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Ibsen opens season on Thessaloniki’s experimental stage November 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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Theater also to show lesser-known Europeans
Thessaloniki’s Piramatiki Skini Tis Technis, the northern city’s most active private sector experimental theater, has just launched its new season with Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts.”

The play, which premiered at this year’s Dimitria Festival, is part of a series marking the centennial anniversary of the major Norwegian playwright’s death. “Ghosts” will run until January 7, from Thursdays to Sundays.

Nine productions, five of them new, have been included on the theater’s agenda for this season. Three plays are carrying on from last season and one is the project of another theatrical company being hosted by Piramatiki Skini. All nine, according to the theater’s director Nikiforos Papandreou, carry a common theme crisis. “Everything begins with an extreme moment that will lead to extreme circumstances crisis in love, marriage, family, conflict between generations, ideologies and values, all with subversive humor that takes the myth out of big words,” said Papandreou.

The theater has also just launched a second production, Rainer Lewandowski’s “Today Not Even Hamlet,” a comical commentary on drama and people of the theater. This production, directed by Dimitris Naziris, is being staged every Wednesday.

In January, it will be followed by “Progress” or “The word progress on my mother’s lips doesn’t ring true”, a play by Romanian Matei Visniec, an important European playwright who is unknown in Greece. Visniec’s play is daring and ruthless, and at the same time offers a poetic look at the consequences of the recent Balkan wars.

Also included on the theater’s agenda for the current season is a comedy titled “With Strength from Kifissia” by Dimitris Kehaidis and Eleni Haviara.

For further information, call 2310 860708.

Famed venue resurrected with jazz, blues and more November 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Louisiana Red plays the new Planet Music venue on December 8 and 9.

Music enthusiasts in Athens, especially fans of blues, jazz and world music, tend to have nostalgic recollections of Blues Hall in the central Mets district. It was launched back in November 1997 and lasted a brief but sweet two years. Now, seven years later, the same venue is being relaunched, fully renovated and equipped with a new sound system. The revived club has also been given a new name, Planet Music. Even so, the venue’s artistic direction will not differ greatly from that of its previous life. Jazz and blues will again figure prominently but, this time around, the venue will also add a rock dimension to its total offering, with shows by acts from the international indie circuit.

The club has already announced a series of shows from December to March next year. Chicago act Big Time Sarah and Blues Cargo are scheduled to perform on December 7. On the 8th and 9th, Louisiana Red will perform a set that should take concertgoers back to the days of Patsy Cline and Louis Armstrong and the easy-listening jazz of the 1950s and 60s. He will also be backed by Blues Cargo.

Acoustic and electric jazz shows aside, the revived venue will host a full-on swing night with the Slammers Maximum Jive Band on December 15 and 16. Influenced by the Big Band era and acts such as Louis Jordan and Louis Prima, the Slammers rev up their sound for more of a boogie-woogie tempo.

The same goes for Ray Gelato, a well-known performer here as a result of numerous previous shows in Greece. An American musician of Italian descent, Gelato is scheduled to return for three nights, January 25 to 27, with his entire band. The influence of Prima and other jazz masters, all from a previous era when jazz was dance music, or the period’s pop music, is much inherent in Gelato’s work.

Gelato’s shows at Planet Music will be preceded by Memo Gonzales, a worthy rhythm-and-blues artist booked for two nights on January 5 and 6.

Ethnic act Nightlosers, whose material blends elements of jazz, blues and Irish rock, as well as traditional styles from Eastern Europe, will also play Planet Music in January, on the 12th and 13th.

A wealth of book events November 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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Granta magazine editor Ian Jack is visiting Athens as a guest of the British Council and Yiannikos, which publishes Granta in Greek. Hear him talk about Granta and Theodoros Grigoriadis talk about what Granta means for a Greek writer at the Benaki Museum in Kolonaki on December 4 at 7.30 p.m. (1 Koumbari Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, tel 210 3670000)

Opening >Have a drink with Metaichmio publishers at the opening of their new multipurpose space on December 4 from 6-10 p.m. An exhibition of 118 portraits of writers painted by Yiannis Psychopaidis opens at the same time. (118 Ippocratous Street, tel 211 3003500)

Launches > «Mania me tin anixi» (Obsession with Spring) is Aris Marangopoulos’s sequel to Stratis Tsirkas’s «Hameni anixi» (Lost Spring). Ellinika Grammata is launching the book at the Papasotiriou bookstore with a discussion between the author and Vassilis Vassilikos on the Left, terrorism and love on December 4 at 7 p.m. (34 Panepistimiou Street, tel 210 3253232)

Photography > Agra publishers and the Benaki Museum present «I fotografos Voula Papaioannou» (The Photographer Voula Papaioannou) at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex on December 4 at 8 p.m. The book contains striking images that the photographer donated to the museum’s archive. (138 Pireos Street, tel 210 3453111)

Santorini spotlight > The community of Oia, Santorini, and Topio publications present «Oia, Santorini» at noon on December 4 at the Ianos bookstore. With color photographs by Dimitris Talianis and text by Kadio Kolymva, the album is the latest in a bilingual Greek-English series. Music and treats will follow. (24 Stadiou Street, tel 210 9407461)

Adoption > Metaichmio publishers and the Ianos bookstore present Petros Tatsopoulos’s new book, «I kalosyni ton xenon» (The Kindness of Strangers), which deals with adoption, on December 5 at 9 p.m. (24 Stadiou Street, tel 210 9407461)

Civil conflict > The French Institute and Kastaniotis publishers present «To imerologio tou emfyliou dichasmou» (The Diary of the Civil Divide) by Rovirou Manthoulis in the auditorium of the French Institute at 7 p.m. on December 5. The author’s film «The Greek Civil War» will be screened and followed by a discussion with journalist Stelios Kouloglou. (31 Sina Street, tel. 210 3398600)

James ‘Athenian’ Stuart,1713–1788: The Rediscovery of Antiquity November 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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In the middle of the 18th century, when European artists were just beginning to get interested in Hellenic art, an interest dovetailing with the Enlightenment’s promotion of ordered, rational ideals, James “Athenian” Stuart had beaten them to the punch.

The English designer, architect, and selfproclaimed “learned and curious person” had already traveled extensively throughout Greece, with artist Nicholas Revett, between 1751 and 1753. Stuart and Revett rigorously measured and accurately recorded, for the first time, ancient Greek temples, monuments, and ruins. Their modest goal was to uncover new decorative elements by tapping the “primary sources” of antiquity. Instead, they unwittingly sewed the seeds of a full-blown Greek revival in the applied arts.

Stuart, along with other 18th-century notables such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann, was one of the first European advocates of ancient Greek art. His travels abroad made him one of the first artists to draw directly from Greek ruins, a fact that bestowed his images with an unassailable authenticity. In England, his designs for buildings, interiors, and furniture were some of the first instances of this newly acquired lexicon of Grecian decorative motifs used in daily practice. But unlike other historical persons who achieved landmark firsts, Stuart has remained relatively unknown.

Perhaps the exhibition “James ‘Athenian’ Stuart,1713–1788: The Rediscovery of Antiquity,” at the Bard Graduate Center, will spark the rediscovery of James Stuart.

Curated by the founder and director of the Bard Graduate Center, Susan Weber Soros, this exhibition exemplifies what the Bard Graduate Center does best. Though not without its flaws, the show reflects Bard’s roots as an educational institution. Shows at Bard are based on a belief in, and commitment to, elucidating historically important art and artists, regardless of their potential blockbuster status, in a way that is not only intellectually rigorous, but is always made accessible through detail-oriented installation. For the Stuart exhibition, this detail takes the form of numerous documentary photographs and videos that help flesh out Stuart’s own drawings, etchings, designs for buildings and interiors, furniture, vases, and even medals. More than 180 works, sprawled over three floors, are used to broaden the viewer’s understanding of James “Athenian” Stuart.

The work for which Stuart is perhaps best known is the three-volume “The Antiquities of Athens,” published in 1762, 1789, and 1795. These volumes, containing etchings Stuart made based on the piles of drawings he produced while in Greece with Revett, became a standard neoclassical design sourcebook in the 19th century. Eighteen of these on-site gouache drawings are on view here. The experience of the drawings is one part travelogue plus one part academic archaeology, adding up to an intimately personal, yet vicarious, Grand Tour.

From a “View of the Amphitheatre at Pola From the West” (1750s–60s) to a “View of the Gate of Athene Archegetis, Athens” (1750s–60s), these drawings depict the ruins against unbelievably crisp, blue skies, and often with groups of figures mingling among them, lending a sense of scale to the structures.

Relating less to the refined watercolors of Paul Sandby (1730–1809), Stuart’s drawings do feel more like the objective, literal records they were meant to be, rather than individualized works of art. His detailed attention to the native dress of his figures produces a kind of ethnographic record. Amazingly, some of these drawings are the only remaining images of ancient structures no longer standing, such as the Temple on the Ilissus River, destroyed by the Turks in 1778.

On view alongside these drawings are copies of the first volume of “The Antiquities of Athens,” one of which is shown closed to display the gold-tooled, red morocco leather presentation binding Stuart designed. This type of binding was a rarity, ahead of its time in the area of bookbinding for its use of neoclassical elements such as palmettes and anthemion.

Stuart’s accomplishments run deeper than his documentation of antiquarian architecture. He was a tastemaker, renowned in his time as a connoisseur of classical style whose objects, interiors, and buildings were based on the ideals of the Greek aesthetic. The large, elegantly proportioned copper “Plate warmer” (1760), designed for Kedleston Hall, feels like a summation of Stuart’s ideas, and at the time was one of the most ambitious gilt-metal objects attempted. A large pine-cone shaped body, resting on a base of three sphinxes, is decorated with a band of statuesque Greek youths. Their elongated bodies create a geometric dynamo stretching the eye upward, creating a sense of power and order, while their interlocked hands zigzag around the plate warmer’s volume.

His designs for the famed Spencer House (1758–66), one of the most important neoclassical interiors in England, include what is known as the Painted Room. Here, Stuart applied the first example of grotesche, decorative arabesque with interlaced garlands, popular as frescoes in ancient Rome, to both wall and ceiling, creating a perfectly pitched horror vacui of classical motifs.

Also on view are two furniture pieces from the suite Stuart designed for this room. Working with basic French shapes, he added gilt, animal-inspired legs and wings, and even lions’ heads, all based on ancient seating models, creating some of the first English neoclassical-style furniture.

Stuart was not as ambitious with his career as his well-known contemporary, Robert Adam. He apparently cared little about financial success and did not actively seek new commissions, content instead with the occasional support from fellow members of the Society of Dilettanti. Later in life, his hands became plagued with gout and he was accused of “Epicureanism”, polite code for being a drunk, both of which led to many unexecuted designs. He was, however, in the right place at the right time, for his radical ideas about mining the antique for new models were on the forefront of the Enlightenment’s cultural sea change banishing the vacuous gushings of rococo. Too bad for us he never fulfilled the potential of this new, stringent style.

Until February 11, at 18 W. 86th St. at Central Park West, 212-501-3000.

Russia’s Gazprom eager to enter Greek market November 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Russia’s state controlled gas giant Gazprom is looking to acquire electricity assets in Greece, Bulgaria and Moldova, business daily Vedomosti reported, citing a senior official at Gazprom subsidiary Gazpromenergo.

Gazprom is looking to acquire electricity assets in Bulgaria and Greece through local joint ventures Overgas and Prometheus Gas respectively, said Yury Lukanin, head of foreign projects at Gazpromenergo, Gazprom’s electricity subsidiary, the paper reported.

Gazprom’s interest in these countries has grown due to the South-European gas pipeline project, which will cross both countries, Lukanin said. Moldova has offered Gazprom interests in three of its electricity assets as part of efforts to clear some $1.4 billion of debt to the gas company, he said.

In recent years Gazprom has stepped up efforts to develop its holdings in Russia’s electricity sector, a large consumer of its gas. It has also struck several deals to gain direct access to lucrative end-users in the European Union.