Ukraine orchestra and chorus perform ‘Va, Pensiero’ outside opera house in powerful cry for peace

14 March 2022, 16:50

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Musicians of the Odesa Opera House performed an outdoor concert this weekend, calling for peace and a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

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On Saturday 12 March, the symphony orchestra and choir of Ukraine’s Odesa Opera House stood in front of the barricaded concert venue to perform a concert for peace.

The musicians performed a programme of music outside the 19th-century opera house, including Ukraine’s national anthem and ‘Va, Pensiero’ from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Nabucco.

Also known as the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’, ‘Va, Pensiero’ is sung in the third act of the opera when the Israelites have been captured and imprisoned in Babylon.

Poignantly, the chorus includes the lyrics, ‘Oh my country so beautiful and lost!’. The videos of the concert below were captured by journalist, Pierre Alonso.

Read more: Ukrainian pianist plays a final Chopin melody before fleeing ruined home near Kyiv

Symphony orchestra and choir of the Odesa Opera House
Symphony orchestra and choir of the Odesa Opera House. Picture: Alamy

Odesa is Ukraine’s last remaining major port on the Black Sea, and unless the invasion is called off, the city is highly likely to be the Russian military’s next target.

The Odesa Opera House musicians were scheduled to perform two Verdi opera productions this month, but with performances cancelled, many have joined the frontline.

Singers, music teachers and instrumentalists have volunteered to fill sandbags at the docks to be used as barricades across the city to protect its citizens from the expected attack.

Read more: Brave musicians of Odesa Opera House sing while packing sandbags on Ukraine’s frontline

Saturday’s outdoor concert in Odesa was titled ‘Free the Sky’, and in a Facebook statement, the musicians explained the meaning of the performance was to “support the call to Western countries and other countries of the world to close the sky over Ukraine from enemy planes, missiles and bombs that daily destroy human lives”.

Conducted by the opera house’s music director, Igor Chernetsky, the performance included “an extremely symbolic performance of the Ukrainian folk song ‘Reve Ta Stohne Dnip Shypokij’.”

The Facebook post added, “It was this powerful piece of music that terrorised the enemy during the Second World War. So today the musicians of the Odessa Opera use[d it as] their musical weapon.

“We believe we will be heard! After all, we are protecting our land. We want to live in our blooming land and for that today we must fight for our future.”

Ukrainian flag spotted on a cello fingerboard during the performance
Ukrainian flag spotted on a cello fingerboard during the performance. Picture: Alamy