Replacing a Russian star, a Ukrainian soprano graces the stage at The Metropolitan Opera House

Video report by US Correspondent Emma Murphy and words by Washington DC Producer Fred Dimbleby


We are sitting in the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St Volodymyr in Manhattan, listening in silence as Liudmyla Monastyrska sings a traditional lullaby.

The Ukrainian soprano's song fills the empty space, located in one of the busiest cities in the world.

Her voice creates a moment of calm after months of destruction and violence in her home country.

Liudmyla is not in New York to sing to us, but to perform on the grandest of stages at the Metropolitan Opera House, singing the lead role of Puccini's opera Turandot.

Liudmyla Monastyrska sings in the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr in Manhattan

She was asked to fill in for the role after The Met parted ways with the original cast member, Russian opera star Anna Netrebko, because of her past support of President Vladimir Putin.

For her part, Ms Netrebko denied being close to Mr Putin saying she had only met him a few times and was not an ally of "any leader of Russia".

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine has welded together the professional and personal lives of these two stars.

Ms Monastyrska tells us being called up to play the role was "a surprise" but that she is "very proud to be here for my country."

Liudmyla Monastyrska performs the titular role in Puccini's Turandot at The Met Credit: The Metropolitan Opera

And her country is constantly on her mind.

Her son and parents are still in Kyiv and, like millions of others, her daughter has fled.

"It’s almost impossible to sing... thinking about my family every second, every minute," she said.

"I can't believe what happened in my country... this is a very peaceful people, very peaceful territory".

She also cannot believe those who have supported Putin.

"This is a regime of war, an aggressive regime", she tells us.

After her first performance of the part, she emerged in front of the cheering New York audience wrapped in a Ukrainian flag - her pride for her country on full display.

For The Met's General Manager, Peter Gelb, it was Liudmyla's talent not nationality that landed her the role.

He told us: "When we made the decision that we could not move forward with Ms Netrebko... we obviously had to replace her.

"The Met is the largest opera house in the world, it requires the most powerful voices in the world.

"There are only a handful of singers who can sing at the level of The Met in this role and we had to scramble to find the best possible singer, and that singer was Liudmyla Monastyrska.

"The fact that she is Ukrainian is poetic justice," he added.

Ms Monastyrska will perform the role one last time on Saturday in front of an almost sold out Opera House.

But the curtain's close on that performance will mark only the start of another project with The Met.

From July, she will be performing in a series of concerts with the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra - a group of Ukrainian musicians brought together by The Met and Polish National Opera to perform in Europe and the US.

Ms Monastyrska will sing the aria "Abscheulicher!" from Beethoven's Fidelio, a song of praise to humanity and peace in the face of violence.