March 23, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Ukrainian opera group, now refugees in Greece

“Nova Opera” is a group of young Ukrainian artists who strive to experiment with musical theater, giving it a more modern and fresh form.

Since their founding in 2014, they have a track record of collaborations, performances in Europe and the US, and awards. Today they create, experiment and dream from Greece, where they live as refugees. iefimerida.

When did the war in Ukraine start?
The beginning of the war in Ukraine found the group at the peak of their career. In the eight years that have passed since their founding in 2014, they have received many proposals for productions, commissioned new operatic works from young Ukrainian composers and delighted (mostly young) audiences with a fresh approach to opera, using the rhythms of rock, trip-hop, Gregorian chants, neo-baroque and folk music. Thus, the international competition “Music Theater NOW” included their opera “IYOV” in the top ten best contemporary operas of 2018, choosing it from 436 participants from 55 countries.

“We were told that modern opera cannot be staged in Ukraine, it would be risky. This was our motivation to show that modern opera will be successful if it attracts a lot of people. Our audience is mainly aged 20-40, and this success. Moreover, the success was that we inspired the creators to create new operatic works for us,” baritone and head of the ensemble Andrey Kosman explains to APE-MPA. “We are approaching Ukrainian culture in a new way,” adds soprano Anna Kirsh.

Among the collaborations they developed was with world-famous director Elli Papakonstantinou, who invited them to co-produce the play “Eros”, based on Plato’s “Symposium”, with music by composer and band partner Sergei Vilka and Katerina Foteinaki, and a libretto by Elli Papakonstantinou and Louise Arcumanea. Rehearsals began in December 2021, and in February 2022 the Greek team was supposed to go to Kyiv for rehearsals. The film was supposed to premiere in the Netherlands in May 2022, followed by a tour of Ukraine’s historical sites.

And then the war began. While the bombings were going on, and the band members were in bomb shelters, they decided not to give up their creative spirit and talk about what was happening through their art. Negotiations with Elli Papakonstantinou about the play they were going to put on went on daily, and at the same time Nova Opera created a new work “The Art of War”, inspired by the suffering of war, with music by Sergei Vilka and a libretto by the poet Miroslav Layuk. The work uses the phrases of the Chinese commander and philosopher Sun Tzu, and the arias alternate with the sounds of sirens heard in the bunker. “The work is dedicated to finding oneself during the war,” says Andriy. The premiere of the opera took place on April 7, 2022 in the Lviv Organ Hall concert hall. A day later, the members of the group left Ukraine.

“It was impossible to rehearse. We couldn’t concentrate because our thoughts were occupied with the news, trying to figure out what the next attack would be so we could save our lives. But at the same time, playing music was also a form of psychotherapy through art,” explains Anna Kirsh.

“We rehearsed and listened to the howling of the sirens,” Andrey Kosman recalls. “Once a rocket exploded a few blocks from the shelter where we were. We realized that we had to leave,” he adds.

Five members of the group, along with the cat, got into an electric car, which they had to stop and recharge every 150 kilometers, and arrived in Greece. This place was chosen to continue rehearsals with Ellie Papakonstantinou’s band for “Eros”. The performance was eventually completed and premiered in May 2022 in Rotterdam, followed by performances in Athens, Italy and Israel, supported by the Greek Ministry of Culture, NEON Agency for Culture and Development and the Dutch Performing Arts Foundation.

Now five members of the group, baritone and group manager Andrei Kosman, along with his teenage brother, soprano Anna Kirs, baritone, conductor and Anna’s husband Ruslan Kirs, cellist Zana Marchinska and drummer Andrei Nadolsky are in the refugee shelter in Elefsin.

“One of our dreams was to live together in one place and create an opera. But we have to be careful about what we dream about,” Andrey Kosman says with humor. “Camp life has its challenges when you’re used to living in an apartment, but it’s important that we’re all together,” he adds. They all saved their Ukrainian phone number so that they could be notified whenever an air raid siren went off in their city. “It’s terrible. After every alarm, we contact our relatives to tell us what happened,” he describes. see letter

In these circumstances, Nova Opera is trying to continue to create. Every day they go to rehearsals in the institution “Romance”, which accepts them. “It’s important to us that we found this space. The reason we stay in Greece is the hospitality and warm relationship we have with its people,” they explain.


The lives of the five core members of the group in Greece as they try to rebuild their lives and their journey as they dream of staging “The Art of War” in Athens is being traced by director Vera Iona Papadopoulou in a documentary she’s preparing called “Sing with Me” . It will be presented at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.

Of Ukrainian origin herself, Vera Iona Papadopoulou explained to APE-MPE that she felt very close to Nova Opera and decided to make a documentary. “The documentary does not record the history of the group, it is not a reportage. It is an observational documentary with elements of fiction, because they themselves come on stage, so the fiction is close to them. Also, the documentary is confessional in nature. It comes from the war, and that’s what unites me with them – the trauma of war.”

What are the dreams of Nova Opera, we ask Andrey and Anna. They reply that they want to present their work and especially their new play “The Art of War” in Greece in the short term. Recently members of Nova Opera living in Greece sang at the 10th anniversary event of the non-governmental organization SolidarityNow, where they presented three parts of operas written especially for the group, accompanying musician Faye Psychopedopoulou on the piano.

Ukrainian musicians in “Megaron”
On Sunday 5 February at 20:00 they will perform a chamber music concert at the Athens Concert Hall in collaboration with sopranos Irina River and Fei Pshopapidopulu. “Experimenting with opera, we do not forget about classical education,” says Andrey Kosman. The program includes works by Robert Schumann, Richard Strauss, Zoltan Kodály, Mikola Lisenko, Mikhail Zerbin and others.

According to them, the long-term goal is to return to their homeland after the end of the war and contribute to its reconstruction. “Until then, we, as artists, want to show Ukrainian culture and get the support of Europe. With such support, we will win,” Andriy Kosman concludes.

Photos of NovaOpera were taken at the concert, which the band gave in honor of the tenth anniversary of SolidarityNow. Copyright: SolidarityNow/Aggelos Barai

The photos of SingWithMe are shots from the filming of Vera Iona Papadopoulou’s documentary “Sing with me”.

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