March 11, 2016

UIMA delights


Lesia and I recently spent an absolutely delightful afternoon at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago enjoying the artistry of two world-renowned Ukrainian vocalists.

Titled “An Afternoon at the Opera,” the musical event featured outstanding Ukrainian artists Stefan Szkafarowsky, bass, and Marta Zaliznyak-Derzhko, soprano. The week before Lesia and I had the pleasure of attending a Lyric Opera performance of Verdi’s “Nabucco” in which Mr. Szkafarowsky starred as the high priest of Baal. He received a standing ovation.

A native of New York City, Mr. Szkafarowsky is an alumnus of the American Opera Center at Juilliard and the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (now the Ryan Opera Center). He has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, as well as with opera companies throughout the world performing in such operas as “Madame Butterfly,” “Eugene Onegin,” “Boris Godunov,” “Tosca,” “Turandot,” “The Magic Flute” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” a repertoire that has earned him plaudits worldwide, including in Ukraine following his performance in “Nabucco” at the Lviv Opera House.

Ms. Zaliznyak-Derzhko was born in Lviv. Her musical career started with classical piano. Vocal studies began with her enrollment at the Filaret Kolessa Conservatory at Ivan Franko University. Her singing career continued with the Lviv Opera, as well as at the Mykola Lysenko Musical Academy and the Solomiya Khrushelnytska National Theater of Opera and Ballet. After performing in Europe, she immigrated to the United States, where she attended the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music, studying under accomplished vocalist Katherine Barone. Recently, Ms. Zaliznyak-Derzhko was a featured soloist at the unveiling of the Holodomor Memorial in Washington.

Mr. Szkafarowsky’s solo renditions during the UIMA affair included such classics as “Duma,” “Oh Dnipro, My Dnipro,” “Two Colors,” “Old Man River” and Oksana’s Romance from the opera “Zaporozhets za Dunayem.” Ms. Zaliznyak-Derzhko’s solos included “Zhuravli,” “Zhurba,” and the “Wind is Blowing” from “Natalka Poltavka.” Duets performed by these two amazing talents included selections from the operas “Taras Bulba” and “Don Giovanni.”

The UIMA has featured opera singers in the past, including such well-known stars as Samuel Ramey and Paul Plishka.

Wine and canapés were served following the performances.

Lesia and I love opera. We’ve held season tickets to the Lyric Opera for years. Lesia’s favorite opera is Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Mine is Puccini’s “La Boheme.” (I believe lovers of Wagnerian operas cannot be trusted. Do you agree?)

Chicago’s Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art has come a long way since its founding in 1971 by art collectors Dr. Achilles and Vera Chreptowsky and sculptors Konstantin Milonadis and Mychajlo Urban. Today, permanent exhibitions include the works of Alexander Archipenko and Alexis Gritchenko. Eight exhibitions are usually scheduled annually, featuring local artists of Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish descent. In addition to opera, music programs are also a regular feature at the UIMA with string ensembles and vocal quartets leading the list.

The UIMA board of directors, headed by Chairman Paul Nadzikewycz and President Orysia Cardoso, is practically a who’s who of Ukrainian society in Chicagoland. So who is missing?

While drinking wine at the reception following the opera performance, I spoke with Dr. Nadzikewycz, who assured me that UIMA plans to expand its programs in the future. “Believe it or not, we have many supporters outside of our community,” he said, “non-Ukrainians who appreciate the artistic contributions our institution is making to Chicago. In fact, there are almost as many non-Ukrainians who come to our events as Ukrainians.”

If you haven’t visited the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art lately, do so. Don’t cheat yourself of an artistic gem any longer!