Saint Petersburg: It might not be over until the fat lady sings but a patriotic opera in Russia`s second city of Saint Petersburg has attempted to cement Moscow`s disputed control over Crimea in music at least.
"Save us! Don`t abandon us!" a chorus of women and children appealed at the premiere of "Crimea", a boisterous new work celebrating the Kremlin`s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
The opera traces Crimea`s history from the Crimean Wars of the 19th century right up to Russia`s seizure of the strategically important region in March.
The show, watched yesterday by around 300 people, includes footage of Crimean residents joyfully voting in a referendum to become part of Russia.
It also depicts protests against now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych in central Kiev that set in chain the events leading up the Kremlin`s Crimea grab, as well as archive footage from World War II.
The most recent footage shows the fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The production received a warm reception from the audience when it premiered yesterday at the small Saint Petersburg Opera Theatre in the city centre, reflecting widespread patriotic pride at Crimea`s takeover by Russia.
"The fact that Crimea returned to Russia is very important for us. We are proud of this and I liked the show," said Pyotr Svyatoshov, a vice-admiral.
"I liked it. I was crying. I know what it means to survive the Siege (of Leningrad). I know what war is," said 80-year-old Zinaida Afanasyeva.
The bare-bones production at a little-known venue has no separate stage or curtain, with singers performing scenes from Crimea`s history in the centre of the auditorium.
"This opera is an encounter. We are in direct contact with the public," said the director, Yuri Alexandrov.
One of the opera`s performers, a singer in a grey suit who provides a running commentary, sings: "Crimea was always a desirable trophy for its enemies."
But the singer adds it is "impossible to conquer or to give it to anyone" -- a reference to then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev`s decision to hand the territory to his native Ukraine in 1954.