After a three-decade hiatus, audiences can again see heroes of Kyivan Rus. This opera is set in a difficult period of the life of Yaroslav the Wise who set a noble goal to unite the warring principalities in a great power. The libretto is based on Ivan Kocherha’s well- known historical novel Yaroslav the Wise Therefore, Heorhii Maiboroda’s opera shows not only epic pictures (e.g., a popular uprising, battles against the Pechenegs) but also intrigues around the throne and a conspiracy that involves Yaroslav’s wife Ingigerda (former power-thirsty Scandinavia princess), as well as a love affair between Yaroslav’s daughter and the Norwegian knight Harald. What adds edge to the plot is the story of the monk and painter Mykyta, the mason Zhureiko, and Milusha. In the new production, the National Opera stage, with the original scenery by the well-known Lviv artists Tadei and Mykhailo Ryndzak, takes the spectators to the 11th century and makes the impression that heroes of ancient frescoes had revived. Among the audience are opera buffs, culture figures, and diplomats, who often patronize the theater. Also present at the premiere was President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine with his wife Kateryna, daughter Vitalina and son- in-law, Minister of Culture and Tourism Yurii Bohutsly, et al.
“That a Kyiv theater turned to a 20th-centyry classic work is in itself a very encouraging fact,” theater critic Yurii Stanishevsky believes. “A lot of nice oeuvres were created in the Soviet era, and it is very good that Ukrainian theaters are gradually restoring their erstwhile repertory which also includes original historical plays. It is gratifying that Yaroslav the Wise was produced by a young team: stage director Anatolii Solovianenko (who invented organic mise en scenes) and conductor Mykola Diadiura managed to cope well with Maiboroda’s complicated score.
The brothers Ryndzak made a gorgeous stage setting that turns the opera to advantage. But not all the singers did an equally good job. Unfortunately, indistinct diction of vocalists poses a major problem. This opera contains long passages from Kocherha’s difficult text, and some actors speak it out vaguely, to say nothing of singing. So the conductor should see to it that singers pronounce words and phrases more clearly. The actors still have to try to penetrate more deeply into the characters they play: they should not only depict a portrait but also convey the innermost meaning of this opera. Yet on the whole - in terms of composition, scenography, music and space - the product is a success. It is very good that such a large-scale and multifaceted piece as the opera Yaroslav the Wise is now on Kyiv’s billboards.
“I was lucky to attend the premiere of the opera Yaroslav the Wise in 1975,” composer Yevhen Stankovych confessed. “That show made a colossal impression on me. The opera was produced by Yurii Smolych and conducted by the legendary Stefan Turchak, with Fedor Nirod in charge of scenography. The main parts were sung by Oleksandr Zahrebelny (Yaroslav), Anatolii Mokrenko (Harald), Anatolii Kocherha (Sylvester), Gizela Tsypola (Ingigerda), Nadia Kudelia (Yelizaveta), and others - it was superb! I sat in the gallery and enjoyed the music and a splendid performance of the actors. You know, I knew Heorhii Maiboroda very well, although he was much older than me, but we maintained very close relations.
“I was excited in anticipation of the premiere. Once the overture began, I felt as if I were traveling in time. Well done! The producers managed not just to reanimate an old opera but to breath new life into it. I liked the way the National Opera orchestra (conducted by Mykola Diadiura) and choir (choirmaster Lev Venedictov) sounded. I would like to praise the soloists Lydia Zabiliasta (Ingigerda), Serhii Mahera (Yaroslav), Serhii Kovnir (Sylvester), Dmytro Popov (Mykyta), Petro Pryimak (Harald), Anzhelina Shvachka (Gemma), and others. There were, of course, some mistakes, but it is just the first performance, and the opera will be gaining momentum with each next show. The musicians and actors have plenty of chances to show their skill. It is very gratifying that the theater is again producing the Ukrainian repertory, and our National Opera is becoming national in essence, not only in name.”