January 26, 2014

2013: Arts and culture: screens, stages and more


Ralph Laurel/The Cliburn

Vadym Kholodenko of Ukraine (right) winner of the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held May 24 through June 9 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Virko Baley conducts the New York premiere of the concert version of his opera “Holodomor. Red Earth. Hunger.” On February 5 at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater.

Erica Slutsky

Virko Baley conducts the New York premiere of the concert version of his opera “Holodomor. Red Earth. Hunger.” On February 5 at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater.

Screen and Stage

Arts and culture events kicked off in 2013 with the February 3 premiere of Ukrainian American filmmaker Andrea Odezynska’s documentary “Felt, Feelings and Dreams” at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. The film, made in collaboration with the Yara Arts Group, follows Kyrgyz women as they make traditional felt rugs (“shydraks”). Other Ukrainians collaborating on the project included musicians Andriy Milavsky and Slau Halatyn, who provided music for the score.

The fourth Kinofest NYC film festival, which highlights independent films from Ukraine and the broader post-Soviet region, began at the Ukrainian Institute of America. Other films were screened at the Anthology Film Archives and The Ukrainian Museum, with screenings held April 4-7. The festival featured 25 films screened during 11 sessions, including the premiere screenings of  “Pit No. 8” by Estonian Marianna Kaat, “Business As Usual” by Valentyn Vasyanovych and Iya Myslytska. Ms. Odezynska’s film was also screened at the festival.

Actresses Nina Arianda and Olga Kurylenko, pianist Anna Shelest and ballet dancers Christine Shevchenko, Denis Matvienko, Irina Dvorovenko and professional dancer Valentin Chmerkovskiy were profiled by Helen Smindak in our June 30-July 7 issue.

Ms. Arianda was to star in “Tales From Red Vienna” at the Manhattan Theater Club March 18 through April 20. In 2013 she was chosen for the title role as Janis Joplin for the upcoming film “Joplin,” wrapped up filming of “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” and “Lucky Them,” and made a guest appearance on an episode of the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.” Ms. Kurylenko, a Berdiansk native, appeared in the 2013 films “To the Wonder,” starring Ben Afleck, and “Oblivion,” starring Tom Cruise. Another film Ms. Kurylenko completed in 2013 was the action-thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, “November Man.”

Ms. Shelest, who was born is Kharkiv, is part of the Shelest Piano Duo, with her husband, Dmitri, and the couple was anticipating the birth of their first child, Ivan. Understandably, their concert schedule was abridged for 2013, however, they planned a whirlwind tour that included stops in Europe with the Janacek Philharmonic at Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna and at the orchestra’s home in Ostrava, Czech Republic, with a recording of the works of Prokofiev from the concerts.

Ms. Dvorovenko, the longtime principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater, retired from the ABT in May with an evening concert at the Metropolitan Opera House. During the farewell performance, Ms. Dvorovenko, a Kyiv native, played Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.” Ms. Dvorovenko, joined by her husband Maxim Belotserkovky, directed 50 students at the International Ballet Summer Intensive program at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. Ms. Shevchenko, who is from Odesa, was accepted as a full member of the ABT in 2008 and Mr. Matvienko, from Dnipropetrovsk, was a guest performer with the ABT in 2013.

Mr. Chmerkovskiy won runner-up with Zendaya Coleman in the 16th season of “Dancing With The Stars.” During the program, the couple was noted for its salsa, samba, hip hop, freestyle and jive performances. Mr. Chmerkovskiy, along with his brother, Maxim, has been on DWTS for four seasons, with the same outcome for the performances. The brothers own Dance With Me Studio in Stamford, Conn., the fourth chain of dance studios they started with Tony Dovolani.

The Yara Arts Group’s Virlana Tkach and her production of “Fire. Water. Night.” opened on June 7 at La MaMa ETC in New York. The production was based on Lesia Ukrainka’s “Lisova Pisnia,” and incorporated the summer solstice celebration of Ivan Kupalo.  The lead roles of Sylph and Luke were played by Jenny Leona and Jeremy Tardy. Alla Zagaykevych, from Kyiv, was the sound designer, which added aural atmospheres during the performance.


Award-winning composer Virko Baley’s opera “Holodomor. Red Earth. Hunger.” premiered on February 5 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York. The one-act opera with three scenes, based on Bohdan Boychuk’s 1985 play “Holod,” tells the story of three starving strangers during the Famine-Genocide of Ukraine in 1932-1933. Dr. Alex Motyl introduced the audience to the historical facts of the Holodomor prior to the performance.

Vadym Kholodenko of Ukraine (right) winner of  the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held  May 24 through June 9 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ralph Laurel/The Cliburn

Vadym Kholodenko of Ukraine (right) winner of the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held May 24 through June 9 in Fort Worth, Texas.


Washington-area concerts included: The Lyceum in Alexandria, Va., featured soprano Oksana Krovytska who sang Italian arias on February 10; violinist Dasol Jeong, a student of Oleh Krysa at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, performed at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on February 12; the Gerdan ensemble sang Ukrainian and other Eastern European songs at Georgetown University’s McNeir Hall on February 15; the London Royal Opera House film production of “La Boheme” was screened at the West End Cinema in Washington, and featured soprano Stefania Dovhan as Musetta and Dmytro Popov as Rodolfo; on February 22 pianist Zdanna Krawciw-Skalsky joined Bonnie Kellert in a four-hand piano performance at the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington’s Chinatown district; on March 24 pianist Oksana Skidan, violinist Ivanna Husar, soprano Oksana Kryvytska, flutist Andrei Pidkivka and the a cappella ensemble Spiv-Zhyttia  honored the compositions of Bohdana Flits at The Lyceum; on March 28, composer Myroslav Skoryk was honored with a concert performed by violinist Solomia Soroka and pianist Arthur Greene at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington; on April 10 Ms. Krawciw-Skalsky joined pianist Boris Skalsky for a concert in North Bethesda, Md.; on April 21 pianist Mykola Suk performed selections of Beethoven and others at the National Galley of Art. Many of the concerts held at The Lyceum are sponsored by The Washington Group Cultural Fund’s Sunday Music Series.

On March 2, the Music at the Institute concert series, known as MATI, presented “Beethoven, Barvinsky, Brahms and More” at the Ukrainian Institute of America. The concert featured violist Steven Teneborn, cellist Peter Wiley and pianist Lydia Artymiw.

In April, the Ukrainian Art Song Project, founded by bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka and produced by Roman Hurko, announced the digital release of the complete art songs of Ukrainian composers Mykola Lysenko, Kyrylo Stetsenko and Yakiv Stepovyi. The written music for the songs were also made available for digital download on the project’s website www.uasp.ca. The project is supported by the Canadian Ukrainian Opera Association and plans to release a commemorative CD marking the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevcehnko’s birth as well as other Ukrainian composers.

The Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus marked 2013, and its 95th anniversary season, with the concert series “Sounds of Spring: Songs of Easter, Nature and Shevchenko” held April 19-21. The tour began at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Windsor, Ontario, stopping in Detroit at the Sterling Heights Performing Arts Center and ending at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland. While in Detroit, the chorus performed a mini-concert for the students at the “Ridna Shkola” Ukrainian school in Warren, Mich., assisted ethnomusicologist Dr. Laurie K. Sommers’ research on the bandura, and met with members of the Ann Arbor Boychoir who attended the concert in Detroit. Readers also learned about the behind-the-scenes elements that make the volunteer-based UBC concerts possible and members’ views on the spring tour and the future of the bandura, thanks to a series of articles by Matthew Dubas.

Bandurist Borys Ostapienko, 19, of Toronto won first place in the instrumental category at the Mykola Lysenko International Music Competition in Kyiv on April 28-30. The unanimous decision came from the four judges from the Lviv and Odesa conservatories, the Ivan Kotliarevsky University of Culture in Kharkiv and the Vasyl Stefanyk University music department in Ivano-Frankivsk, who noted Mr. Ostapienko’s clarity, musicianship and high level of musical expressiveness. The trip to Ukraine was made possible with support from Boris Hordynsky of Hordynsky Farms in Holland March, Ontario. A member of the Ukrainian Canadian Capella, under the direction of Dr. Victor Mishalow, Mr. Ostapienko continues to diversify his performance studies in addition to pursuing an engineering degree at Ryerson University.

On May 14, the Royal Philharmonic Society presented its Conductor Award to Kirill Karabits, the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, for his work in the United Kingdom during 2012. Mr. Karabits, whose father was Ukrainian composer and conductor Ivan Karabyts, had guest conducted the Royal Philharmonic and BBC Symphony orchestras, as well as the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. In 2013 Mr. Karabits toured major European venues and conducted in the United States before returning to the U.K to conduct the BBC Proms concert series.

On June 9, 26-year-old Vadym Kholodenko became the first pianist from Ukraine to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The competition was held in Fort Worth, Texas, starting on May 24. More than 30 pianists convened for the 14th quadrennial competition. Mr. Kholodenko resides in Moscow and studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where he also is an assistant teacher. During the competition, Mr. Kholodenko performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, and won awards for best performances of a new work and chamber music. Mr. Kholodenko also was awarded $50,000, a live recording of the competition performances, a studio recording and performance attire.

On October 19, pianist Valentina Lisitsa performed her New York solo recital debut at the 92nd Street YMCA with a program of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Chopin and Liszt. The concert was streamed online, and viewers selected Ms. Lisitsa’s encore, Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Ms. Lisitsa added another selection to end the night, Liszt’s “La Campanella.” A Kyiv native, Ms. Lisitsa has risen to Internet stardom by targeting new fans on YouTube and has been selling DVDs and CDs through Decca Records.

The Ukrainian Museum in New York hosted the eighth season of the Bandura Downtown performance series with the concert “Songs of Truth: The Art of the Kobzari” on October 26. Presented in conjunction with the museum’s Holodomor exhibit “Give Up Your Daily Bread,” the concert featured bandurist Julian Kytasty who played a wide selection of songs to highlight the wealth of kobzar songs, and Sean Eden, who read English translations of the words the kobzari had written themselves about their lives and art.


Composer Virko Baley’s 75th birthday was celebrated with a concert at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York on February 2.  The concert featured sopranos Fiona Murphy and Laura Bohn, tenor John Duykes, violinist Marta Krechkovsky, pianists Mr. Baley and Steven Beck, flutist Jennifer Grim and oboist James Roe.

Conductor Volodymyr Shesiuk marked two anniversaries in 2013: the 40th anniversary of the Livonia Symphony Orchestra and his 20th anniversary as music director and conductor, with a concert on April 27 featuring Ukrainian music at Louis Schmidt Auditorium at Clarenceville High School in Livonia, Mich. Mr. Shesiuk is also a longtime conductor of the St. Josaphat Church Choir and the Immaculate Conception Schools’ choirs.

The Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Winnipeg, Manitoba, celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 11 with a spring gala dinner at the Metropolitan Entertainment Center in Winnipeg and an anniversary concert on October 27 at Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg. The festivities – dubbed “The Spirit of Rusalka: Celebrating 50 Years!” –aided in the creation of the Rusalka Foundation to ensure this legacy continues beyond the first 50 years.

The Philadelphia-area based Voloshky School of Dance celebrated its 40th anniversary with a concert on May 19 at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pa. The concert featured performances by the school’s 150-plus members age 4 through 14, as well as the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, founded in 1972, and musical selections performed by gypsy-jazz guitarist Kruno Spisic.

The Poltava Ukrainian Dance Company of Pittsburgh celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala commemorative concert on May 26 at the Music Hall of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Pa. Invited musicians who performed during the concert included bandurist Borys Ostapienko of Toronto and the Gerdan Trio. A golden jubilee dinner followed the concert at a local hotel.

Art exhibits

The Ukrainian Institute of America in New York hosted the Constructivist exhibit “Ron Kostyniuk: Art/Nature/Art,” on March 22 through April 7. The exhibit, which originated at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago as “Ron Kostyniuk: Construction/Neo-Construction,” subsequently traveled to The Ukrainian Museum in New York under the title, “Ron Kostyniuk: Art As Nature Analogue.” A companion catalogue of the works, “Ron Kostyniuk: Relief Structures,” was published by the UIA, and featured 28 of the exhibit items.

“Composition-1” by Andriy Bokotey, featured in the “Out of Tradition” exhibit that opened on April 28 at The Ukrainian Museum in New York.

“Composition-1” by Andriy Bokotey, featured in the “Out of Tradition” exhibit that opened on April 28 at The Ukrainian Museum in New York.

Andrei Kushnir, a Ukrainian American artist, exhibited “River Visions,” at the American Painting Fine Art gallery in Washington, which ran April 1 through June 1. The collection featured 40 works by the painter, and the opening reception was attended by Ukraine’s Ambassador the U.S. Olexander Motsyk. (Mr. Kushnir’s works are regularly displayed at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington). Mr. Kushnir’s painting style is en plein air, meaning he paints outdoors and what he sees, without photographic or other equipment. His works were accepted at other galleries and a book on his Shenandoah valley scenes is to be published in 2014.

Ukrainian artist Andriy Maday’s exhibit “Woodcuts & Drawings: Works on Paper and Their Process” was featured at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory and Educational Foundation in Cleveland and was held April 12-June 4. The exhibit showcased the artist’s passion as an instructor, and many of the woodcuts were shown in process, with woodblocks carved in reverse to show the intricacies and the artistic approach. Mr. Maday also exhibited paintings, watercolors and giclees at the Environments by Design Showroom in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, from September 1, 2013, through January 1, 2014.

On April 28-September 29, the exhibit “Out of Tradition: Contemporary Decorative and Applied Art” opened at The Ukrainian Museum in New York. The exhibit featured more than 150 pieces of Ukrainian folk art with a catalogue of the collection prepared by the museum. The Museum hosted “Fashion, Ukrainian Style” on September 29, featuring Ukrainian designers Oksana Karavanska, Katya Pshechenko and Elena Vasilevsky. Nearly 200 people came to the runway show that was held in conjunction with the aforementioned exhibit.

The Ukrainian Museum’s exhibits “Give Up Your Daily Bread… Holodomor: The Totalitarian Solution,” and “Evocations” by Lidia Bodnar-Balahutrak opened on October 20 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine of 1932-1933. The exhibits ran until December 29 and featured archival material with the artistry of Ms. Balahutrak’s iconographic selections inspired by the Holodomor.

A new exhibit, “Propaganda and Slogans: The Political Poster in Soviet Ukraine, 1919-1921,” was hosted by The Ukrainian Museum beginning on November 2. The collection, curated by Dr. Myroslav Shkandrij of the University of Manitoba, features 27 examples donated to the museum by Dr. Jurij Rybak and Anna Ortynskyj.  It runs through Februray 2, 2014.

Ukrainian American photojournalist Joseph Sywenkyj’s documentary exhibit “Verses: A Family in Odesa, Ukraine” was held at the Camera Club of New York on May 9-25. The exhibit was the culmination of a yearlong documentation of 11-year-old Masha, who is HIV positive, along with her parents, Sasha and Ira, who also are HIV-positive.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago featured the exhibit “Artists Respond to Genocide,” which commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Holdomor, and was on display from October 4 through December 1.  Twenty artists, including local, national and international, were featured in the exhibit. Also on display was a model of the Holodomor Memorial in Washington by architect Larysa Kurylas, which is to be completed in 2014.