Premiere of the new English opera Holodomor (Red Earth. Hunger) was staged as a part of the free concert in Las Vegas (USA) in the Doc Rando Hall of Lee and Thomas Beam Music Center. Virko Baley is Ukrainian-American conductor, pianist, and composer. News portal inosmi.ru reports with the reference to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the debut of Baley’s new creation will take place in New York on February 5. Baley was born in Ukraine in 1938 and did not experience the Great Famine, but he says that he knew people “who went through that.” He has been contemplating the idea of the opera for nearly 30 years but repeatedly postponed it. Part of its music material was used in his second symphony and in chamber piece Dreamtime.
Baley spent five months working in the Institute of Ukrainian Studies at Harvard University. International conference on the Holodomor that was held at the university gave the composer an opportunity to present the fragments of the unfinished opera to the public. The presentation took about an hour. After those fragments were performed in the UN headquarters, the maestro decided that it was time to go back to work on this piece.
By the way, in October of 2012 Kyiv audience were the first to hear the fragments of the opera by Baley Holodomor (Red Earth. Hunger) performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the National Philharmonic Society of Ukraine (conducted by Vitalii Protasov) and two soloists: soprano Tamara Khodakova (Woman) and tenor from the United States John Duykers (Man). The audience listened to the introduction to the opera (instrumental part) and parts of the opera: “Lullaby,” “Time of the Wolf,” and “Eternal Light.”
“Bohdan Boichuk has a play Hunger. I really liked it and I saw a great potential for an opera in it,” said Baley in his interview to The Day. “There are only two main characters – Man and Woman, there are no mass scenes, and it is important from the practical aspect, because in America there are very few professional opera houses that can stage a large-scale modern opera. This requires a budget of nearly 500,000 dollars, which is a large sum of money that will be not covered from selling the tickets. At this moment university theaters are free in the choice of repertoire. In the early 1990s the theater department at the University of Las Vegas, where I teach, decided to stage my opera, Yurii Ilienko was supposed to be the director. However, back then nothing came of it because university soon abandoned the project…
“At first, there is nothing sacred for my character, he mocks those who have faith in them and then starts breaking the cross out of anger, wounding his hands till they start bleeding. This is the moment of catharsis! He realizes that he will die and then he starts feeding a small child with his blood so that the child would live. I think most people want their lives to pass not in vain.
The Woman with the child go on and there is a little hope that they will survive. If this happens, the woman will change because she has finally found the good in people even in a really bad situation…”