Since 2017, Vasyl Vovkon, who previously held the position of Minister of Culture of Ukraine for three years, has been the artistic director of the Lviv Opera. He wants to develop the house artistically with a customized game plan.
Last year, the internationally successful conductor of the orchestra invited Oksana Lenev to conduct the new production of Unknown O’Brien by Mozart’s contemporary Dmytro Portnyansky. Leniv held her first show here after her huge success at the Bayreuth Festival in the summer of 2021.
The former Imperial Opera and Royal Lviv House was built by order of Emperor Franz Joseph and opened in 1900. It is one of the most magnificent theater buildings in Eastern Europe, and like the entire old city of Lviv, it survived both world wars. After renovation it sparkles in its original splendor.
Mr. Vovkun, your country is at war, how hard is it to start performances at the opera house back in April?
Lviv National Opera is the only opera house in Ukraine that resumed operations on April 1, 2022 despite the war. It is difficult for us to accept this terrible truth. psychological shock! Then there are the surreal portraits of Gostomel, Butscha, and Irpin. The so-called “Russian culture” and “the Russian world” led to appalling racism. Lviv has become a haven for millions of refugees from eastern and central Ukraine.
Are your employees involved in combat operations?
At the beginning of the war, theater staff joined the country’s defense. Many of them served in the Ukrainian army. Women volunteers helped produce necessary medical and military equipment and provide food supplies. The law of war and the current situation require the assistance of all personnel.
Art inevitably runs the risk of falling by the wayside.
We certainly noticed that we were neglecting our artistic skills because our theater had to remain closed. That’s why we dared to open it despite the constant bomb alarm. We have created a cache for employees and the public. At first we only organized concerts, but now we do full operas and ballets again. During the air raid alarm, we interrupt the work. But once you upload it again, we will continue.
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What are currently the biggest challenges you and your home face in your work?
The biggest challenge in the current situation is that life has changed dramatically for each individual, but also for our team as a whole. When creative people lose their dreams and plans, there is a great void in their depths. A mass depression is the biggest danger. To prevent this, we even began rehearsals for Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” during the war. It’s really hard because we don’t get any financial support for it. But we hope for our European partners and for our dream to come true.
Do you still have enough musicians, singers and dancers available for your products?
Since the beginning of this war, millions of refugees have sought asylum and protection in Europe and other parts of the world. Some members of the group, especially families with children, also fled abroad. But this is only a small part of our workforce and does not affect our artwork. By the way, artists from Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipro and Kiev are also working on our stage because their theaters are closed.
Why is it also important to introduce culture during this time? What do shows mean to people, how do you react when you come to your stage?
In these times of war, when people are constantly faced with news and bomb alerts and have to deal with their daily demands and tragic events, art remains the only place where one can still feel joy and life. This explains the run out of performances and sincere gratitude to the Lviv National Opera.