Andrij Jurkevyč: Every molecule of mine belongs to Ukraine

Author: Petr Veber

“The Ukrainian opera world as a whole definitely has its place in Europe – and that’s how we want to present it.”

“I am a representative of the Ukrainian nation living in the Czech Republic. I perceive that Prague is a tremendous support to Ukrainian residents. It is an act of mercy and support that I greatly appreciate.”

“I have already conducted Dvořák, but not yet any of his operas. One is particularly close to me and I would like to make a debut with it someday. I mean Rusalka.’


On October 21st, an opera concert organized by the Prague National Theater is a symbolic solidarity support for those who suffer in the war conflict in Ukraine caused by Russia. It is subtitled Ora spei expressing the hope for renewed peace. At the State Opera, the program will include arias and samples from Czech, Italian, French and Ukrainian musical works performed by eight leading Ukrainian soloists. In an interview with, conductor Andrij Jurkevyč, music director of the State Opera, describes the concert and its goals, recapitulates his one-year work in the Czech capital and confesses his love for his country.

Is the Ora spei concert, expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine, your personal initiative?

It is an initiative of the artistic director of the National Theater and State Opera Per Boy Hansen . I then thought about how to take the idea concretely. The National Theater is so well-known and popular throughout the country that I cannot say: I came from Ukraine and now let’s do a concert for Ukraine… I don’t feel in such a position that I can come and propose a similar concert… We tried something already last season , but it was so full that the concert program could no longer fit into our schedule. And since then, there have been no other options than to include him in the program until this October. I am very happy that we can hold the concert.

And what form did you end up with?

We decided to invite eight singers from Ukraine from different generations. We will introduce the young generation of opera singers from Ukraine, who are now studying at the La Scala Academy or in Bologna, for example, but members of the older generation who have careers in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world will also come to sing. They all come to show the skills of opera singers. In addition to singing, we also try to support our native land in other ways. For example, we send money there. But besides that, we simply want to show the excellent abilities of our singers, their musical and vocal abilities, because they are really great. The Ukrainian opera world as a whole definitely has its place in Europe – and that’s exactly how we want to present it. That’s the idea of ​​the program. The individual numbers I have chosen divide the program into two parts. The first contains European arias and scenes from operas, well-known works by French, Italian and Czech composers. In the second half, I would like to present Ukrainian works, works that were written for this concert, as well as examples of classical Ukrainian music, for example, the first Ukrainian opera Zaporozhets za Dunajem by the composer Semyon Hulak-Artemovsky .

Do you see Prague as a friendly and creative environment that suits you?

I’ve been in Prague for a year now, but I still haven’t had enough time to consistently explore and fully discover this beautiful city. I spend most of my time at work, in the theater… And when I come home from the theater, I work on scores and read books… I live in such a more closed circle. I’m not the type of person who is completely closed off, but on the other hand, I’m not looking for contacts just to have some. I have a small circle of acquaintances in Prague. But the city is beautiful. I like walking in Vyšehrad or in the Old Town. And when I have a little more free time, maybe I take the tram to the terminus and walk there…

Did you know Prague before, or has your relationship become more intense now in connection with what is happening in Ukraine?

I already knew Prague. I participated in the Prague Spring festival in 2012, I conducted a concert where Edita Gruberová sang . I mostly work within the European Union. Now it is that I am a representative of the Ukrainian nation living here in the Czech Republic. I perceive that Prague is a tremendous support to Ukrainian residents. Many of them found refuge here, found support and work. And you have also accepted many Ukrainian children who can study here. It is an act of mercy and support that I greatly appreciate.


Was it difficult to get Ukrainian soloists to Prague? What is their personal situation? Some are in the West, some in Ukraine… Was it easy or difficult for them to attend such a concert?

First of all, it was difficult to find the right date, because some of those I intended to invite originally could not now. But luckily, we have a wide range of talented singers to choose from. Those who are worthy will come, they will come with great joy and with a sense of responsibility. Half of them actually live in Ukraine, half in different parts of the European Union, some, as I mentioned, are still studying in Italy.

Ukrainian photographer Dmitry Skvortsov is also scheduled to arrive.

Yes, his photo exhibition will tell about Opera Odessa, both before and after February 2022. He will arrive from Odessa, he will have to take a train to Lviv, another train to Poland to Przemysl and then other means of transport to get to Prague. He photographed the Odessa Opera House. His photo from the first days of the war was used in the Washington Post… We will organize an exhibition about both opera houses in Prague. The Odessa Theater and the Prague State Opera, then the New German Theater, have the same architects – the Viennese studio Fellner & Helmer. For me, it’s a beautiful connection, because there and here I held and still hold the same position of music director. The photo exhibition will focus on the state of the theater in Odessa before and during the war. It will document how the theater withstands the onslaught of wartime turmoil.

How do you feel about the situation and suffering of people in your country? Are you personally or family involved?

I am Ukrainian, every molecule of mine belongs to Ukraine. And even though I haven’t been in Ukraine long-term for over twenty years, I’m rarely there, in fact I was a director in Odessa for a relatively short time, so I think about my country every day. If she didn’t exist, I couldn’t exist either.

How has the unfortunate war period, which has lasted for more than a year and a half, changed your view of Russian culture?

If we are talking about the Russian cultural heritage, this, of course, remains unchanged. Tremendous cultural history… But I’m blocked by myself – I don’t manage Russian compositions… I just can’t. During the war, I feel that if I were to conduct Russian music, I would be insulting the victims that the war chose. And there have been many…


Do you have musical dreams for the Prague operation?

I can’t talk about secrets, but I can talk about work. When I work for the State Opera or any other theater with such a reputation, I always see it as a team. It consists of a production team, a director, artists, singers… Opera is a complex genre. And my dream is to achieve a high level, quality at all levels of the team… If an excellent score is poorly studied and sung, or if the scene does not correspond to what is in the score, then I will not achieve that dream.

If I were to ask about any opera work you would like to get to without digging into the aforementioned secrets related to other, as yet undisclosed seasons, would you answer?

If we are talking about Czech operas, I would first like to understand your soul, I mean the mentality of the nation, so that I can better understand your cultural and musical heritage. I have conducted Dvořák before – the Requiem and the symphony – but not yet any of his operas. One is particularly close to me and I would like to make a debut with it someday. I mean Rusalka . And one day I would like to be worthy of conducting Smetana’s Libuša .

Would it be realistic and nice to stage a Ukrainian opera in Prague?

You can be proud of excellent names such as Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček… As for Ukrainian opera creations – and perhaps none have been staged here yet – they would have to be worthy of being presented on the boards of the State Opera or in Prague in general. She would have to be musically interesting. I was thinking about one. It’s called Stolen Happiness , it was written in 1969 by Julij Mejtus . One aria from it will also be heard in the concert program. She is close to me and I think she could appeal to the Czech audience.

With what message, what message will you go to conduct Saturday’s concert?

It has already been said why we are organizing this concert and why it is called Ora spei , Hour of Hope … We have been fighting for centuries and one day we will win. If it’s not our generation, it will be the next generation. I believe that one day Ukrainians will be free – in the sense that they will not be under pressure from neighboring countries. Our culture will also help them to feel freer. I believe that future generations will one day live without the sound of sirens, that they will not experience an alarm when shelling begins… We can fight for it either with a weapon in hand or each of us by our own profession and craft.



Andrij Jurkevyč , music director of the State Opera in Prague, studied orchestra conducting at the Mykola Lysenko National Academy of Music in Lviv. Subsequently, he improved with Jack Kaspszyk at the National Opera in Warsaw, at the Chigiana Music Academy in Siena with Gianluigi Gelmetti, with Donato Renzetti in Pescara and with Alberto Zedda in Pesaro. Since 1996, he has been the resident conductor of the Lviv National Opera. In 2002, he moved to Italy and since then his career has also continued abroad. He has performed in many Italian theaters, but also in the Vienna State Opera, the State Opera and the German Opera in Berlin, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Flemish Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona , Teatro Real in Madrid, Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile, San Francisco Opera, Athens, Naples, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Dresden, Cologne, Zurich, Budapest and many others. He was the music director of the National Opera in Odessa, the National Opera in Warsaw and the Moldovan National Theater of Opera and Ballet. He first appeared at the State Opera in Prague in May 2022 during the performance of Verdi’s opera La traviata.


Program of the Ora spei concert on 21 October 2023 at the Prague State Opera:

Jurij Shevchenko : We are

Bedřich Smetana : Eternal Gods (Libuše, Libuše)

Sofia Solovij

Giuseppe Verdi : O Carlo, ascolta – Io morrò (Rodrigo, Don Carlo)

Štěpán Drobit

Bedřich Smetana : How am I (Milada, Dalibor)

Valentina Pluzhnikova

Jules Massenet : Wow! Laisse couler mes larmes (Charlotte, Werther)

Iryna Žytynska

Giuseppe Verdi : Che mai veggio… Infelice! E tuo credevi (Silva, Ernani)

Sergey Magera

Giuseppe Verdi : Patria oppressa (Macbeth)

Giuseppe Verdi : O figli, o figli miei! Ah, la paterna mano (Macduff, Macbeth)

Valentin Dytyuk

Giacomo Puccini : Senza mamma (Angelica, Sister Angelica)

Sofia Solovij

Jules Massenet : Ah! Tout est bien fini – O souverain, ô juge, ô père (Rodrigo, Le Cid)

Denys Pivnitsky

Gaetano Donizetti : Ah! tardai troppo – O luce di quest’anima (Linda, Linda di Chamounix)

Tetiana Zuravel

Pietro Mascagni : Regina coeli (Santuzza & Mamma Lucia, Peasant Cavalier)

Valentina Plužnikova and Iryna Žytynska


Jakiv Stepovij : Prelude in memory of Taras Ševčenko

Klimentij Dominčen : Hucul dance

Mykola Lysenko : When two separate

Denys Pivnickij & Štěpán Drobit

Semen Hulak-Artemovskyj : Scene and duet of Oksana and Andriy from the opera Zaporozhets za Dunajem

Valentyn Dytjuk and Valentina Pluzhnikova

Julij Mejtus : Anna’s aria from the opera Stolen happiness

Sofia Solovij

Mykola Lysenko : Aria Ostapa from the opera Taras Bulba

Štěpán Drobit

Anatoly Kos-Anatolsky : Oh, I will go among the mountains

Tetiana Zuravel

Anatoliy Kos-Anatolsky : Oh, you girl, you are like the kernel of a nut

Sergey Magera

I know I’m sinful

Ukrainian folk song

Iryna Žytynska

Mykola Lysenko : Taras Bulba, prelude

Myroslav Skoryk : Melody

Sofia Solovij

Mykola Lysenko, Ivan Nebesnyj : Prayer for Ukraine

arrangement for eight soloists, chorus and orchestra

Photo: Zděněk Sokol, Facebook A. Jurkevyč