Born in Venezuela to American parents, Hobart Earle leads today the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1991, with a salary of $50 a month, an orchestra poorly funded in a dilapidated post-Soviet city, Hobart was determined to rebuild this 54-year-old orchestra, playing on poor quality instruments in cold and almost empty concert halls. Navigating the Soviet bureaucratic system, learning Russian and Ukrainian less spoken, charming those who despised him because he was a foreigner, Hobart raised funds, conquered musicians, and filled concert halls. Today, the orchestra is considered one of the best in the world.
Hobart believes deeply in the power of music and its language that connects people of different cultures and nations. For Hobart, music is the language of peace. He is inspired by the example of a concert he conducted in September 2014 at Dom Muziki in Moscow – an entirely American program, including “Gershwin’s American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue”. The concert was a somewhat surreal experience given the high tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Russia and the West.
Ukrainians face questions of language, identity and the dilemma of whether to stay or leave their country. The struggle to maintain their distinct language and identity has a long history, going back to tsarist Russia and continuing through the Soviet era to this day. Today, many Ukrainians speak Russian but identify with Ukraine and not with Russia.
Although a foreigner living in Ukraine, Hobart was honored in 2013 as the first Westerner to be named “People’s Artist of Ukraine”, a prestigious government award.
On 21 February 2014, he conducted Verdi’s “Aida” at the Donbass Opera House in Donetsk on the eve of President Lanukovich’s departure from the official presidential residence in Kiev. No one, neither on stage nor in the audience, had the slightest idea that this would be the last performance. Nor did anyone know that this show marked the end of an era. Unfortunately, the opera house closed its doors and its warehouse, which housed the magnificent opera sets, including “Aida”, was destroyed.
A few months later, Hobart took over the “Black Sea Music Fest”, an annual classical music festival in Odessa. This festival illustrates how music is a unique tool to unite people in difficult times. While tensions are high between Ukraine and Russia, the festival succeeds in bringing together Russian artists such as guest conductor Mikhail Pletnev and pianist Konstantin Lapshin.
Since 1992, Hobart has been touring with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra and conducting several orchestras in Europe, Russia, Asia and the United States, including the famous Carnegie Hall. He directs a wide range of music including Gershwin, Beethoven, Mahler, Strauss, Strauss, Strauss, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky as well as Ukrainian composers such as Mykola Kolessa, Myroslav Skoryk, Yevhen Stankovych and Reinhold Gliere.
Author: Jacques Pion, French photographer, who made a reportage on Odessa
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