Lviv Opera in Ukraine – What is Lviv, Ukraine known for?

Matt Mendelsohn Photography

It is first and foremost a city of many names, how could it not be, given its dazzling history of richness and complexity? In the Latin inscriptions you can still see on many of its impressive public buildings, it’s Leopolis, a name honoring the 13th-century Ruthenian prince Leo I, whose father, King Daniel, founded the city in 1272. (The Italians still call her Leopoli.) call her Lemberg—that’s what my grandfather, born in 1902 as a subject of the kind Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I, also called her, since it was then the capital of the Austrian province of Galicia—and if you grew up there, German was the language you spoke at school. (The ancestors of a large proportion of American Jews began their journey to the New World from the Lemberg station; this is the case of Barbra Streisand.)

If you are Polish, as many inhabitants of the city were until the Second World War, you call it Lwów (pronounced L’-VOOF), like, for example, the members of the famous “Lwów school”. of mathematicians. They met regularly in the Scottish Café, which still exists, and debated their theorems, writing them down on the marble tables – just a small part of the city’s intense intellectual and cultural activity in the 19th and 20th centuries. (It is to the humanist writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Austrian aristocrat born in Lemberg and author of venus in furs, that we owe the word masochism.)

The world is now waiting to see what name it will carry in the future.

Russians, who owned Ukraine until 1992, call it Lvov, and for Ukrainians it has always been Lviv. The world is now waiting to see what name it will carry in the future.

Due to its dense and complicated history, Lviv is also a city of many other things. The most famous churches. It is said that no other city in the Habsburg Empire had so many denominations: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Armenian, etc., each reflected in its distinctive architectural vernacular. (The yellow-and-white Baroque confection known as St. George’s Cathedral gives everything in Rome a hard time.) The story goes that when Franz Josef arrived at the turn of the century, the whole trip was taken up by the churches; As his entourage rushed him to the train station at the end of the state visit, he turned and said, “But what about my Jews? So they had to stay to visit all the synagogues. There’s a reason an old man I knew, who grew up near Lviv in the 1930s, smiled at me and exclaimed, “We were the first multiculturals!

When I first visited this remarkable city, in 2001, there were still portraits of the Emperor hanging in cafes, a not-quite-ironic nod to how the city’s rich past is never far below the surface here. The Habsburg past, in particular, is felt along the main avenues: squint, and you might be in Vienna. Just look at the Opera House, built in the late 1890s. (At the time, the street it stands on was named after an Austrian archduke; 50 years later, a statue of Lenin stood in front her.) With its roof topped with giant bronze figures of Poetry, Music and Glory, it’s like the dream of 19th-century Europe. My brother Matt captured it during a mild rain in August 2001. We hope to go back and see it again one day.

This story appears in the May 2022 issue of City & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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