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Posts Tagged ‘totalitarian’

Photo: Carlin Stiehl for the Boston Globe.
Belarusian opera singer Ilya Silchukou rehearsing with pianist Pavel Nersessian. Silchukou and his wife, a mezzo-soprano, “fled their native Belarus after Silchukou publicly sided with protesters following the 2020 election,” reports the Globe.

If you live near Boston, check out a concert tonight at First Church. Not sure what is more impressive — the baritone’s voice or the backstory about defying the totalitarian regime of Belarus. To see what Ukraine would be like if Russia’s invasion succeeded, look no farther than the puppet government on Ukraine’s northern border.

Malcolm Gay reported at the Boston Globe, “By the time Ilya Silchukou performed upon the steps of the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus in Minsk, more than 6,000 protesters had already been detained.

“It was August 2020, one tumultuous week after President Alexander Lukashenko, often described as ‘Europe’s last dictator,’ had claimed victory in a widely disputed election. His opponent had already fled the country. The government had briefly severed Internet service, as police fired rubber bullets and beat demonstrators who’d clogged the streets to protest.

“Silchukou, one of the country’s best-known opera stars, had already publicly renounced three awards he’d received from Lukashenko.

“And now he was prepared to use his most powerful tool to support the cause, channeling his rich baritone to sing ‘Kupalinka,’ a beloved song that had become an anthem of the protests.

‘Two years later, Silchukou, his wife, Tatsiana, and their three children live a quiet life in a rented house in [Wayland] west of Boston, where Silchukou tends the owner’s garden of eggplants. Their furniture is entirely donated, and Silchukou, once a star soloist at the Minsk Bolshoi who sang at opera houses across Europe, now teaches music at Star Academy, a private K-8 school, as he seeks to establish a stage career in the United States.

“ ‘It’s going to be hard,’ said Silchukou, who remains all but unknown to US audiences. ‘On the other hand, I’ve found so many new friends who support us and help us. I look forward with optimism.’

“Among those new friends is renowned Russian pianist Pavel Nersessian, who will perform a concert of songs and arias with Silchukou on Saturday at First Church Boston in Back Bay.

“Nersessian only recently met Silchukou, but during a recent rehearsal at Boston University, he described the singer’s voice as ‘multicolored,’ capable of subtly expressing the full spectrum of human emotion. …

“Silchukou joined the Bolshoi Theatre when he was just 23, making a name for himself as a soloist with leading roles for baritone, such as Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Marcello in Puccini’s La Bohème. He traveled abroad frequently for singing competitions, winning the 2011 Hans Gabor and Helicon prizes at the prestigious International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, among others. …

“He walked a fine line: He quietly disapproved of Lukashenko’s grip on power, but as an employee of the national opera, he was often called upon to perform at official functions. …

“In the months following the 2020 election, however, Silchukou felt compelled to take a stronger stance. He signed an open letter calling for an end to the violence and an election recount. He publicly supported other artists who’d been fired for speaking out, and he indicated his support from the stage, flashing the ‘victory’ sign as performers received red and white bouquets from the audience, a sign of resistance. …

“That October, Silchukou collaborated with other artists in a video calling for a national strike. He was fired within days, his working card stating he’d committed ‘an act of immorality.’

“Stuck at home with COVID-19, Silchukou decided to play his last card: a highly produced video he’d recorded of ‘Mahutny Bozha,’ a hymn that has become an anthem of the anti-Lukashenko movement.

“ ‘That video was in my pocket,’ Silchukou said of the searing indictment that would go on to rack up more than 500,000 views. ‘I’d been afraid to publish it because I was still working in the theater, but then I said, we have nothing to lose.’

“The family fled the following summer. …

“ ‘I dream to see Belarus free,’ he said. ‘I belong to that land.’ ”

When you think of asylum seekers, remember that most would give anything not to have had to leave their home.

Tickets at https://silchukou.eventbrite.com/ and at the door. More at the Globe, here.

This is courage.

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