Inna Rogatchi. Kaddish in the Opera : Odessa

Excerpt from Inna Rogatchi’s Special Project MEAN WAR 2022: MONOLOGUES & PICTURES  ©, 2022

Michael Rogatchi(C). Kaddish. Oil on canvas. 90 x 88 cm. 1995.

Odessa is a very special place not in Ukraine, not in the South-Eastern Europe. In the world. It is a unique universe. There are many books, and some movies depicting it, but none of it is not enough. Nothing is encompassing. In my modest view, it is easier and certainly quicker to describe and present New York and Paris than Odessa. Maybe, I am subjective. A large part of my immediate family is from Odessa, and I am lovingly proud of it.

It is a warm, chic in its own way and hilariously funny, in its absolutely unique way, rich culturally, colourful, extremely potential, talented, very human, with all our shortcomings seen always through that one and only prism of a suburb irony which is first of all a self-irony, place of immense inner freedom and followed awesome tolerance which has been inherited there from the times of introducing the place as the porto-franco zone in the Russian Empire, the only one, and actually solely because of it. It is the place of great culture and architecture which has suffered a lot, and a lot, and a lot in various periods, but always tried to smile. 

I always remember the scene which was imprinted in my head from the late 1990s. I was  walking through rather sad and severely impoverished Odessa visiting the city’s places special for my family. All of the sudden, among that rather drubby landscape, both literally and metaphorically, I heard the singing of a rare beauty. First, I thought that I was mistaken. The singing was too good. Superb opera voice. Superb masterly performance. I stopped under the rain on the main Odessa boulevard, Primorsky boulevard, close to the sea and the monument of the Duc, as the Duc de Richelieu is known there in the city which he has made that unique place on the earth, and tried to find the source of that heavenly-like singing looking to all sides from my wet umbrella.

Soon, I saw the woman who was staying there in the middle of the boulevard under the cold autumn rain, without an umbrella, and singing one opera aria after another, with a very tired mid-aged face. Very very tired face. More than twenty years passed from that meeting, but for some reason, I do remember that woman’s coat of an uninteresting olive colour. How come? She had very little money in front of her, and it was clear that she was staying there singing for a long while. I became paralysed. I came closer. I wanted to do everything for that woman, but I was cautious not to interrupt her. So we stand nearby. She stayed  singing  heavenly, in Italian, wet, without an umbrella.  I stayed fully numbed, under an umbrella, waiting for her to have a pause.

She stopped after some while, as she noticed me. I approached, trying to formulate in my head the most delicate way of speaking with her. Without letting me open my mouth, the woman said very simply: “ I am working there – nodding to the side of the world-famous Odessa opera house. – Sorry, I was. Now I am ‘working’ here’. She tried to smile. I tried not to cry. I invited the Odessa Opera soloist to come with me to my hotel which was very near, to get dry and to have some rest. I was already planning how I will invite her to the late lunch and will give her my room to relax a bit. She thanked me but nodded in a rejecting gesture. “No, thank you. I am OK. Honestly. And I will be going home soon, anyway, on the tram’. We both looked at the Odessa tram moving nearby. I asked her again. She nodded negatively again, smiling, This time, without effort, with a very nice, relieving smile. Of course, I gave her all the money which was in my purse. Valentina, it was the singer’s name, as she introduced herself, thank me and said that now, really, she can return home at once. Believe it or not, the rain stopped. We laughed together, and departed. I remember her and her singing ever since.

Twenty three years later, the Odessa Opera Orchestra  lives through the war, the Mean War. To mark the first month of the Mean War, the Odessa Opera Orchestra created a very memorable performance.

In memory of all the victims 24.02.2022 – 24.03.2022. Music from Weinberg’s Symphony No. 21, in a live performance in Philharmonic Hall, Odesa, Ukraine. Hobart Earle conducts the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra and Ksenia Bakhritdinova, soprano.

Unlike many musical renditions, which  are perfectly audible, this one is necessary to watch. The people from the Odessa Opera Orchestra took their live performance dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust in January 2020, and combined the record with the current pictures of the Mean War. The outcome is very powerful, with amazing harmony between the terrible current  visual with highly dramatic music by a highly dramatic composer created in 1991. Everyone participated in this heart-wrenching experience created by the Odessa Opera House musicians and directors of the video, the composer, and the conductor of the orchestra deserves a closer look. It is incredible how so many different dramas have amalgamated into the one shown in the video from the Odessa Opera House and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the first month of the Mean War.

Back in January 2020, commemorating the International Holocaust Memorial Day, the Odessa Opera Orchestra played parts of the Mieczyslaw Weinberg Symphony No. 21, namely Kaddish. Weinberg composed the 21st from his 26 symphonies in 1991, five years before his death. For some reason, this very symphony is regarded among contemporary musicians as the one of the most enigmatic works of Weinberg.

 The Symphony No. 21 and in particular its part called Kaddish, is great, heart and mind haunting music by the composer with a truly tragic destiny.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg was known in the Soviet Union as Moisei Samuilovich Vainberg. He spent there all his life after he managed to get there running from the Nazis being just 20 year old, just him alone from all his family. All his life was the chain of incredible coincidences which of course were nothing of the sort.

He was a musical prodigy from Warsaw, his family did not manage to get out of occupied Poland in the autumn  1939. His parents and younger sister perished in the ghetto there in Poland. 20-year old Mechek, as Mojse Wainberg was known to his friends, miraculously managed to get to Minsk, graduated from conservatory there a day before it was still possible to be evacuated from there, and he found himself in Tashkent where he became a close, a life-long friend of Dmitry Shostakovich. He moved to Moscow in the middle of the war, and since then was living and composing there, becoming the author of music of such legendary anti-war movie as The Cranes Are Flying which was the first Soviet film ever that received the Golden Palm Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

His first wife whom he met and married in evacuation in Tashkent was nobody else but Natalia Vovci, the daughter of the great Soviet Yiddish actor Solomon Michoels who was viciously murdered on the Stalin’s order in the most resonated crime of the regime soon after the WWII. Vainberg himself was arrested in the anti-Semitic Stalin’s purge in the early 1950s, and only Stalin’s death in March 1953 released him from the Gulag.

Stalin’s death, which was a real gift of life to the millions in the USSR, has also saved my husband who was born in Gulag as well, and was just a two month old baby when it happened. Thanks to the happy fact of the deceased monster, Michael’s father was released from Gulag eventually, and the family was able to move to a less deadly place than the Valley of Death where my husband was born, to Kazakhstan. Michael’s father with tuberculosis contracted in the Gulag, died very prematurely, being only 39.

Metsek Weinberg, as the composer  insisted to be called because ‘this is how my name was written in my birth certificate and how people knew me in Poland’ survived his short imprisonment in the Gulag better, but still always did bear its indelible marks, both in extra- and introvertive ways. The genius was thoughtful and very shy.

Samuil Vainberg, as we know the composer’s name back in the USSR, was very productive, but virtually unknown behind the Iron Curtain. He has become not just known, but phenomenally popular in the mid 2000s, after the international premiere of his now famous The Passenger opera in Poland. Poor Metsek never knew the success his name and legacy enjoys now.

His enigmatic Symphony No 21 is dedicated to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Meaning : to his family, his both parents and little sister Esther. The Kaddish part of the symphony is extremely dramatic, but at the same time is contained. Those who would watch the video, would see that. It speaks straight to one’s soul.

Musicians’ faces on this video are also very telling. Rarely one can see so many emotions and such dedication among the experienced orchestra members. But Odessa is Odessa, and everything is special about this place.

The orchestra of Odessa Opera House is led at this performance by Hobart Earle, the conductor of American origin who was born in Venezuela and who studied in Vienna. His case is also very special. Hobart Earle came to Odessa by chance , being a 31-year old fine musician and singer working in Vienna. Earle fell in love with Odessa and its Opera House ( which is legendary, indeed), and started to work there as musician director and conductor for the $ 50 a month salary.

It is Hobart Earle who did make the orchestra fit, its instruments as it should have been, its sound of a world class. He cared about the musicians, and he brought the orchestra to the world. Hobart Earle deserves serious recognition for his dedication and the results of it.

I do not believe in coincidences. Hobart Earle decided to work and live in Odessa and to lead its Opera House Orchestra in the year in which Miezyslaw Weinberg created his Symphony No 21 with its Kaddish. In January 2020, Odessa Opera Orchestra performed this Kaddish under the baton of Hobart Earle and with incredible, personal dedication by them all in the memory of the victims of Holocaust. The Shoah in Odessa was horrendous.

Just one year on, in the midst of the terrible Mean War, the Orchestra created a special video interacting their performance of Weinberg’s Kaddish with the war pictures of the day, dedicating this special musical video to the victims of the first month of the war against their country in 2022.

As far as I can judge, Metchek Weinberg, as well as his most important friend and inspiration figure Dmitry Shostakovich would not be able to comprehend the reason for the re-dedication of his Kaddish piece. It is still hardly comprehensible for many of us.

But the fact is that in March 2022, Weinberg’s Kaddish sounds in Odessa in memory of our contemporaries in Ukraine today. After this Mean War will end, this video will stay as one of the most tangible, tragic commemorations of so many afflicted souls. So many.

© Inna Rogatchi. March 2022. Finland

Inna Rogatchi

Inna Rogatchi est une écrivaine, universitaire, artiste, conservatrice d’art et cinéaste de renommée internationale, l’auteur d’un film très prisé sur Simon Wiesenthal Les leçons de la survie. Elle est également experte en diplomatie publique et a été conseillère en affaires internationales à long terme pour les membres du Parlement européen. Elle donne de nombreuses conférences sur les thèmes de la politique internationale et de la diplomatie publique. Sa marque de commerce professionnelle est entrelacée d’histoire, d’arts, de culture et de mentalité. Elle est l’auteur du concept des projets culturels et éducatifs Outreach to Humanity menés à l’échelle internationale par la Fondation Rogatchi dont Inna est la co-fondatrice et la présidente. Elle est également l’auteur du concept Culture for Humanity de l’initiative mondiale de la Fondation Rogatchi qui vise à apporter un réconfort psychologique à un large public par le biais des arts et de la culture de grande classe en des temps difficiles. Inna est l’épouse de l’artiste de renommée mondiale Michael Rogatchi. Sa famille est liée à la célèbre dynastie musicale Rose-Mahler. Avec son mari, Inna est membre fondateur du Leonardo Knowledge Network, un organisme culturel spécial composé de scientifiques et d’artistes européens de premier plan. Ses intérêts professionnels sont axés sur le patrimoine juif, les arts et la culture, l’histoire, l’Holocauste et l’après-Holocauste. Elle dirige plusieurs projets d’études artistiques et intellectuelles sur divers aspects de la Torah et de la spiritualité juive. Elle est deux fois lauréate du Prix national italien d’art, de littérature et de musique italien Il Volo di Pegaso, le Patmos Solidarity Award et le New York Jewish Children’s Museum Award pour sa contribution exceptionnelle aux arts et à la culture (avec son mari). Inna Rogatchi était membre du conseil d’administration de l’Association nationale finlandaise pour la mémoire de l’Holocauste et membre du conseil consultatif international du Rumbula Memorial Project (États-Unis). Son art peut être vu sur Silver Strings:

Inna Rogatchi Art site –

Suivez-nous et partagez

Visit Us
Follow Me

Soyez le premier à commenter

Poster un Commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée.