With an Eye on War at Home, a Ukrainian Conductor Arrives at the Met

The Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv was preparing for a performance of Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Metropolitan Opera this month when she saw the news: A Russian drone had hit a building in Odesa, not far from the home of her parents-in-law.

She called her family to ensure they were safe. But images of the attack, whose victims included a young mother and children, lingered in her mind. When she conducted that night, she felt the pain of war more acutely, she said, praying to herself when Liù, a selfless servant, dies in the opera’s final act and the chorus turns hushed.

“In that moment, I saw all the suffering of the war,” she said. “How do you explain such sadness? How do you explain who gets to be alive and who has to die?”

Since the invasion, Lyniv, 46, the first Ukrainian conductor to perform at the Met, has used her platform to denounce Russia’s government. She has also set out to promote Ukrainian culture, championing works by Ukrainian composers and touring Europe with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, an ensemble that she founded in 2016.

The war has raised difficult questions for artists and cultural institutions. Russian performers have come under pressure to speak out against President Vladimir V. Putin. Ukrainians have faced questions too, including whether to perform Russian works or appear alongside Russian artists.

Lyniv, who now lives in Düsseldorf, Germany, has sometimes felt caught in the middle. She protested last month when a festival in Vienna announced plans to pair her appearance with a concert led by the conductor Teodor Currentzis, who has come under scrutiny over his connections to Russia. (The festival canceled his appearance.)

Back to top button