The Metropolitan Opera Commissions New Work by Ukrainian Composer
Ukrainian composer Maxim Kolomiiets will create an opera inspired by the accounts of mothers whose children were taken during the war
As part of its ongoing support of Ukraine, the Metropolitan Opera and the Lincoln Center Theater (LCT) New Works Program have jointly commissioned an opera by Ukrainian composer Maxim Kolomiiets and American librettist George Brant.
While the opera’s characters are mainly fictional, the story will be based on the true events of Ukrainian mothers who embarked on a 3,000-mile journey behind enemy lines into Russia to rescue their children being detained by Russian authorities. The mothers were given six months to find their children or lose them forever as wards of the Russian state.
The opera will also feature workers from Save Ukraine, one of several charity groups helping mothers find their children.
The idea to commission the opera originated in a meeting between the Met Opera’s general manager Peter Gelb and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska last fall. It is also part of the Met’s increasing commitment to new commissions and contemporary works.
Selected for his experience in opera and his deep understanding of Ukrainian musical traditions, Kolomiiets was chosen from 72 Ukrainian composers who applied for the commission.
Born in 1981 in Kyiv and based in Germany, Kolomiiets graduated from the National Music Academy of Ukraine as an oboist and from the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln as a composer.
The 42-year-old has written two operas alongside orchestral, chamber, and solo works, which have been performed at many international festivals. For this commission, he felt he had “a responsibility to create something great and to show something very dignified about [his] country.”
“The objective is not only to draw attention to Ukraine but also to shed light on similar situations around the world where mothers endure immense suffering while trying to protect their children,” Kolomiiets said. “I want people to empathize with this pain and use any opportunity they have, at various levels, to prevent this kind of pain from happening.”
Known for his acclaimed off-Broadway play Grounded, which the Met is also turning into an opera, Brant said he hoped to “contribute in a small way to Ukraine’s cause as it faces this staggering challenge to its existence.”
“I feel like there’s thousands of stories that could be told and should be told about this conflict, but this one seemed to convey both the scale of the horror that the Ukrainians face and the courage and resilience of its people,” he added.
Brant’s work has been produced internationally and his scripts have been awarded a Lucille Lortel Award, Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, Scotsman Fringe First Award, Off West End Theatre Award for Best Production, and more.
“We’re proud to continue to support Ukraine on the cultural front,” Gelb said in the press release. “The heroism of these Ukrainian mothers in the face of Russian atrocities is a story that should be amplified theatrically and is in the good creative hands of Maxim and George.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Met was one of the first cultural organizations to announce that it would not engage performers or institutions that supported Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and withdrew performances with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko — one of the Met’s most popular artists.
The Met has since released an album to support the people of Ukraine and created the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, an ensemble of refugees who fled the war and artists who stayed behind, which has led two international tours.