Posted inReport

“I’m Willing to Commit the Crime of Music”

Icy silence is all that’s left of Afghanistan’s musical terrain. When the Taliban rose to power in 2021, accounts of immolating instruments and violent oppression of musicians foreshadowed censorship of virtually all forms of self-expression—an intimately harrowing circumstance for Afghan musicians.  The Taliban rule of 1996–2001 was characterized by similarly strict censorship, including a wide […]

Posted inEssay

Wounded but Alive

KharkivMusicFest is both one of the newest and one of the largest classical music festivals in Ukraine. Founded in 2018, it opened with an ambitious program. Since then the festival has faced huge challenges—a pandemic, a war—yet has still managed to find ways of offering culture to people in Kharkiv. In 2022, I became artistic […]

Posted inEssay

First Canceled, then Celebrated

On May 2, 2023, Valery Gergiev turned 70. One week later, Russia celebrated Victory Day—a Soviet holdover holiday commemorating the country’s 1945 victory over National Socialism. Gergiev spent that day leading the Mariinsky Orchestra in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, closing out the 22nd annual Moscow Easter Festival—a marathon of concerts (often two […]

Posted inPlaylist

An Operatic Coronation Playlist

In Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, there’s a portrait of Emperor Francis I of Austria (1792-1806) that bears a marked resemblance to King Charles III. Unsurprisingly, given how prone royals are to marrying within their own family, the pair are distantly related. At times, working on this playlist, which charts the royal lineage into which Charles officially […]

Posted inInterview

Places of Refuge

Before February 24, 2022, Serhiy Lykhomanenko was the conductor of the MASO “Slobozhansky” Symphony Orchestra in Kharkiv and the Eclectic Sound Orchestra in Kyiv. Now, he is the Head of Public Relations for the Fifth Assault Regiment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “At the moment, we’re at the epicenter of the battles for the […]

Posted inBreaking

Agility, Fragility

Much like Harrison Birtwistle, I feel like I’m always writing the same piece, albeit one that’s more wordy, more political, and much more depressing. Following the lead of Arts Council England, who made a mess of both the announcement and communication of their National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding reallocations in November, the BBC too garnished […]

Posted inEssay

Denazifying “Carmina Burana”

The legacies of Wagner and Nietzsche, German geniuses long dead before the advent of the Nazi scourge, still buckle under the taint. Festival destinations like Bayreuth and Oberammergau (home of the Passion Play) that long eluded denazification have, albeit only recently, embraced an ethos of reform. While these people and places were rightly seen as […]

Posted inInterview

The Production of Light

At a time of justified anger at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is easy to forget that decency and courage can still be found in the country today. On February 23, 2022, pianist Polina Osetinskaya wrote on her Facebook profile, “Current mood: turn over in your pillow not to see this reality and cry over […]

Posted inInterview

The Sound of Melting Ice

“Kateryna,” a new opera by Ukrainian composer Alexander Rodin, was scheduled to premiere in Odessa at the end of March 2022. Then Russia invaded Ukraine and the opera house had to temporarily close down. Against all odds, rehearsals resumed in the summer. Directed by Oksana Taranenko, the production celebrated its opening night on September 17 […]

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