PREMIERE. Psalms of War
Libretto by Vasyl Vovkun
Creative idea by Yevhen Savchuk
You! Bastard sons of torturers satanic!
Forget this not, you harvest of the mud:
My nation is, its vibrance is Titanic,
My nation’s veins still throb with Kozak blood!
To speak so as never to forget. To appreciate and be grateful to the defenders for every dawn!
Lviv National Opera is proud to present “Psalms of War”, the first monumental musical piece about the war that Russia started against Ukraine.
The piece, composed by Yevhen Stankovych with a libretto by Vasyl Vovkun, aims to capture the raw emotions and events of the ongoing, cruel and cynical rashist war in Ukraine.
This work serves as a call to arms, urging Ukrainians to stand their ground and defend their country while also warning the world of the atrocities committed during this ruthless and cruel war.
The performance will be brought to life by the choir and orchestra of Lviv Opera, conducted by maestro Ivan Cherednichenko.
“Psalms of War” consists of four movements:
1) Music of war
2) The black tillage is plowed
3) A lullaby
4) Psalm of war
Poetry by Taras Shevchenko, Lina Kostenko, Vasyl Symonenko, a Cossack folk song and excerpts from Psalms of David have been used in the composition.
Creators: Director and librettist – Vasyl Vovkun Chief conductor – Ivan Cherednichenko Chief choirmaster – Vadym Yatsenko Media artist – Oleh Kindrativ Lighting designer – Oleksandr Mezentsev, Andriy Hots Performers: Choir and orchestra of Lviv National Opera Soloists: Soprano – Anastasiia Yatsenko, Halyna Honcharova Bass/baritone – Nazar Pavlenko / Oleksii Kuvitanov Conductor – Ivan Cherednichenko
Ivan Cherednichenko Winner of international competitions
|Режисер та лібретист||
Vasyl Vovkun People’s Artist of Ukraine, Professor
Vadym Yatsenko Winner of Ukrainian competition
Vasyl Vovkun, director and author of the “Psalms of War” libretto:
“Psalms of War” belongs to a particular category of Yevhen Stankovych’s works that document in music the historical events the Ukrainian people have experienced. Among his most notable works, the first one chronologically is the Kaddish-requiem “Babyn Yar,” which is a tribute to all those who lost their lives in Babyn Yar. I would say that the next significant piece is the “Parastas for those who died of famine,” which is a timeless work that will always be played in honor of the victims of the Holodomor.
“Psalms of War” is Stankovych’s another work in the context of the nation’s musical memory. It captures the raw pain and brutality of the war, evoking a range of emotions that we have all felt during this difficult time. At the same time, it carries a powerful message of hope, echoing Shevchenko’s timeless words of encouragement “Keep fighting – you are sure to win!”, and a warning to the world – “… It’s us today, tomorrow – you.” The piece also contains the theme of children’s shattered destinies, which is especially painful in the context of a full-scale invasion. There are children killed, and children kidnapped or forcibly taken out of Ukraine. The international community records this crime of Russia, and this work draws the attention of society to the cynicism and cruelty.
Writing the libretto for the piece proved to be a daunting task. At first, I tried to look for what already exists in literature, particularly in poetry. I found out that the servicemen write the most about the war, and that is what we call folk poetry. There are poems by Serhii Zhadan, Viktoriia Amelina, Mariana Savka and many others dedicated to the war. I started with one script, but ultimately scrapped it and began anew. Writing about war, particularly from an emotional viewpoint, is incredibly challenging. In the end, the final concept of the libretto emerged.
In the first movement, Lina Kostenko’s short poem “Despair and blood and death and terror” is used, where there are lines about “Little wretched evil bearer Committed horrible besiege.” The second movement unites contemporary times with Ukraine’s history of fighting this enemy since the Cossack era. Thus, a Cossack song is used as a folk requiem.
The third movement is a lullaby that was sung by the mother of a fallen defender at his farewell ceremony in the Garrison Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The composer chose not to use lyrics in order to respect the privacy of this somber moment, opting instead for a vocalise that would be sung by the choir. The final part of the piece features excerpts from the Psalms of David, which curse war and its destructive nature. This curse is universal because the Psalms are part of the Old Testament, and since ancient times, war has been viewed as a great evil that causes immense suffering.
“Psalms of War” is a work in which all parts are united by a historical context and reflect all those new pains and wounds this war caused. This is an artistic testimony of the events of our time, reminding future generations of the high price that is paid for our freedom.
Yevhen Stankovych, composer:
The impulse to write the work was a cruel and cynical war the Russian aggressor started against the Ukrainian people. “Psalms of Was” has been created, like some of my previous works, in cooperation with my friends, with whom I often work. These are Vasyl Vovkun, Yevhen Savchuk and Volodymyr Sirenko. So, we can say that this composition appeared due to the creative synergy of several people.
The author of the libretto is Vasyl Vovkun. I am happy to create several great works where Vasyl Vovkun is the author of the libretto, including “Passion for Taras” and others.
The libretto and the terrible war closely connected us. My task was to use musical means to embody tragic events, the theme of Russia’s cynical war against Ukraine.
Under the direction of Vasyl Vovkun, my work took on a poignant and symbolic stage adaptation, deviating from the traditional interpretation of the cantata or oratorio genre. I would consider it a musical performance for choir and orchestra.
“Psalms of War” consists of four movements. The first movement is called “Music of War” and is the main, most detailed part of the work. It was based on all the horrors of the war, what I saw and experienced… What the Russians are doing in Ukraine. It was written on poems of different poets including Taras Shevchenko and Lina Kostenko.
The second movement is called “The black tillage is ploughed”. It uses a well-known Cossack folk song, the plot and emotional content of which remains relevant for all of us today:
The black tillage is ploughed, hey, hey,
And with bullets it is sown, hey, hey,
A white body drapes it, hey, hey,
And is washed in blood, hey, hey!
The third movement is “Lullaby”. This is a highly tragic part. The choir sings without words because, often, they are powerless. I couldn’t pick them up… What I saw, heard, knew, and not only me but each of us was embodied here – the terrible horror of war!
The finale of the work is “Psalm of War”, the part from which the idea of the work arose and began. It is based on the texts of the Psalms of David. The most important and eloquent lines of the work were chosen for the musical embodiment.
Working on “Psalms of War” was extremely difficult! As a composer, I found it to be an arduous task, and I can imagine my colleagues who contributed to the creation and staging of this piece felt the same. It’s not just us; every person in Ukraine finds it difficult.
However, it was crucial for me to immortalize the atrocities committing by the Russians on our land every day through music, so that it can serve as a reminder for both the present and future generations.