24-year-old Ukrainian bass-baritone leads Metropolitan Opera in moving national anthem

2 March 2022, 16:34 | Updated: 3 March 2022, 20:40

Ukrainian national anthem, performed by the Met Orchestra and Chorus
Ukrainian national anthem, performed by the Met Orchestra and Chorus. Picture: YouTube

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

The Met Orchestra and Chorus were joined by a 24-year-old Ukrainian bass-baritone, who sang without a score, hand on his heart.

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At the opening night of Verdi’s Don Carlos at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York earlier this week, the orchestra and chorus gave a moving rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week, musicians across the globe have performed Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy i slava, i volia in solidarity.

The national anthem performance was preceded by a moment of silence by the audience, before music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, led the orchestra and chorus in song.

The audience reportedly sprang to their feet, and applause and cheers were heard at the end of the anthem.

Nézet-Séguin filled in for Valery Gergiev at Carnegie Hall performances this weekend with the Vienna Philharmonic, after the Russian conductor was pulled from the programme due to his pro-Putin ties.

Read more: Russian conductor Valery Gergiev dropped by leading orchestras and festivals over Putin ties

Stood centre stage with his hand over his heart was Ukrainian bass-baritone Vlad Buialskiy.

The only singer not to be reading from sheet music, the singer is a second-year artist in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and gave the chorus pronunciation lessons before the anthem performance. He later performed in the opening night of the opera in the role of the ‘Flemish Deputy’.

The 24-year-old singer has told reporters that he is “worried sick” about his family stranded in Ukraine. Buialskiy was emotional during the performance and walked off the stage “with a heavy heart”.

He disclosed that he had been trying to control his emotions on stage, but due to the sensitive nature of the moment, he couldn’t stop himself from crying.

The national anthem performance came the day after a video statement from the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, was posted on the website, urging the leaders of the free world to support Ukrainians in “their hour of need”.

Gelb continued: “As an international opera company, the Met can help ring the alarm and contribute to the fight against oppression.

“While we believe strongly in the warm friendship and cultural exchange that has long existed between the artists and artistic institutions of Russia and the United States, we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him – not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored, and restitutions have been made.”

While no artists or institutions were named, according to the New York Times, the new policy will likely mean that the Met’s partnership with Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre will be coming to an end.

Read more: Russian ballet and music performances cancelled as arts venues voice support for Ukraine