Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the global arts community has been a strong supporter of Ukraine — and that includes Vira Slywotzky, a classically trained contralto opera singer who has performed principal roles with Seattle Opera, Light Opera of New York, Sarasota Opera, Boston Midsummer Opera, and many others.
Vira is a Ukrainian-American who grew up immersed in Ukrainian culture; in fact, she spoke Ukrainian as her primary language until the age of 5. When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Vira wanted to do something to help her beloved Ukraine. As she explains it, “I had to do something, so I walked into the NYC headquarters office of Razom for Ukraine (a leading non-profit supporting Ukraine) and asked them what I could do to help.” Vira got involved volunteering and developed the concept for a concert series that would not only share and promote Ukrainian culture through music, but also serve as a fundraising platform to support Ukraine. Vira, together with composer/pianist Dina Pruzhansky, collaborated to bring the idea to life.
“This Ukrainian American Life”
The show titled, “This Ukrainian American Life,” takes the audience on a somewhat autobiographical journey through American and Ukrainian classical, folk and popular song. Slywotzky’s dual heritage serves to bring together such diverse composers as Mykola Lysenko, Leonard Bernstein, Ihor Vesolovsky, Aaron Copland, Kyrylo Stetsenko, Amy Beach, Yakiv Stepovy, Cole Porter, Vasyl Mykhailyuk, Martin Hennessy, Ihor Sonevytsky, Sheila Silver and Volodymyr Ivasyuk. The program also features the premiere of an original work by Dina Pruzhansky, to words of the Ukrainian poet Lesia Ukrainka.
Vira and Dina kicked off the concert series at the Margaret Jewitt Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and followed that up with multiple performances in New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. The audience response has been fantastic. Vira commented that, “we continue to evolve the show; so far, every show has been unique.” Next stops on the tour include Florida, Washington DC, and Michigan. See the schedule below.
Profits from the performances are being donated to Razom for Ukraine. Attendees can give an additional donation at the event with 100% of these donations going to Razom for Ukraine. Donors can also contribute directly through the program’s “Support for Ukraine” fundraising page found here; online donations go directly to Razom for Ukraine.
Play this video to get a taste of the “The Ukrainian American Life” as Vira and Dina perform together.
Upcoming Show Dates
The next performance will take place Friday, March 2nd. Information for this show and future dates are shown below. More dates will be confirmed soon and posted on Vira’s website, so be sure to check back often.
Thursday, March 16th at 7:30 pm
La Maison Française
Embassy of France
Presented by The Washington Cultural Group Fund in collaboration with The Embassy of France
Click image left to download details.
About The Artists & Razom for Ukraine
Vira Slywotzky Bio – Click Right
Vira has performed principal roles with Seattle Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Chelsea Opera, Center for Contemporary Opera, Light Opera of New York, Sarasota Opera, Boston Midsummer Opera and Victor Herbert Renaissance Project – LIVE!, and has appeared in concert with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, Cambridge Symphony Orchestra, Rockland Camerata and New Haven Chamber Orchestra. She has sung recitals, concerts and cabarets in New York at Merkin Hall, Metropolitan Room, Opera America, Sheen Center, SubCulture, Symphony Space, The Duplex, Ukrainian Institute, Ukrainian Museum and Weill Hall. Internationally Slywotzky has performed at the Hudson Music Festival in Hudson, CA, Festival D’Avignon in Avignon, FR, at Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the American Church in Paris, FR, at the Armel Opera Festival in Szeged, HU, at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory in St. Petersburg, RU and at the Gustov Adolf Church in Sundsvall, SE.
Until spring 2020, Slywotzky sang soprano. Her operatic repertoire included Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte, Nedda in Pagliacci, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, Micaela and Mercedes in Carmen, Magda in The Consul, Mrs. Fiorentino in Street Scene and the title role in Vanessa.
In the spring of 2020, Slywotzky began transitioning to contralto, and has since been exploring operatic roles such as Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, Marquise in La fille du regiment, Principessa in Suor Angelica, Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Gaia in Daphne and Polina in Piques Dame.
A champion of new music, Slywotzky has premiered more than 30 vocal works, ranging in size and scope from stand-alone song to opera, perhaps most notably creating the role of Mrs. Fatima Bakshlevi in The Woman in Penthouse A as part of Single Occupancies: Three Contemporary Opera Theatre Monologues at Key West Studios in Key West, Florida in January 2020.
Recital partners include Peiharn Chen, Dina Pruzhansky, Yegor Shevtsov, Daniel Stagno and David Sytkowski.
In May 2018 Slywotzky founded the concert series Vira & Friends, with the aim of bringing people together to enjoy the live performance of songs written for voice and piano. For information on artists, repertoire and venues visit the Vira & Friends page.
From 2008 to 2018 Slywotzky performed with Mirror Visions Ensemble, a vocal trio known for its innovative programming, nuanced performances and extensive commissioning. Slywotzky can be heard on the group’s 2015 commercial recording, The Three-Paneled Mirror.
The recipient of a 2007 Richard F. Gold Career Grant, Slywotzky has twice been a New England Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and in 2009 was the sole representative of the United States at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
Slywotzky is as happy onstage acting, narrating and emceeing as singing. She is particularly proud to have performed in all three major versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – as Helena in the Britten opera, First Fairy in Mendelssohn’s ballet and Bottom in the original Shakespeare.
Slywotzky received an MM from Mannes and a BA from Yale. She was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Slywotzky has been a member of the Berkshire Opera Festival’s Board of Directors since a year before the organization’s 2016 inaugural season, and has served as President and Secretary.
Dina Pruzhansky Bio – Click Right
Dina Pruzhansky is an award-winning composer and pianist, residing in NYC. Praised for her “cinematic, movingly evoking” compositions (Broadway World) that “brought forth the liveliest playing” from the performers (The New York Times), she maintains a diverse international career. Her creative output ranges from classical concert music to cabaret and from liturgical works to musical theatre. As composer/performer, she has been featured at venues such as Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, Bargemusic, Symphony Space, YIVO, Opera America Center, Aspen Music Festival, 92NY, The Kosciuszko Foundation, Le Poisson Rouge, and others, as well as numerous international arenas. Her works have been broadcast on media, including radio WQXR in an exclusive ‘Young Artist’ program featuring her work, radio channel Kol HaMusica, and several European networks.
Dina Pruzhansky’s opera film ‘Heroes of New York’ (libretto by Briana Hunter, 2021), has been named an official selection for a number of international festivals, including O22 by Opera Philadelphia. Ms. Pruzhansky has won Aspen Composition Fellowship 2019; 1st prize at Noosa Isam International Piano Composition Competition (2018); 3rd prize at the International Joseph Dorfmann composer competition (2018). Following the successful premiere of her opera ‘SHULAMIT,’ presented in 2014 through a commissioning grant from Genesis UJA, a new production took place in 2016 by popular demand at the JCC of Manhattan Auditorium and shown, in part, at the Aspen Music Festival 2019. Selected premiere performers include Aspen Conductors’ Orchestra (AM New York for Symphony Orchestra), ACE quartet (Under The Red Moon, revised), Semplice Players (quartet Under The Red Moon), Downtown Sinfonietta of White Plains with narration by Robert Sherman (Symphony Tale for the whole family ‘Teeny-Tiny Violin’), Bachanalia strings ensemble (Holiday Music, The Song of Songs),Quartetto Indaco (String Quartet no. 1), the ARK trio (On Love and Land for soprano, cello, & piano), NB Chamber Group (quartet for clarinet, violin, cello, & piano), clarinetist Julian Milkis, pianist Hagai Yodan and many others.
An alumna of the Tony-awarded BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop, Ms. Pruzhansky was nominated for the 2009 Fred Ebb Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre writing and selected as a finalist for the NYMF 2019. She has served as composer-in-residence at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester and Temple Shalom, Dallas. Her liturgical works have been featured at the Zamir Choral Festival NAJCF.
Born in Azerbaijan to Jewish Ukrainian parents and raised in Israel, Ms. Pruzhansky moved to New York in 2006. She is a postgraduate alumna from the Mannes School of Music. She serves as a faculty member at the 92NY School of Music. A passionate educator, she is the author of the book of easy piano arrangements ‘I Can Play Chopin’, and a sought-after guest in music talk programs and podcasts. Ms. Pruzhansky holds an MA in piano performance summa cum laude from Tel-Aviv University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Art History.
Click right to learn about Razom for Ukraine
Razom was born out of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 when millions of people worked together and risked their lives to build a pathway to a better future for Ukraine. Since then, Razom has initiated a wide range of short and long-term projects, and has collaborated on existing projects with partner organizations to help Ukraine foster democracy and prosperity. When Russia launched its full-scale invasion into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Razom immediately mobilized an emergency response to save lives.
- Razom provides critical humanitarian war relief and recovery to address the most urgent needs as they evolve. Razom has built an end-to-end procurement and delivery system that places all aid directly into the hands of the people in Ukraine, providing tactical medical kits, hospital supplies, medicines, and communication equipment to first responder units on the frontlines.
- Razom helps local Ukrainian volunteer organizations provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the people affected by the war. This includes delivering food and medicine, evacuating people, and providing shelter. Razom works with trusted organizations that understand the local needs firsthand and have a proven track record of humanitarian service.
- Razom assists newly arriving displaced Ukrainians (DUs) in the US through its partnership with another Ukrainian nonprofit, Ukrainian Jersey City.
Razom also continuously advocates for Ukraine by educating about policies that strengthen and support Ukraine, building trusted connections with civic leaders, activists, and elected officials in Ukraine and the US to relay critical information to the public, media, businesses, and government officials. The goal is to advocate for a decisive Ukrainian victory, as this is a fundamental security interest for the US and its allies. Razom has activated constituents across the US, held weekly rallies, and engaged businesses.
Visit Razom for Ukraine online to learn more.