Like many apartments in the old Austrian and Polish parts of the city, our apartment faces a big courtyard. One of the sides of the courtyard faces Doroshenka Street, named for Petro Doroshenko (1627-1698), a Cossack and one-time hetman of Ukraine. The building on the opposite side of the courtyard faces Krushelnystka Street. Krushelnytska Street is named for a world-famous Ukrainian opera singer, Solomiya Krushelnytska, who owned a house at the top of the street from 1903 to 1939. After the Soviets confiscated the house, she lived there in a small apartment until her death in 1952.
We took a tour of the house guided by the museum director and translated by our guides Irina and Luba. It’s a small six-room museum, open by appointment only. Nevertheless, it opens a door onto the brilliant career of a talented and driven artist. http://salomeamuseum.lviv.ua/en
Solomiya Krushelnytska was born in 1872 near Ternopil, one of a number of children from a musical family who put on performances on a special stage their father built in their home. Her father was a bishop. Solomiya made her first public performance in Ternopil at the age of 11. As a young lady, she was engaged to be married, but asked her parents if she could pursue a professional career in music instead. Her mother said no, but her father said yes. She broke her engagement and began one of the most brilliant careers of the early twentieth century. She moved to Lviv to study at the conservatory of music when she was 19 and debuted in 1893 in La Favorita, by Donicetti. Later that year, on the advice of an Italian performer who heard her sing, she moved to Italy to study in Milan.
The museum collection in her apartment features art objects she owned and portraits created of her. It also features posters and playbills from performances she gave in roles such as Salome, Aida, and Elsa in Lohengrin, as well as photographs of her famous teachers and partners, such as Caruso. (See photos of Solomiya Khrushelnytska at http://orpheusandlyra.homestead.com/Krushelnytska.html). It also features costumes from Lohengrin and Madame Butterfly, for example, recreated by students of stage costuming in Lviv.
She was a great friend and interpreter of Puccini. She premiered his Manon Lescaut in Lviv in 1895, and in 1904 made Madame Butterfly famous. Three months before, Puccini had debuted the opera at La Scala to an unfavorable response. He asked Khrushelnytska to help him resurrect it. They worked together for thee months and debuted the result at Brescia, where, finally, it became a hit. Puccini considered Solomiya Khrushelnytska the secret of Madame Butterfly’s success the second time around. She spent more than 10 years traveling the world performing opera, and was especially admired in Argentina.
She married Cesare Ricchoni in Buenos Aires in 1910. They lived in Viareggio, Italy, on the coast just north of Pisa, a location apparently favored by singers of the time for the climate’s beneficial properties for their voices. The town features broad sandy beaches on one side and mountains on the other. Its location makes it easily accessible to Milan, where Krushelnytska sang at La Scala, as well as Florence, Genoa, Turin, Naples and Rome. In 1920, Khrushelnytska gave up performing opera and concentrated instead on giving concert performances. She traveled the world again. We heard one of her rare recordings and can understand the high praise her performances evoked.
Khrushelnytska’s husband Cesare died in 1936 and was buried in Viareggio.In 1939, she decided to visit Lviv. Unfortunately, she was caught in the Second World War, and was never to see Italy again. Her home was confiscated by the Italian government. She tried to leave Soviet Lviv many times, but finally, in 1948, she was congratulated upon being awarded Soviet citizenship, and therefore, she lost forever her opportunity to return to Italy.
Solomiya Krushelytska lived out the rest of her days in Soviet Lviv as a teacher of music. She is buried in Lychakiv Cemetery. The Opera and Ballet Theatre is named for her. Artifacts of her performances appear on the walls of the basement cafe, the Left Bank.