Futurofolk opera to honor baritone who left Paris Opera for Ukraine war

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com 

Culture

Article by: Yuri Zoria
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Editor’s Note

On 14 October 2021, Lviv Opera will premiere the opera-myth “Ukraine Terra Incognita.” It is dedicated to Wassyl Slipak, the Paris opera singer from Lviv who abandoned his career to join a volunteer battalion to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression and was killed in 2016 by a sniper.

It might just very well be the first opera where performers ditch the classical academic style of singing for the archaic, white-voice manner of polyphonic authentic singing found in Ukrainian folk songs. Combined with symphonic music and jazz improvisations, it is expected to be a unique show — and you can watch the premiere on 14 October online for free.

On October 14, which is since 2015 the Day is Defenders of Ukraine, the Lviv Opera will premiere a unique project. Titled opera-myth “Ukraine – Terra Incognita,” it is dedicated to the Ukrainian opera singer and soldier Wassyl Slipak (call sign Myth), who was slain in the warzone in the east of Ukraine in 2016.

Initially, Wassyl chose chose the call name to “Mephistopheles” for himself when he joined the battalion, but for convenience, it was shortened to “Myth” – shouting “Mephistopheles” into the radio took too long.

Wassyl Slipak

Wassyl Slipak performing in Paris. Photo: W.Slipak Facebook page

The authors of the opera are Uliana Horbachevska, singer, director, and researcher of authentic singing; and composer Maria Oliynyk.

Horbachevska is one of several cultural figures breathing new life into Ukraine’s ancient, nearly lost music and reimagining tradition.

The three Ukrainian women breathing new life into ancient musical traditions

This is a long-awaited event, which performers and the audience have been waiting for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions.

On the 29th anniversary of the Independence of Ukraine in August 2020, creators of the opera presented the musical action Myth of Ancestry with a song matrix of the future opera, then on 14 October 2020 the vocal video came out, showing three parts of the opera – “Myth of Family,” “Myth of Home,” “Myth of Love”:

In just a few days, listeners will be able to see and hear the opera in full, live at the Lviv National Opera and Ballet Theater. The organizers of the event also made sure that this premiere could go far beyond Ukraine.

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com

On premiere day, 14 October, from 19.00 to 22.00 Kyiv time, the opera will be livestreamed on the opera’s Youtube channel and on Facebook.

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com

As Zbruc.eu notes, the opera-myth “Ukraine Terra Incognita” reinterprets well-known genres and the place of Ukrainian music among them. The artists of the project don’t fit Ukrainian folk singing into the format opera created several centuries ago, but rather create their own format.

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com

“In our opera, Ukrainian folk polyphony is intertwined with free jazz and modern symphonic music, and the scenography emerges from abstract painting, video art, and futuristic folk costumes,” the project’s Facebook page reads.

“Each part of the opera-myth is self-sufficient artistically. The completed episodes create a perfect composition of microforms with the plot developing not linearly, but ‘spherically,’ gradually getting covered with details and opening new meanings to the listeners,” reads the opera announcement in the online newspaper Zbruč. “The history of the Ukrainian land has been created through centuries, and it is in the making nowadays, in the modern world. The authors of the work have stitched the Ukrainian past and the present with an artistic thread.”

All the artists of the project are going to convey this through authentic songs and folk lyrics with only one authored text, Iron Heart by Valentyn Morozov.

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com

The project combines symphony music and jazz improvisation with the authentic polyphonic singing of Ukrainian folk songs dating back hundreds of years — ritual, Cossack, and chumak ones, lullabies and love songs.

The archaic Ukrainian singing will be accompanied by the performance of a symphony orchestra — Ukrainian Festival Orchestra conducted by Taras Vergun, and by jazz improvisations by Ihor Hnydyn (percussion), Mykhailo Baloh (saxophone), and Polish multi-instrumentalist Ryszard Liatecki. The performance takes advantage of the video art by VJ group CUBE created in collaboration with scenographer and project artist Volodymyr Oleschuk, contemporary choreography by Artem Shoshin, and “futurofolk” costumes by Marta Wachholz.

Opera-myth Ukraine Terra Incognita. Photo: ukraine-young-opera.com

The project is organized by YMCA Lviv and the Wassyl Slipak Foundation with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. The 14 October premiere will be the starting point of the project’s artistic journey. In particular, the next place for the opera-myth to be staged will be Paris, the city where Mr. Slipak lived and worked for almost 20 years.

More on Wassyl Slipak:

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