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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Praying… at the Donbass Opera

First in its history, Anatolii Solovianenko Donetsk National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater opens the new season with a premiere
4 October, 2012 - 00:00
Photo by Andrii KORNIIENKO

DONETSK – The Petite messe solennelle is a grateful hymn of praise to God, the Intercessor of all faithful. This piece has a unique biography. Gioachino Rossini, an outstanding master of opera, at the age of 37 and at the height of his unbelievable fame suddenly and abruptly retires from public music life, hardly ever producing any considerable musical piece for theater for almost 40 years. And only five years before his demise did Rossini venture to write this Mass, a great, serious work. On completing it, the composer wrote a humble “letter” to God, asking to grant him Paradise, and gently referring to his Mass as the last of his “peches de vieillesse” (sins of old age).

For the Donbass Opera, opening the new season with such an unexpected piece was in itself quite a bold step. “In this time of trial for all of us, we wanted to bring eternal values into the focus. Faith in God is what should be inside each and every man. All actions must be completed with God’s will, to please God the Lord,” emphasizes the artistic director Vadym PYSARIEV.

Interestingly, it is next to impossible to come across the score of the Petite messe solennelle in music stores. To be more precise, it is not on sale at all. However, on a trip to Vienna Liudmyla Shemchuk, the prima of Donbass Opera, was lucky to purchase this rare score.

The idea of producing the Petite messe solennelle was supported by the theater’s director general Vasyl Riabenky, the chief choirmaster Liudmyla Streltsova, and the producing conductor Viktor Oliinyk. The directing was entrusted to Iryna Mykhailova, professor of the Donetsk Music Academy.

In a sense, the team came up with a “screen adaptation” of the great Rossini’s work. Not only could the audience enjoy the beautiful singing of the choir, the harmonious performance of the symphony orchestra, and the soloists’ heartfelt voices (Tetiana Plekhanova, soprano, Serhii Hontovy, tenor, Yurii Aleksieichuk, bass, and Liudmyla Shemchuk, mezzo-soprano), but they also could watch a slide show, specially handpicked by director Myroslav Babukov and displaying the familiar Old and New Testament images or beautiful landscapes).

As the final chords of the Messe died away, the audience sat still, and in a heartbeat burst with a storm of applause. There were emotions, flowers, and cathartic tears. So the Petite messe solennelle, expressing every man’s hope for salvation, transformed into an image of a universal prayer to the Lord, when thousands of lighted candles, just like the believers’ hearts, rise to the skies with awe and love, imploring Him for absolution and protection. These words could have escaped mine lips or yours: Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison – Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy!