A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for opera

Passover highlights

First night, first seder: There were several seders happening in the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community, including at the JCC, at Hesed, at the Yeshiva, one prominent private seder for parents of children in the kindergarten (ages 2-5), and the VIP seder in the synagogue, which I attended as a guest of the Ben-Zvi clan. Amir, Sharon, Ori, Ido, and I sat at a table near the bimah and the Kaminetzky table (“It must be nice to have your immediate family fill an entire table,” I commented to Sharon) at this most massive seder. You have to see the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community website pictures to understand the scope of this monster. It was not only the largest seder I’ve attended, it was also the fastest. It was so noisy in the cavernous synagogue, with every whisper echoing off its accoustically sound walls, and even next to the rabbi and Yan, who was leading the seder, I could barely hear a thing. Given the wide scope of participants, the goal was apparently to give everyone a small taste of a seder and then get them the food. It’s a shame it went by so quickly, because I know how much preparation went into it. Yan brought in the Jewish singers from the Dnepropetrovsk opera, and the Hillel kids were recruited to serve as helpers throughout the service. They stood in strategic locations and indicated which page we were on and which vegetable was being dipped at any given time. Believe it or not, they rehearsed for this several days in a row, for hours at a time. In any event, the seder meal was absolutely spectacular. There were five or six courses, featuring herring and salmon at each course, brought out by professional (goyishe) waiters and somehow served piping hot to all 200 or 300 guests. It was quite impressive.

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Romance concert at the JCC

Back in November, my friend Lena went to see me perform two Russian pieces, a duet with this other singer named Boris, and an aria. I just found the photos today. Without further ado, a very vain and shameless promotion from that November concert:

Дама с камелиями (The Lady of the Camelias)

This is one of the best directed performances I have ever seen. It is a new interpretation of Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera La Traviatta, which was adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Dame aux Camélias. You are very familiar with this opera, even if you think you’ve never heard of it. There are scores of representations of this opera (The film Moulin Rouge, for example, is based on La Dame aux Camélias), and the arias are played so often, everyone would recognize them. So what did the Opera and Ballet Theater of Dnepropetrovsk do that made such an impression on me?

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Свадьба Фигаро (The Marriage of Figaro)

I missed the first act, as a matter of fact. I bought my ticket, which seemed to say that the performance would start at 19.00. It was strange, because it looked like there was some kind of smudge on the 9, but there was no mistaking it for any other number. Well, when I showed up at 7 pm, I found everyone at intermission, buying snacks and stretching their legs in the lobby? What happened, you might ask? Upon closer examination of the ticket, it turns out that the smudge I had seen was really a penmark, making a very poor attempt to transform the 9 into an 8 (and considering that this is not very difficult to do, I was rather frustrated at the whole mess). Fortunately, I am very familiar with the opera, and although it would have been nice to see the first act, it was not necessary for my enjoyment of the rest of the performance. Besides, it’s a long show, and I still had two hours worth of opera left.

When I bought my ticket, I thought it was strange that the title of the opera was written in Russian. Carmina Burana had always been written in the original Latin, not even with the Cyrillic alphabet. Why, then, wasn’t the title written in the original Italian?

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Carmina Burana

When I found out that tickets to The Opera and Ballet Theater of Dnepropetrovsk only cost 15 grivnas (otherwise known as THREE DOLLARS!!), less money than it costs to buy a cup of coffee, I decided that I was going to go every week. Since the season opened on Wednesday (and it was Rosh Hashana, so I couldn’t go), so far I’m 1 for 2.

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