Since childhood she has realized that her life would be connected to music, however, she did not know how for a long time. She perceives success as an opportunity for creativity and emphasizes: there is no secret, you just need to work constantly. About the childhood and first successes, gender stereotypes, and teamwork, the passivity of Ukrainian culture and the significance of our music – the way General Music Director of the Graz Opera Oksana Lyniv herself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.
About childhood and music
In fact, it turned out that the future conductor had been involved in music since childhood.
“I was fond of music since I was five I attended piano classes because my mother played this instrument. Since I was ten I was playing sopilka. It was the nineties – the years after independence, so folklore bands and folk music had become extremely popular.”
Moreover, in childhood, parents organized an entire… family music band for Oksana and her brother.
“My dad founded and managed an adult folk chapel ‘Boyan’, but especially for us, he had made a family band. They were singing there with my mother, my aunt, brother, me and two cousins. Daddy made very beautiful arrangements, we were accompanying ourselves on musical instruments.”
However, Oksana wasn’t dreaming about orchestras or Opera Theater in childhood. Her hometown, Brody, is too small. Back then the conductor was fascinated by the process itself, she viewed theatrical plays from the postcards found in the parent’s collection.
About her conducting style
Commenting on her technique, Oksana admits: she thinks about it a lot. Maybe even more than all of her colleagues.
“It is very important for me, after all, usually there’s not enough time during rehearsals, you do not have time to discuss everything, and very often you have to conduct without rehearsals – sometimes you have to do it by the means of direct contact, the language of the gestures, transport your ideas into the orchestra and to the stage.”
Oksana’s style is often described as “Prussian accuracy and almost choreographic elegance”. She modestly adds that if people perceive her this way, perhaps there is something in it.
“For me, two things are important in the sound of the orchestra: a structure, an acute organization of music, and at the same time the poetics of sound, its expression and maximum gradation of colors. I love the most when a rehearsal turns into a creative laboratory, everyone feels involved, there is no musician that would be unimportant, there is no voice in the orchestra that would be secondary.”
Oksana Lyniv rejoices the most when, as a result of intensive work, the orchestra becomes one big body, where everyone feels oneself as its important component.
“When this happens, we are very interested in it, it’s not boring, time runs out very quickly. For me, the greatest joy is when musicians don’t rush home after a rehearsal when they want to work.”
About the secret of her success
Lyniv is convinced: the secret is… to work a lot. And learn. According to the conductor, it is necessary to learn throughout your entire life, you have to develop without stops.
“You can’t allow yourself to stop. Therefore, only a constant movement forward. There can’t be such a moment when you say: “I have already done everything, I’ve become a professional conductor.” You always have to move, to learn, to improve. The higher the level of the orchestra, the greater the chances for the conductor’s development. A strong orchestra is capable of mastering a very complex repertoire that can’t do the other orchestras.”
“Development happens when we receive more and more intellectual and spiritual load each time. A new work, a new score are a closed book every time, some kind of cipher that needs to be understood. You have to comprehend the philosophy of the work: why the composer has written this piece, what he wanted to tell, what his motivation was. We have to understand these ourselves then we construct a model of the sound of that work, its interpretation, its drama…”
About the perception of success
Nowadays the Ukrainian admits: when almost nobody knows you, it’s very difficult to start. However, even when it seems nobody needs you, it may always turn out that you’ve been watched all the time.
“When I signed a contract with Graz, the intendant told me that she had been interested in me already in 2009 when I was a student at the Dresden Music Academy. For all this time she was watching me. Back then it seemed to me that nobody needed me. However, it turned out that a lot of people were watching me.“
Oksana has her own definition of success. She says that this is far from status or some financial situation. This is an opportunity for creativity.
“When the agent called me and said that Metropolitan Opera is interested in me and that I’m I already on the list of lead debutant-conductors, then I’d realized that there is no chance for an average result. All this happens no matter how tired you are, whether you have a jet lag or you’re in another state – nobody is interested in anything. You’re constantly under the microscope and in the spotlight of the entire world. So there can’t be another option: you always have to work at your top“.
About gender stereotypes
In this regard, the profession of the conductor is very indicative: as soon as the stereotype of the “man’s job” breaks down, a lot of people have a repulsion to it. However, Oksana is convinced: it is impossible to say that Ukraine is losing to Europe in the gender issue.
“The situation is better now, and many female conductors are in the group. If we compare the situation with Germany, then in percentage terms we have more female conductors. There are more than one hundred orchestras and a philharmonics there, and there’s less than 2% of female conductors.”
The conductor tells about the silent solidarity of men. Thus, there is no open opposition to women, but it happens rarely when a man chooses between two candidates of different sex and makes a choice in favor of a woman.
“I didn’t even expect to get a place in the Graz. It seemed to me that the situation was in limbo, the female conductor is still exotic for the Austrians. I thought that they would propose some single shows or concerts, but would not sign a contract for three years, which would mean a very tight, daily work with the team. I guess they were intrigued by something in my candidacy so it convinced them.”
About the cultural life of Ukraine
The conductor has been familiar with it for a long time, and from her own experience she asserts: unfortunately, we have a very passive cultural life. Even more – there is no connection between cities.
“Roughly speaking, Kyiv doesn’t know what is happening in Lviv. This is a consequence of the fact that there are almost no cultural sections in the Ukrainian press, the ones which would tell about some events of artistic life, no matter whether they’re bad, scandalous or good.”
However, there is a way out of course. Creative people, according to Lyniv, would have to cooperate more with each other, travel more to each other inside the country – there should be a creative exchange.
“It would encourage everyone to keep up because when you play in front of your familiar audience it’s one thing, but when you come to another city, you have to prove everything one more time. Therefore, for example, it is very important for me to have a tour with other teams in other countries because your orchestra has already got used to you and you’re already loved, however, when you come to another orchestra, you have to regain your authority.”
About the importance of the development of Ukrainian music
Even though our cultural life is often quite passive and closed, the Ukrainian emphasizes: culture and music are capable of making our nation a strong one.
“It should be remembered that our country has been independent since 1991 only. Before that, Ukraine had been constantly under the control of neighboring empires. Ukrainian culture, publications in the Ukrainian language, and the Ukrainian language itself were forbidden.
During the last two decades, we’re experiencing the birth of free Ukrainian culture – as well as from the spirit of music. Culture and music make our nation strong! Unfortunately, this is not always adequately recognized by the politicians in the country itself.”
By Dmytro Zhuravel
The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.