“We are at the epicentre of the war for Ukrainian culture” — Chornobyldorf artists

Despite the war, the artists of the Ukrainian opera “Chornobyldorf” have resumed their rehearsals and are going to present renowned work in Rotterdam in May. The purpose of the tour is to inform about the dramatic changes that Ukrainian art is currently undergoing, and to remind the world once again that the war continues.


Due to the evacuation, the opera artists are divided between three countries and at least six cities. Part of the team is in Ukraine, some members are in Germany, France and Italy. However, the distance did not prevent them from starting active preparations for the tour.

Illia Razumeiko, composer and director of the opera Chornobyldorf, co-founder of the Opera Aperta laboratory: “This war is not just about the destruction of cities and people. This is an attempt to kill our culture. What we read in history textbooks back in school is now happening in reality. For the past 300 years, Russia’s real goal has been to destroy Ukraine’s identity. And now, as artists, we have to show the world that Ukraine is an independent state with its unique music, theatre, language, and a wonderful young generation of artists.”

According to the composer and director of the Chornobyldorf opera, co-founder of the Opera Aperta laboratory Roman Grygoriv, ​​live meetings are very important because new artists have joined the opera. New vocal parts and lines have been written for them. He says, “The opera aperta genre can be translated as an “open work”. This is what “Chornobyldorf” is. Therefore, we can improve it with each premiere and make small changes in the form and content of individual novels.

Why is Chornobyldorf not about Chornobyl, and where is the war?

The infamous fate of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant has shaped the well-known narratives of the “world after the catastrophe”. Following dozens of documentaries, Svitlana Aleksievich‘s book “Chornobyl Prayer” and HBO’s series, it would seem that it is worth looking for other clear associations.

According to the plot, the descendants of mankind, who survived the man-made, epidemic and climatic catastrophes, are building a post-apocalyptic settlement on the ruins of a nuclear power plant. Wandering through different locations, they find artefacts of a new tangible and intangible culture and try to recreate the lost world with the help of ritual performances.

Illia Razumeiko and Roman Grygoriv at the centre of Kyiv city

What “artefacts” will we deal with after the war?

The struggle continues, but there are already discussions: what will be our culture and Ukraine in general? After the victory, we will have ruined cities, and it is as if we will return to the post-apocalyptic world to remember what happened before this war, to rebuild what we will have, and to create a new world.

The authors of the work emphasize that the opera is not about the Chornobyl nuclear power plant as such, but about life after the “big bang”. Although, according to the plot, the link to nuclear power plants is still there. One performance was filmed in the Exclusion Zone. Another short story was filmed on the shores of the Kakhovka Reservoir, opposite the nuclear power plant in Energodar. The blockade of Ukrainian nuclear power plants by Russian invaders has once again reminded the world of the nuclear threat. Therefore, the composers want to expand these short stories and in the renewed opera to talk more about these landscapes and the danger posed by the blockade of the nuclear power plant in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The premiere of the updated version of Chornobyldorf will take place on May 23 at the opening of O.Festival. In the fall, the opera is planned to be shown in Austria, England and Bulgaria.

Also, on May 22 in Rotterdam, Ilya and Roman will play another work – the piece “Mariupol”, which was written two days before the Russian invasion. Composers want to combine music with a video of real crimes committed by the occupiers in Mariupol. With this performance, the authors seek to show foreign audiences the consequences of the war for thousands of Ukrainians.

Read also:

• A Survivor from Bucha: story of violinist

• Music and imperial ideology (Glinka’s case)

Violinist Anastasia Poludenna: “Until we undergo treatment, we are allergic to Russian culture”

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