Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau.
She was hailed as the world’s leading dramatic soprano during the Golden Age of opera at the turn of the 20th century, yet little is known about her in the English-speaking world.
That’s what prompted her grandnephew, Andriy Semotiuk to write her biography.
Speaking at the launch of his book, Solomea: Star of Opera’s Golden Age, at the Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts (ACUA) in Edmonton, October 21, Semotiuk said that the book was not just about Ukrainian art and music.
“This is a book about supreme accomplishment. It is a book about feminism in the most positive sense. Of a lady breaking through the barriers and making it to the top in a world where men dominated everything. It’s a book about character and hard work and what it takes to be a human being,” he said.
Born in 1872 into a family with eight children in a small village in Western Ukraine, Solomea Krushelnytska studied opera and battled her way to superstardom while performing with opera legends like composer Giacomo Puccini, director Arturo Toscanini, and tenor Enrico Caruso.
Working with Toscanini, she played the lead roles of Salome and Elektra in the premiers of these operas in Italy. Among other major successes, Krushelnytska helped Giacomo Puccini rescue the opera Madama Butterfly from its failed debut at La Scala in Milan in 1904 by playing the lead role of Cio-Cio-San in the opera’s re-creation in the Teatro Grande in Brescia, Italy later that year. Thanks to their joint efforts, Madama Butterfly remains one of the most popular operas to this day.
She sang in opera theatres throughout Europe, North Africa, Tsarist Russia, and North and South America, including performances in Canada in Montreal and Winnipeg in 1928.
Towards the end of her career, she moved back to Western Ukraine on the eve of World War II. Her beautiful voice was then drowned out by the gunfire of Soviet and Nazi armies and she was reduced to struggling for survival. Yet reverence for her talent likely helped her escape most of the ultraviolence that rampaged through her city at that time. Throughout the world war, she sheltered the author’s mother, aunt, and grandparents in her apartment. She spent her final years in Lviv, teaching at the same place where her rise to fame and fortune had begun. Solomea died in 1952, but it wasn’t until five years later that the news reached her family in Canada.
With his wife Anne assisting as MC, Andriy read several excerpts from his book relating to her education and career. Their daughter, Natalka, is preparing a film about Krushelnytska.
In closing, Anne Semotiuk said Solomia was an extraordinary woman not only for her time, but also as a role model for us today.
“She was a dedicated and committed artist. She was extremely talented. She was an intellectual. She was extremely well read. And women, at that time, were not supposed to be intellectual. She corresponded with poets, with authors, philosophers and other cultural figures. She was a feminist. She was a Ukrainian patriot. She constantly advocated for Ukrainian identity when others tried to claim her as their’s… By telling her story we are fighting a battle to preserve our cultural identity and our cultural history.
Unfortunately as Andriy mentioned earlier, they are under attack, now more so than ever at any time in my lifetime and we’re hoping that by preserving her legacy and by making others aware of her, that they will understand how important it is to preserve our Ukrainian language, culture and traditions,” she said.
Solomea: Star of Opera’s Golden Age has gained recognition as a literary gem and won a Peterson Literary Fund award. You can order the book from Solomeabook.com or from Amazon.ca.
Here is the price list at Solomeabook.com
If you are ordering in Canada:
$ 45.00 Canadian Cost of book
$ 5.95 Add: shipping and handling
$ 5.85 Add: HST
$ 55 Canadian Total (rounded)
If you are ordering in the United States:
$ 35.00 U.S. Cost of the book.
$ 9.95 Add: shipping and handling
$ 45 U.S. Total (rounded)
If you are ordering from outside of North America:
$ 35.00 U.S. Cost of book
$ 14.95 U.S. Add: shipping and handling
$ 50 U.S. Total (rounded)
(Mexico use U.S. prices)