Music Diplomacy Warms Up Washington

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Written by Winona Roylance

Music has the power to transcend borders and bring nations together, and what better way to foster cultural understanding than through the timeless elegance of opera. On February 8th, in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Russian Embassy in Washington DC held a joint concert featuring aspiring artists from Russia and the United States. This concert was held in celebration of the 6th anniversary of the cultural exchange between the young artists of the Washington National Opera and the Bolshoi Theatre—a program dedicated to promoting cultural exchange through operatic music—and featured music from Rimsky-Korsakov, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Leoncavallo, and de Curtis.

We caught up with one of the patrons of this unique event and a long-time benefactor and supporter of cultural diplomacy, Susan Carmel Lehrman, Founder and Advisory Committee Chair of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History, who said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce new generations to the beauty of opera, as well as to the importance of cultural sharing, which are both fundamental purposes of this unique partnership.  It is especially exciting to see the collaboration between such talented young performers who are on the cusp of future stardom.  We are grateful to Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak and to the Embassy of the Russian Federation for their continued commitment and support of this wonderful cultural exchange.”

The Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the Bolshoi Theatre’s Young Artist Program have a very unique partnership in the world of opera.  This collaboration allows some of the world’s most gifted young opera singers and pianists from both programs to further their development through a two week cultural exchange.  The capstone of the exchange is a joint concert.  Thanks to the Carmel Institute for Russian Culture and History, hundreds of college students from all over the Washington Metropolitan Area were able to enjoy—some for the first time—the beauty of opera and cultural collaboration, alongside VIP’s and more seasoned opera lovers.  

Photo caption: Joel Ayau, pianist, Anastassia Barun, soprano, Hunter Enoch, baritone, Elena Burrova, pianist, Timothy J. Bruno, bass, Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano, Wei Wu, bass, Kerrian Otano, soprano, Oleksandr Kireyev, baritone, Ruslana Koval, soprano. Photos by Imagelink Photography.

Photo caption: Joel Ayau, pianist, Anastassia Barun, soprano, Hunter Enoch, baritone, Elena Burrova, pianist, Timothy J. Bruno, bass, Daryl Freedman, mezzo-soprano, Wei Wu, bass, Kerrian Otano, soprano, Oleksandr Kireyev, baritone, Ruslana Koval, soprano. Photos by Imagelink Photography.

The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, established in 2002, provides burgeoning students of opera with vocal and drama lessons as well as opportunities for the young artists to perform in shows on the Washington National Opera stage. Similarly, the Young Artists Opera Program of the Bolshoi Theatre was founded in 2009 in an effort to train singers and pianists in voice, acting, and foreign language skills through master classes hosted by famous singers and coaches.

This year’s joint collaboration was unique in that it not only featured young artists from the United States and Russia, but Ukraine and China as well. These international artists enchanted the audience through playful duets and profound solo pieces, highlighting both their individual talents and their effortless teamwork. The audience was then treated to a feast of foreign delicacies and sugary delights in the spirit of cultural exchange, and the night ended a success. It is these sorts of exchanges that bring countries together in celebration, and the joint concert of the young artists of the Washington National Opera and the Bolshoi Theatre was no different. Through cultural collaboration and the language of music, we can bring nations closer together.