1677308198 Mozarts Requiem and Beethovens Fifth in honor of the dead

Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Fifth in honor of the dead and as a herald of victory in Ukraine

Mozarts Requiem and Beethovens Fifth in honor of the dead

The Metropolitan Opera headquarters in New York was wrapped in the Ukrainian flag this Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of the war with a special and symbolic concert called the Concert of Remembrance and Hope. The program, sponsored by the Ukraine Mission to the United Nations and Lincoln Center, opened with that country’s national anthem and ended with the tender Prayer for Ukraine, a choral composition by Valentin Silvestrov. The banner’s blue and yellow colors took over the facade and the stage, but they also covered tenor Dmytro Popov and baritone Vladiyslav Buialskky, who came out to greet the concert in their flag. Before the first chord sounds, a short video message from Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, recalled the year of war and suffering, but also of the resistance of the Ukrainian people.

The program, by the Metropolitan Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by the Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin, was a true classic of the symphonic repertoire, but also full of symbols: Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the Duel of Sacrifice and Hope in both remarkable versions by Nézet-Séguin, the current Musical Director of the Metropolitan Opera, who will be replaced by Gustavo Dudamel in 2025. The director has provided insights into Mozart’s profound work, as in the imposing and once delicate Lacrimosa and the Benedictus, and has signed a stunning version, particularly in the last two movements, of Beethoven’s famous symphony; so powerful that it ripped the audience from their seats.

The event was attended by, among others, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya; his American counterpart Linda Thomas-Greenfield and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, after attending the marathon special sessions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, which have been held at the organization’s headquarters since Wednesday. Because the concert also had a political reading, as Peter Gelb, artistic director of the Met, recalled in the hand program: Mozart’s Requiem “honors and commemorates the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who drew their last breath for the freedom of their homeland, as well as the countless civilians killed, injured, displaced or robbed by Russian attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure.” In turn, Beethoven’s work represents “an impassioned hymn to victory to come, reviving a tradition begun by the Allies during World War II Indeed, his first move became a powerful symbol of hope for the Allies during the war.

Everything in New York these days is reminiscent of Ukraine, and even more so in terms of culture. Art galleries, museums such as the small Ukrainian Museum in the East Village, whose visitor numbers have skyrocketed since the beginning of the war, or finally the planned tour of the Lviv Symphony Orchestra with concerts in New York and Washington and whose members are witnessing the devastation of their country from afar. Kiev’s message of resistance is sometimes surpassed, as on February 15 at Carnegie Hall, when the room’s lights went out and a familiar voice, frank and hoarse, thundered out of the darkness. It was a video message from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, reminding viewers of the darkness that has plagued much of the country over Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure. A successful coup d’état to frame the performance of an orchestra, that of Lemberg, whose musicians have been on tour for almost a year and are suffering from the war from afar.

Like the tenor Dmytro Popov, who has his headquarters in Berlin but lives in Ukraine with his direct family and who learned in April that his parents’ house in Donbass had been destroyed by a bomb. In an interview with Agence France Presse this week, Popov said he heard the news just as he was about to perform in London, but said that emotion was a bad companion for a singer. “All opera singers have to control their emotions. If there’s too much emotion, we can’t sing,” he explained. Emotion boiled over on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera again this Friday when she interpreted the score of the Mozart Requiem as if it were “a prayer for our dead”.

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