Ukraine’s powerful anthem fills Odesa Opera House, as it reopens for first time since Russian invasion

20 June 2022, 14:21 | Updated: 21 June 2022, 13:19

Odesa Opera perform Ukrainian national anthem

By Kyle Macdonald

Music returns to one of the epicentres of Russia’s war in Ukraine, as the rousing sound of chorus and orchestra is heard again.

In March, a historic 19th-century opera house became one of the most enduring images of Ukrainian defiance to Russian attacks. At the time the instrumentalists, singers, dancers and community of the Odesa Opera House came together to assemble sandbags, to surround and protect the historic theatre.

Orchestra and singers then poignantly performed Verdi in front of their barricaded theatre, in an act of musical defiance against their military intimidators.

With the opera house being a focal point of the story of Odesa, Friday 17 June felt like a powerful, pivotal moment. Almost four months since the beginning of the war, Odesa Opera House once again opened its doors to performers and audiences.

Photos show the inescapable precariousness of the situation. Guests pose for photos among the sandbags, and the hall could not be filled to capacity for safety and security reasons.

Read more: Kyiv’s National Opera House defiantly reopens as war rages on in Ukraine

Odesa Opera Theatre reopening
Odesa Opera Theatre reopening. Picture: Getty

However, footage taken in the hall by journalist Zarina Zabrisky shows the raw power of the moment when music returned to the much-loved building. Orchestra and chorus performed Ukraine’s national anthem ‘Slava Ukraini’ (above) and Verdi’s ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Il trovatore.

Odesa Opera opens for the first time since Russian invasion began

The weekend’s performances were dedicated to the Ukraine army.

A ballet gala followed on Sunday. Zabrisky said that air raid sirens delayed the start of the performance, which required many of those present to take to the opera house’s air raid shelter. All then returned to the main hall for the gala.

“[The] dancers threw a brilliant performance. You wouldn’t know missiles are flying towards the city daily,” Zabrisky said.