UKRAINE’S ODESA OPERA HOUSE REOPENS IN THE MIDST OF WAR
By: Emily Ren
The reopening of the Odesa Theater in Ukraine this past Friday signifies the resilience of Ukrainian culture despite the slaughter throughout the country since the Russian invasion began on February 24th.
Odesa is a city that has been highly coveted by President Vladimir V. Putin, as it upholds a critical part of Ukraine’s economy. In 1810, a St. Petersburg architect’s design formed the original Odessa Opera House, though it was destroyed in a fire in 1873. It was then rebuilt with immense cultural variety and meaning, making it not only a financial asset but also a historical symbol to the country.
The recent performances of Romeo and Juliet, Tosca, and Turandot display shining art, which is a stark contrast to Putin’s blood-drenched overtaking of Ukrainian cities, most notably Bucha and Maripol. However, the quiet calm on the streets is only temporary; just seventy miles away, shelling is a regular occurrence within the city of Mykoliv. In case of these emergencies, there is a shelter within the theater for the occupants to take cover in.
Currently, proceedings are far from normal; the theater, a building of both beauty and splendor, stands with sandbags stationed outside of it in large piles. The theater sits only one-third full due to security measures. However, the performers and Ukrainians in Odessa have displayed the remarkable action of staying resilient in even these most brutal situations by creating art instead of cowering in fear. In the New York Times article “Odesa Opera House Reopens, Defying Putin’s Barbarism,” Roger Cohen interviews Viacheslav Chernukho-Volich, the opera’s chief conductor, who explains, “We got permission to perform from the military 10 days ago, and today is pure happiness. At the start of the war the explosions and sirens terrified me, as if I had plunged into some unreality, a World War II movie, but humans get used to everything. It is difficult, yet we want to believe in the victory of civilization.”
This reopening comes with the possible war crimes of a country overtaken, yet the Odesa Opera House’s performance not only shows the artistry of the pieces performed, but also Ukranians standing strong for their own nation.