A Ukrainian composer has been commissioned to write an opera about mothers from that country going into Russia to rescue their forcibly detained children.
The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater said Monday that 42-year-old Maxim Kolomiiets will compose the work to a libretto by George Brant, whose “Grounded,” with composer Jeanine Tesori, premieres at the Washington National Opera on October 28 and travels to the Met in autumn 2024. Met general manager Peter Gelb hopes the company can present the new work by 2027 or ’28.
The story is fictional but based on events in Ukraine and The Hague. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on March 17 for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine.
“It will be a story of motherhood and childhood, about this strange, very difficult situation where mothers rescue their children and met with many difficulties,” Kolomiiets said in a telephone interview. “For people, for listeners, it will be a good understanding.”
He was living in Kyiv when the war started last year, then three months later moved to Leipzig, Germany, where he had a project and decided to stay.
Gelb said discussions began last fall with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska when she visited New York and Kolomiiets was picked from among 72 applications after vetting by Met dramaturge Paul Cremo, Gelb and the Met’s artistic staff.
A story framework has been created. A piano-vocal score and libretto will be written in the next year or two and a workshop prepared.
“I felt it was important to have an English-language librettist working with the composer so that story would have the broadest possible audience,” Gelb said.
Gelb has been an advocate of support for Ukraine, banning Russian star soprano Anna Netrebko from the opera house and assisting Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra tours led by his wife, Canadian-Ukrainian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson.
Works in the joint commissioning program can appear at either house.
“It’s my hope it will end up as a full-blown opera and hopefully on our stage,” Gelb said.