wasn’t like the thousands of opera and ballet performances at the Kyiv landmark before the war. Only 300 tickets were sold, and future performances will only be held on weekend afternoons. Also, viewers will only sit in the main audience area, not in the opera boxes, to facilitate quick exits.
Even with these precautions, the attending people of Kyiv were happy for a moment of culture. This Saturday’s audience was full of couples eager to dress up and hit the town as well as soldiers in uniform on leave from combat. Some who might not consider themselves “opera people” were still happy to go to the show.
“I can’t say opera is my usual entertainment, but it is an incredible feeling to hear this music and to be in a different world for a little while, before coming back to our reality,” said Volodymyr, a soldier who only wanted to give his first name, to The Guardian.
While many artists and staff left Ukraine amid the violence, enough remained to put on a full-scale opera.
Soprano Olha Fomichova, who sang the lead role of Rosina on Saturday, fought back tears as she shared with The Guardian how she felt before going on stage.
“I had the feeling this morning that I was coming to sing a premiere, even though I have been singing this role for years. I feel like I’m coming out on to this stage, which I know so well, for the first time,” she said.
Fomichova sent her son to Germany during the invasion, and she has traveled to visit him there while also fundraising to help her country.
“When you take a Ukrainian flag onto the stage for the curtain call and you are met with a 10-minute standing ovation, I don’t have words to describe the feeling.”
Kyiv’s opera house has endured much in its history. It has only closed down for a similar length of time twice in its history. The first time was during the Nazi invasion of Ukraine, and the second was during the Pandemic. Just like with those calamities, the Kyiv opera house has once again reopened and brought music back to Ukraine’s capital.