Ukrainian orchestra, choir to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Japan

Courtesy of Koransha Inc.
Members of the Ukraine National Opera Orchestra practice for concerts to be held in Japan.

Members of the orchestra and choir for the Ukraine National Opera will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Japan later this month.

Amid Russia’s continuing acts of aggression in the country, music director and conductor for the orchestra Mykola Diadiura, 61, said, “Now our weapon is music.”

The members are looking forward to performing Symphony No. 9, which has become a symbol of peace.

In Japan, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is a year-end tradition. One theory says that the tradition dates back to just after the end of World War I, when a German orchestra performed it for the first time in Japan as a prayer for world peace.

After the symphony’s first three movements, which seem to express conflict and hardship, there comes the final movement, famous for its resounding chorus of a poem by Friedrich von Schiller that contains the phrase “Be embraced, millions!”

“I want the audience to feel that, after going through hardship, people can reach the final message,” said Diadiura.

The national opera is based in Kyiv. The opera’s theater still hosts performances almost everyday.

However, residents of the city continue to endure daily inconveniences such as blackouts, which often affect homes.

Among the orchestra’s 150 members, two volunteered for the military, and nearly 30, mostly women, evacuated to other countries together with their children.

“All I saw was masses of people leaving Kyiv,” said mezzo-soprano soloist Angelina Shvachka, 51, recalling earlier days in the invasion.

In autumn this year, a conductor of another local orchestra was killed in Kherson Province, southern Ukraine, because he refused to cooperate with a concert planned by the Russian authorities.

“It is said he was killed at home with his family members watching, a highly atrocious action,” said Diadiura. “I want people around the world to know the circumstances in which we are placed.”

Concerts for the symphony are scheduled to be held in Yokohama on Dec. 28 and in Tokyo on Dec. 29 and 30.