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The Young Opera "Ukraine – Terra Incognita"

Ukrainian artists will create the Young Opera "Ukraine – TerraIncognita" which combines in a unique way an ancient Ukrainian songs, symphonic music, free jazz, video art and innovative costumes. Ritual, Cossack, Chumak and recruiting, love songs, lullabies are dating back hundreds of years. They will germinate in a refined unusual form of a modern opera.

The opera is dedicated to the singer and warrior Vasyl Slipak. 

"Ukraine – Terra Incognita" is a story about a warrior who is able to hold the Iron Heart and protect the House, Ancestry, Love. It's a simple plot but worthy more than hundreds of operas. This land, Terra Incognita, gave us the Steppe where each generation could test themselves, find and give a chance to the next…

The project of the opera was maturing for several years – from the idea to bring a traditional Ukrainian song, especially polyphony, to the world opera stage and through rethinking the layers of ancient songs to the combination with a modern art.

This year, thanks to hundreds of Ukrainians the project raised a starting amount at the Big.Idea  and got support from the International Renaissance Foundation. Finally, it will be implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Culture Foundation.

The young opera "Ukraine - Terra Incognita" is a story in five myths that grow through the time.

Director Ulyana Horbachevska:

I have sung hundreds of songs over the years. Some forced me to return and survive them again and again. They seem to want to manifest and speak out the certain topics through which generations of people on this earth think, feel and dream. For example, "Myth of the Ancestry" ritual women's songs. They set the rhythm of generations, the repeating cycle of the year and life. "Myth of Home" lullabies, fairy tales, jokes, the first sounds-utterances, the first steps, "preface of life"… "Myth of Love"​​lyrical, dramatic, tender, explosive, like love itself in all its contrasting manifestations. "Myth of the Steppe" Cossack and Chumak songs filled with a sense of freedom. "The Myth of the Iron Heart" is a statement of courage, resilience and strength: "I am not afraid of heat, I do not want the rain. I'm still standing in a strange meadow and I think to prosper.


The author of the idea is director and singerUlyana Horbachevska. The opera's music is composed by Maria Oliynyk in result of many years of studying archaic singing and academic research.

Together with the known singers the ensemble will include young actors and singers Marko Svizhinskyy, Denys Ivaniv, Sofia Leshyshak, Andriana-Yaroslava Sayenko, Kateryna Smirnova, Olha Balandyukh, Serhiy Badyuk and the known actor Mykola Bereza (director at the Les Kurbas Theater and the key role in the film "Red") and Yaroslav Fedorchuk (actor in the films "Gate", "Our Cats").

The Ukrainian Festival Orchestra under the direction of Taras Demko and Ivan Ostapovych is involved in the opera. Taras Verhunwill conduct. Drummer and percussionist Ihor Hnydyn and saxophonist Mykhailo Balog will improvise. Video art is created by VJ group CUBEtogether with a stage designer and project artist Volodymyr Oleshchuk. The costumes are created by the famous designer Marta Wachholz. The young artist Zirka Savka is working on the brand products of the project.

The project management team is formed through the cooperation of the youth organization YMCA-Lviv (Oleksandra Sorokopud – project manager, Yurko Vovkohon – PR manager and veteran) with the Wassyl Slipak Foundation (headed by Orest Slipak) and the Crimean House(headed by Alim Aliyev). Musicologist Lessia Oliynyk consults the project.

A young video maker Nastya Bezpalovaworks in the film crew along with Ostap Kostyuk (director of the film “Live Fire”; he will supervise the video) and cinematographer Ihor Leshchuk (member of the film crew “Vypchyna. The Village of One Day”).



For the team, the project is more than just staging the opera. It is the transmission of meanings, thoughts and experiences. This feeling is identical to the state of a person who seeks out to sing something very important: first of all, about oneself on this earth and own responsibility between the past and future generations.


Project preparation

  • The young opera "Ukraine – Terra Incognita" is composed around an archaic Ukrainian song, preserving its principles (melody, harmony, rhythm, texture). Folk singing will replace the academic style of sound in vocal parts.
  • The opera uses three types of improvisation: singing lamentations as an immersion in tradition, free jazz as free reflection and an orchestra as a sound texture. Singers in opera are actors who exist in the stage space as performers and master the techniques of archaic singing.
  • The scenography includes costumes-transformers, which at certain moments will become part of the scenery and video art. The video art will change its function from the scenery to the visualization of the characters: Steppe, Home, Iron Heart…

Dedication to Vasyl Slipak



The young opera "Ukraine - Terra Incognita" is dedicated to Vasyl Slipak, an artist who left his world career to defend his land and the opportunity to freely create for others.

"The best way to thank a person is to continue the cause he lived for. We want the memory of Vasyl not to drown into the pathetic speeches and tears. That's why we make an exquisite modern music project. We make it so that Vasyl would have liked it", - the project team explains the decision to dedicate the opera to Vasyl Slipak.



Project preparation

In the quarantined period the project team was forced to refuse participation of foreign artists, switch to the prompt mode, and reformat the live premiers into the video presentations. Still despite all the obstacles, the young opera is taking its pace: singing rehearsal sessions are being held in the Carpathians, a tandem of Ulyana Horbachevska and Maria Oliynyk is working on the score, and the video art, costumes and scenery are being produced.


  • The video presentation of the full version of the Young Opera "Ukraine – Terra Incognita" is scheduled for the Ukraine Defender Day on October 14, 2020.  YouTube: Ukraine young opera

This year the project will start with a video premiere. In the coming years, the Young Opera "Ukraine – Terra Incognita" is planed to present Ukrainian art to the world. In particular, it is important for the project team to stage an opera in Paris, where Vasyl Slipak was performing.