PREMIERE “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” (“Cossacks in Exile”)

S. Hulak-Artemovskyi
PREMIERE "Zaporozhets za Dunaiem" ("Cossacks in Exile")
S. Hulak-Artemovskyi
150 minutes.

Opera in 2 acts

Libretto by Mykola Brovchenko and Oksana Taranenko
Musical version of Volodymyr and Oleksandr Saratskyi

Experience the exceptional performance of one of Ukraine’s most famous operas!

New meanings and a covert sense of a well-known plot that restores historical justice are highly relevant today.

The fresh vision of director Oksana Taranenko challenges the long-standing stereotypes imposed by the Muscovites, portraying the Ukrainian Cossacks as a powerful, militant, and freedom-loving force capable of overcoming any obstacle or enemy.  All for fulfilling their most cherished dream – to return to the holy Ukrainian land and live in a free Ukraine!

They are ready for the impossible, even the bloodiest battle and death, to achieve the dream.  But will the Ukrainians be able to win the Sultan’s favour and return home?

Don’t miss the new musical version of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” by Oleksandr and Dmytro Saratskyi, with spectacular set design by Tadei Ryndzak, authentic costumes by Liudmyla Nahorna, and modern choreography by Oleksii Busko, all under the baton of a famous interpreter of Ukrainian music Iryna Stasyshyn.

Feel the true spirit of independent Ukraine and its heroes, who, over the centuries, fought for their freedom!


Performed in the Ukrainian language


Act I

Scene One
The Danube River at night. Ukrainian settlement near the border of the Ottoman and Russian empires.
Oksana, a young orphan, eagerly awaits her fiancé’s arrival from his Motherland. Meanwhile, Andrii, a young Cossack, illegally crosses the border, hiding from Turkish guards. However, he is not there to meet Oksana but to deliver secret information to the underground. Nevertheless, before visiting the Cossack Council, Andrii wants to meet his beloved. He sneaks into the village but fails to notice an enemy guard closing in on him. When Andrii meets Oksana, both are captured. Terentii, who loves Oksana, witnesses the scene. It was he who showed their meeting spot to the border guards.
While the guard marches them through the village, Andrii sings a prayer to call for help and alert the Cossacks. Above the village, the figure of the Cossack Mamay appears, chanting the same prayer. The voices of the Cossacks join him, indicating that the morale and unity of Ukrainians remain strong despite their captivity. They are ready to defend the young Cossack and their country.

Scene Two
In a foreign country, on the territory of the Ottoman Empire, there is the Cossack underground led by Ivan Karas. They meet at night to discuss strategic plans for the benefit of Ukrainians and Ukraine.
One of these gatherings takes place at Karas’ “niece’s” house, where the members of the underground organization convene. The Cossack Council, led by Ivan Karas, is developing a plan to rescue captives and return to the Motherland. They long for their old Motherland, Zaporozhian Sich. Some members suggest fleeing Turkey, while others advocate attacking the occupiers. However, Karas disagrees and waits for Andrii to arrive with the news. Unfortunately, instead of Andrii, Terentiy arrives with the news that Andrii has been arrested. Karas plans to rescue Andrii from captivity.

Scene Three
As the sun rises, the participants of the secret meeting return to their everyday lives as peaceful villagers. Peasants head to the fields to harvest crops.
Odarka is looking for Oksana; she needs to find out where the orphan has gone. Karas pretends to be drunk to avoid suspicion about his involvement with the Cossack underground. They start quarrelling, and Odarka leaves the house, and Ivan Karas breathes a sigh of: “Huh! Well, it seems the storm has passed. She believed it! So restless! I love her like Ukraine…”

Scene Four
The young Sultan walks past the house of Karas and Odarka accompanied by an escort. His father is on his deathbed, and he wishes to inspect his heritage and find the Cossacks who once saved his life on the battlefield. Cossacks are a powerful military force even in exile, so the young ruler needs to understand their mood, as his power is still arbitrary.
Upon seeing Karas, the Sultan wants to speak with him, but the Cossack does not recognize him as the future ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Karas tells the story of the battle, revealing that he was one of the Cossacks who saved the Sultan’s young son from imminent death in a fight.
Ivan Karas admits that he would like to see what the future ruler looks like now. In addition, the story tells that Oksana is the daughter of one of the Cossacks who died at that time, and Karas later adopted her. He also describes to the Sultan how Ukrainians live in Turkey, noting that despite the luxury, foreign land is not a paradise.
The Sultan realizes that he remains unrecognized and invites Karas to a meeting with the Sultan. Servants give Karas Turkish clothes and choose the name he should introduce himself, Urhan.

Scene Five
Near the house of Karas and Odarka, Terentii tries to extract any information from Odarka, but she is unaware of Oksana’s arrest and believes the girl has run away with a young man. Odarka becomes angry after being interrogated and mocked and locks Terentii in a storeroom.
The news of Oksana’s disappearance deeply distresses her, and she sits down, feeling tired. Terentii’s words bring up sad memories and thoughts about Karas and her fate.

Act II

Scene Six
A reception is being hosted near the Sultan’s palace. Courtiers and odalisques try to comfort the grieving young Sultan, whose father recently passed away. During the event, Karas arrives and is unsure of whom to speak with. The Sultan pretends to be a courtier and asks him for Cossack’s sentiments. Karas truthfully shares the story of the battle with the Arnauts and his loyalty to the young Sultan. He also asks to release the captive Andrii. The “courtier” offers to assist with the request. The young ruler thinks about the fate of the Motherland and relations with the Cossacks.
Meanwhile, Karas, dressed in Turkish attire, is amazed by the odalisques’ dancing and searches for the Sultan in the crowd. When he is unable to find him, he settles under a column and smokes a pipe.

Scene Seven
Oksana and Andrii, who are both prisoners, are waiting for morning in their cells. They are filled with sadness as they dream of returning to their Motherland. To give them hope, they think about the Cossack Mamay, a mystical figure who leads the army of souls of their deceased ancestors. This thought helps them overcome the feeling of hopelessness about their current situation in a foreign land.

Scene Eight
In the morning, Karas comes back home, now calling himself a Turk. Desperate, Odarka is impressed by her husband’s appearance. Karas releases the traitor Terentii from the storeroom and sends him away. The conversation between Odarka and Karas is interrupted by the guard who brings imprisoned Oksana and Andrii to the village square.

Scene Nine
The imam summons Karas and orders him to gather all the settlers. He then informs the Ukrainians that the young Sultan had granted them special privileges and ordered for the prisoners to be released as a sign of good faith. Everyone rejoices. Andrii and Oksana are freed from their imprisonment.
Terentii comes to the square but keeps his distance from the celebratory crowd. The traitor realizes that he can neither be with Oksana nor escape punishment for his treachery. At the same time, the border guards point out to Terentii that it was he who betrayed his people. No one respects traitors, so he receives a well-deserved punishment from the Cossacks.
Andrii informs Karas that the Cossacks are ready to gather in one large unit. The weapon hidden in a safe place on the native land is enough to go and liberate the Motherland. In his speech, Karas rejects privileges and urges people to gather Ukrainians from around the world. Mamay appears with the celestial army and guides them towards their destination.

About show
“Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” at Lviv National Opera

The opera “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” (Cossacks in Exile), authored by S. Hulak-Artemovskyi, has been a highly popular production in Ukrainian theatre for several decades.  However, only some performances of the Ukrainian repertoire have been as fortunate.  Even Lviv Opera, which has a history spanning over 120 years, has staged only seven different productions of this opera.  The upcoming premiere in 2023, directed by Oksana Taranenko, will be the eighth.

The opera’s popularity with the Soviet authorities is attributed to the fact that S. Hulak-Artemovskyi’s composition resonated well with the Soviet ideology.

The opera was written in 1862 and premiered at Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg (1863) and Bolshoi Theater in Moscow (1864-1865).

The author performed the role of Karas, and his work perfectly functioned in portraying Ukrainian Little Russians, specifically for Russians.  It was also emphasized by the first edition of the libretto of the opera published in 1863, the author of which was also Semen Hulak-Artemovskyi.  He defined the genre as “the original Little Russian opera in three acts, with choruses and dances.”

Following the Valuev circular in 1863, the opera was prohibited because of its Ukrainian language and the subsequent production of “Zaporozhets…” was not staged until July 11, 1884.  The performance was given with the participation of a Ukrainian opera company.

Subsequently, during the Soviet era, “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” served as a prime example, enabling the achievement of two objectives simultaneously: the widening of the Ukrainian repertoire and the consistent demonstration of the inferiority of Ukrainian culture.  The plot was ideally suited for this and was filled with stereotypical images and situations: an elderly, drunken Cossack, a grumpy woman, a rural house with wooden fence and mallows, and spontaneous feasts of poor Ukrainians, providing a reason for laughter.  A love story and a Turkish entourage complemented the story.

Nonetheless, the noteworthy contributions of artists who participated in various productions on the stages of Ukrainian theatres, and especially Lviv Opera, cannot be undermined because, among them, some sought to present Ukrainian art with dignity, even under the harsh constraints imposed by the Soviet occupation authorities.

The premiere of “Zaporozhets za Duniem” was held on July 19, 1941, at Lviv Opera, then known as the City Theater, under German occupation.  This opera marked the opening of the theatre season.  The performance was produced by the director Yosyp Stadnyk, conductor Lev Turkevych and set designer Myroslav Radysh.  The leading roles were played by Ivan Rubchak (Karas), Yevheniia Pospiieva (Odarka), Olena Bentsaleva (Oksana) and Yosyp Poliakiv (Andrii).

The programme from the production of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” during the Nazi occupation

Ivan Rubchak, one of the performers of the leading roles in the premiere production, had already established himself as an accomplished interpreter of Karas’ character during that period.  This role was the first big stage work of the singer and one of the leading in his career, with a record of over 1,200 performances beginning in 1903.

The actors were given very little time to prepare for a new performance.  Despite their efforts, they could not completely shake off the directorial concepts from their previous productions of “Zaporozhets…” because the theatre’s creative staff had to be formed anew with the beginning of the German occupation.  Despite this, S. Hulak-Artemovskyi’s opera remained popular among Ukrainians, and the new season was identified as “the first opera season in the history of the Ukrainian theatre in Lviv.”

The Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater, named after Lesia Ukraiinka, opened its season with another production of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” on September 1, 1944, after the Soviet regime returned to Lviv.  The event was held at the former Skarbek Theater (now the National Academic Ukrainian Drama Theater, named after Mariia Zankovetska) because the City Theater required renovations.  The company consisted of 470 people, including soloists, orchestra, choir, ballet, drama company, and technical staff, from both the Opera Theater and the Ukrainian Drama Theater named after Lesia Ukraiinka.  Director Yosyp Stadnyk became the general manager.

A scene from the opera “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” (1944)

The director of the new production was Petro Soroka, the conductor was Yaroslav Voshchak, the choreographer was Stanislav Falishevskyi, and the set designer was Mykola Ostroverkhov.  The main parts were performed by Ivan Rubchak (Karas), Yevheniia Pospiieva (Odarka), Nina Shevchenko (Oksana), Vladyslav (Volodymyr?) Sheptytskyi (Andrii).

The cast of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” had a short production period because Lviv Opera and Ballet Theater formed its company with all the necessary artistic departments in early 1945.  Some artists and staff from the production joined the Opera Theater, while others joined the Ukrainian Drama Theater named after M. Zankovetska.  The Ukrainian Drama Theater began its performances in Lviv on November 26, 1944.

After renovations, Lviv Opera began its season on May 1 with a new production of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem”, one of the six premieres of that season.  The season ran from May to October 1945, and during that time, 107 performances were presented, which were attended by 87 thousand spectators.

The famous opera was given a new view by director Volodymyr Manzii, conductor Lev Brahinskyi, and set designer Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov. Kyiv People’s Artists Ivan Patorzhynskyi and Mariia Lytvynenko-Wolgemut, along with Lviv artists, took on the leading roles and performed on the theatre stage.

A scene from the opera “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” (1951)

Two more productions of “Zaporozhets…” were performed at Lviv Opera in the 1950s: on December 31, 1953 (director Volodymyr Kharchenko, conductor Lev Mandrykin, set designers Fedir Nirod, Oleksandr Salman) and on December 3, 1958 (conductor L. Honchar, director Oleksiy Ripko, set designer Fedir Nirod).

In 1971, the theatre presented a new production directed by Mykola Sheremetiev, with Ivan Yuziuk as the chief conductor.  The creative team included set designers Tadei Ryndzak, Borys Kryvytskyi, and Larysa Stashchyshyn.  The premiere was held in July of that year, with Viktor Luzhetskyi (Karas), Valentyna Herasymenko (Odarka), Tamara Didyk (Oksana), B. Petrenko (Andrii) and Oleksandr Vrabel (Sultan).

A scene from the opera “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” (1950s)

Lviv Opera’s longest-running performance is “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” staged in 1987 and performed until 2019.  Renewing of this unique Ukrainian classical production was a significant artistic achievement for the theatre and provided valuable training for young directors and performers.  The show was created by a talented team including Mykhailo Dutchak (in his debut as conductor), director Volodymyr Dubrovskyi, set designer Mykhailo Ryndzak, choirmaster Orest Kurash, and choreographer Herman Isupov.

On July 18, 1987, the new version of the opera was premiered.  Viktor Luzhetskyi as Karas was particularly impressive, while Tamara Didyk and Nina Tychynska in the role of Odarka confirmed their exceptional artistic talent.  Liudmyla Bozhko and Olha Havrysh played Oksana, and Oleksii Danylchuk, Oleksandr Snytskyi, and Roman Tsymbala played Andrii.

This production was adored by audiences and was performed on the theatre stage for almost two decades.  However, the current Ukrainian reality of a violent and bloody struggle for freedom and independence calls for fundamental changes.

The new production of Lviv National Opera, directed by Oksana Taranenko, proves that, by using a well-known plot, it is possible to break the humiliating stereotypes about Ukraine and its people that Russians have cultivated for decades.  This new interpretation of “Zaporozhets za Dunaiem” will shift the historical perspective in a positive direction, emphasizing the true qualities that define us as a nation.  This production will break the unfortunate circle of a so-called “brotherly” relationship, which has historically attempted to suppress the Ukrainian spirit.

We invite you to our favorite performance filled with the new concepts and senses extremely urgent in our reality.  


Based on the works of  S. Maksymenko, O. Palamarchuk and the archives of Lviv National Opera.


Natalia Mendiuk

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Ivan Karas

Taras Berezhanskyy winner of the international competition

Volodymyr Dutchak

Dmytro Kokotko

Nazar Pavlenko

Volodymyr Shynkarenko winner of the international competition


Olesia Bubela winner of the international competition

Lyubov Kachala People’s Artist of Ukraine

Kateryna Mykolaiko winner of the international competition

Tetyana Olenych winner of the international competition

Lyudmyla Savchuk People`s Artist of Ukraine


Alina Didenko winner of the Ukrainian competition

Luydmyla Korsun Honored Artist of Ukraine

Daryna Lytovchenko winner of the international competition

Mariana Mazur winner of the international competitions


Maksym Vorochek

Mykhajlo Malafij winner of the international competitions

Roman Trochymuk Honored artist of Ukraine

Oleksandr Cherevyk

The Sultan

Mykola Kornutyak winner of the international competition

Petro Radeyko winner of the international competition

Yurii Shevchuk winner of the international competition


Andrii Beniuk winner of the international competition

Vitalij Zagorbenskyj winner of the international competition

Cossack Mamay

Oleh Lanovyy winner of the international competition

Vasyl Sadovskyj winner of the Ukrainian competition


Vitaliy Voytko

Yuriy Hetsko


Ivan Lykhach

print*The theater reserves the right to replace performers
print*The theater reserves the right to replace performers