The National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in the southern port city of Odesa reopened on Friday for the first time since Russia's invasion began, defying months of anguish and deadly shelling.
"Yesterday Odesa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater opened its doors to the audience," Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko said on his official Twitter account Saturday.
"I’m very glad that we continue to open our theaters in wartime. Our culture is our second front. It’s our weapon, which has to work even in such difficult times."
The first concert began with a solemn performance of the National Anthem of Ukraine, as the audience "rose from the first chords of the orchestra," read a press release from the opera house.
The night of the reopening featured a performance by the Odesa National Opera orchestra and choir, the opera house said.
“While the heart of Odesa Opera is beating, Odesa and Ukraine are alive, free, strong, independent and undefeated!” the opera house said.
The performances at Odesa Opera will be dedicated to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, because thanks to them the public was “able to go to the theatre and artists can share their creativity,” the opera house said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city on Saturday, a day after the reopening, and toured the frontlines and a hospital treating wounded soldiers, his office said. Zelensky said Russian shelling in the Odessa region has recently killed at least 55 residents and destroyed several buildings.