Gulak-Artemovsky's fame as a composer was brought by his opera "Zaporozhets za Dunayem", which he completed in 1862. It premiered on the stage of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg a year ago. In 1864-65 the opera was staged in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theater. In both performances, the role of Karas was played by the author. The theme of the opera "Zaporozhets on the Danube" is closely connected with Ukrainian history. The idea of its creation was suggested to the composer by the outstanding Ukrainian historian, poet and thinker Mykola Kostomarov. In 1775, by order of Empress Catherine II, the Zaporozhian Sich was destroyed. Many Zaporozhians fled abroad, to the territory that belonged to the Turks. The Transdanubian Sich was formed there. Although the way of life there was similar to Zaporizhzhya Sich, the Cossacks dreamed of returning to Ukraine. Turkey hoped to use the Cossacks against Russia, but in 1828, during the Russo-Turkish War, some Cossacks returned to their homeland, and the Transdanubian Sich was destroyed. It was these events that formed the basis of the opera's design. The author rethought them and moved them to the XVIII century.
The opera fell in love with the audience, but was soon removed from the repertoire. The reason was the Polish uprising of 1863. Censorship also affected the development of Ukrainian drama and theater. Apart from amateur productions, for the first time since 1863 "Zaporozhets za Dunayem" was staged by a Ukrainian troupe for 21 years, in 1884, in Rostov-on-Don. The restoration of the stage life of the opera dates back to Soviet times. It was staged in many theaters not only in Ukraine but also in other republics of the USSR, as well as abroad. "Zaporozhets on the Danube" is the first work with which Ukrainian folk song and folk dance appeared on the stage. One of the features of the opera is conversational dialogues, which allow to reveal the images of the heroes more vividly.
Semyon Stepanovych Hulak-Artemovsky – Ukrainian composer, singer, dramatic artist, playwright, author of the first Ukrainian opera. He was born in 1813 in Horodyshche, Cherkasy County (now Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine).
The fate of S. Hulak-Artemovsky was decided by his beautiful voice. In 1838, when Gulak-Artemovsky was studying at the Kyiv Stock Exchange, Glinka drew attention to his talent and took the talented young man with him to St. Petersburg. Glinka first gave him singing lessons, and in 1839 he organized several concerts in his favor. Gulak-Artemovsky studied abroad with the funds raised. After visiting Paris, he went to Italy, where after two years of study he made his debut at the Florentine Opera. In 1842 Semyon Gulak-Artemovsky returned to St. Petersburg, where for 22 years he was a soloist of the Russian Imperial Opera in St. Petersburg, and in 1864-1865 – a soloist of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
A special place in Gulak-Artemovsky’s creative heritage is occupied by Ukrainian songs, in particular “A sycamore stands above the water” (dedicated to T. Shevchenko, with whom the author has been friends since 1838), “I don’t want to sleep”, “Oh, the reapers are reaping on the mountain.” “- a rhapsody from a collection of seven songs under the general title” Ukrainian wedding “, and others. Semyon Gulak-Artemovsky was also interested in folk medicine, statistics, and compiled “Statistical and Geographical Tables of the Cities of the Russian Empire.” Semyon Stepanovich Gulak-Artemovsky died in 1873 in Moscow and was buried in Vagankovsky Cemetery.
Turkish bank of the Danube. Ukrainians living there dream of returning to Ukraine. It is not easy for them to live abroad, under the rule of the Turkish sultan. Near the house of the Cossack Ivan Karas, his daughter Oksana misses her lover, the Cossack Andriy. She would like to live with him in Ukraine. Her friends, with whom she goes to harvest, try to comfort her. Odarka would also like to go to the field, but there is no one to leave the house for, because her husband has not been at home for two days. Crucian appears. Having had a good drink, he is afraid of meeting his wife. He comes up with various excuses, but eventually admits that he spent the night with his niece. This angers Odarka once and for all.
Turkish Sultan is restless at heart. He is worried about the mood of the Zaporozhian subjects, who have every reason not to love him. To get acquainted with the life and mood of the Cossacks, the Sultan arrives incognito to the village where Karas lives. The Cossack is very surprised by the appearance of an unfamiliar Turk. The conversation starts. Ivan Karas suggests that the stranger arrived on a Mohammedan holiday, where, they say, the Sultan himself should be. The guest promises to introduce Karas to the ruler. Ivan, satisfied, offers the Turk to drink vodka with him. While the Cossack goes to the house for a glass, the Sultan orders his courtier Selikha-Aga to bring Karas to the palace. Selih-Aga disguises the Cossack in Turkish clothes, offers to change his name from Ivan to Urhan, and escorts him to the Sultan’s palace. Meanwhile, boys and girls are returning from the field. Oksana and Andriy, who met after a long separation, decide to flee home immediately. The night is dark, and the shuttle is ready for a long time. But as soon as they sail away from the shore, they are noticed by a Turkish guard and rushes after them.
Returns from the Sultan’s Palace Karas. He continues to play Turk. Odarka is worried again: the man calls himself Urhan and is going to start a harem. Odarka’s bitter complaints about her fate are interrupted by the arrival of Turkish Imam Ibrahim Ali. He is followed by a Turkish guard with the caught fugitives – Andrew and Oksana. The Imam gathers the Cossacks on the square and announces an order stating that the Sultan allows anyone to return to Ukraine without hindrance. The crucian tells the audience about visiting the palace. It was thanks to his warnings of a possible uprising that the Sultan decided to voluntarily release the Ukrainians. National joy, dashing Ukrainian hopak.