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Christmas Art Bazaar December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.
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A Christmas Art Bazaar took place at the Athens Cycladic Art Museum from the 24th to the 26th of November.

All revenues are to be donated to the “Hara”, home of people with special needs. The event will be moved to Thessaloniki in December, 15-17.

On the first day the participants will become the sales people and the visitors will be able to buy their preferences from favorite and well known people of the entertainment world.

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Coins and Kavafis poetry December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Europe.
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At the History and Art Museum in Vienna, the exhibition titled “Coins and Poetry, Konstantinos Kavafis” is opening on Monday the 27th.

The exhibition will close in March, 2007 and includes coins with over 180 figures and personalities that inspired the great poet and are mentioned in 77 of his poems which are also included in the exhibition.

The coins are from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods.

Unique trips in Ancient Athens December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Events Greece, Culture History Mythology, Greece Athens.
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The Greek public may enjoy an enchanting walk, in the Ancient Athens Market, in the virtual reality theatre of the Hellenic World Foundation.

This ultra modern theatre has a 132 seats capacity and extends to 2.300 m2.  The official opening will be on Monday, December 4, but for the public it will open in January, 2007.

The visitor may be able to choose his route and form in part the development of the presentation through a special navigation system in his seat. Another innovation of the “Tholos” theatre is to integrate in real time the interaction of virtual elements and actors.

Theatre awards ceremony on Monday December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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The Union of Hellenic Theatre and Music Critics, in association with the City of Athens Cultural Organisation, is hosting the 2006 Theatre and Music Critics’ Awards and Distinctions and the Karolos Koun Awards on Monday, December 4, at noon at the Athens Concert Hall, Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall.

Considered the most prestigious awards in the respective fields, the Critics’ Awards cover all categories of Greek lyrical expression in these two key forms, while also touching on musicology and the theatre of science.

This year’s Theatre and Music Committees comprise critics hailing from a wide variety of publications. More specifically, the Theatre Committee comprises Matina Kaltaki, Irini Moudraki (chairman), Spyros Payiatakis, Dimitris Tsatsoulis and Giorgos Hadjidakis, while the Music Committee is composed of Thanassis Valvidas, Giorgos Kyrko-Tayias, Kyriakos Loukakos (chairman), Liana Roussianou-Piperaki and Alexis Spanidis.

The announcement of award nominees will be accompanied by a brief screening of a sample of the nominated work. Additionally, journalist Ellie Solomonidou-Balanou will be pronounced honorary member of the Union for her extensive journalistic contribution.

The symbol of the Theatre and Music Critics’ Awards is a gold-plated replica of a wreath which was found in a Hellenistic-era royal grave and is on display in the Benaki Museum. The symbol of the Karolos Koun Awards is a replica of the work “Sun”, which was created by artist Diamandis Diamandopoulos for a production of Euripides’ “Alcestis”, the first ancient Greek play directed by Karolos Koun.

Related Links > http://www.cityofathens.gr/files/pdf/HomePage/upopsifioi2006.pdf

Hadjikyriakos-Ghika exhibition at City of Athens Art Gallery December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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An exhibition entitled “Ghika: Landscapes and Interiors”, which opened on November 29, at the City of Athens Art Gallery marks the conclusion of a tribute honouring the 100 years since the birth of esteemed Greek artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (1906-1994).

Forty-two paintings, 70 sketches, 15 gravures and 18 silk-screens make up the exhibition, which presents characteristic Ghika works, the laborious procedures involved, exterior influences, his flair for design and engraving skills.

The exhibition is being organised in association with the Benaki Museum’s Ghika Art Gallery, from which the majority of the works were lent, while contributions also came from the National Gallery, the National Bank Educational Foundation and private collectors. City of Athens Art Gallery and Museums director Nelly Kyriazi is the curator of the exhibition, while Salomi Papadopoulou oversaw the accompanying special publication.
 
The exhibition is open November 29, 2006 through January 29, 2007, at the City of Athens Art Gallery, 51 Pireos Street, Koumoundourou Square. Open 9:00-13:00 and 17:00-21:00, except for Saturday and Sunday evenings. For further information, call 210  3231841. Student group visits: 210 3313038, 210 3240472.

See also > More on Ghika’s work by Nelly Kyriazi http://www.cityofathens.gr/files/pdf/HomePage/Nelli-Kyriazi.pdf
 
The City of Athens Art Gallery exhibition coincides with another show featuring the same artist, entitled “Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika. The Apollonian-The Dionysian”, which is on at the new wing of the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street. The exhibition opened on November 22 and runs through January 21, 2007.

Related Links > http://www.benaki.gr/exhibitions

Spending time at the Thessaloniki Film Festival December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Spending time at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, a world-class event, as I always have to assure doubting Thomases, is an unmitigated pleasure, but there’s a catch.

Not a bad thing, certainly, quite the reverse, for most people, but let’s say a source of confusion. The catch is the presence of Greek films, and especially Cypriot films, amid the throng of entries from all over the world, which is like the effect of being on holiday in some faraway place and hearing Cypriot dialect being spoken at the table next to you. Do you acknowledge it? On the one hand, how can you not? On the other, you almost wish those films, like those dining companions, weren’t there, breaking the spell with their reminder of people and places left behind.

This year, the push-and-pull of exotic vs. familiar was especially strong, because this year’s Festival, the 47th, was marked by two things. On the one hand, a ‘New Chinese Cinema’ sidebar curated by Derek Elley, a veteran critic from trade bible Variety, packed with rarities from one of the world’s most exciting and hard-to-find cinemas. On the other, a strong Cypriot presence, with two shorts and two features, both widely liked, one of them extremely controversial.

What to see? In the end I managed to please both constituencies, though I’d have liked to sample more Chinese films than the two I managed to catch, Crazy Stone, a lively variation on Guy Ritchie crime comedies, and a huge hit in China, and Spring Subway, a stylish piece from 2002 that begins as urban whimsy and turns into a great breakup movie. “These seven years are like a piece of flesh torn out of me,” muses our hero in voice-over, talking of his marriage; “I can’t bear to cut it, even though it’s hanging by a thread”. “These seven years are like a child drowning before our eyes,” counters the heroine (also in voice-over), catching the exact mix of fear and helplessness that precedes a failed relationship. Alas, the film subsides into mushy tearjerker, but I’m still glad I saw it.

I’m also glad I saw the Cypriot films, though I sense a slight generation gap opening up. Pharmakon, a 12-minute short directed by twentysomething Ioakim Mylonas, it won Best Experimental Film at the Festival in Drama city, wallows in Expressionist design and a Twilight Zone-ish plot; I didn’t see the other short, Animal Behaviour by Nicos Synnos, but the synopsis, “Television violence leads to a cruel game inside Dog’s house”,  also suggests an offbeat, younger person’s film. Mr. Synnos runs a “cartoon and experimental animation studio” in Limassol. Both the features, on the other hand, Meli ke Krasi, by 43-year-old Marinos Kartikkis, and Akamas, by 55-year-old Panicos Chrysanthou, were frugal and unflashy, making a virtue of plainness.

Meli ke Krasi (Honey and Wine) explores the burgeoning relationship between two lonely women with a deft touch and welcome sensitivity, working effectively within a low budget. Akamas is also old-fashioned, more pageant than movie as it ploughs through 30 years of Cyprus history. It’s “A Cypriot Film presented by Panicos Chrysanthou and Dervis Zaim” note the opening credits, pointedly juxtaposing a Greek and a Turkish name; that’s the Message, that we’re all Cypriots and should put ethnic divisions behind us, and the film sounds horribly didactic but actually works, made with obvious sincerity and mostly understating without toppling over into melodrama.

In a way, I’m being disingenuous. Akamas is already notorious as a political hot-potato, and Chrysanthou publicly accused the Ministry of Culture, which part-financed the film, of “unfriendly” behaviour bordering on “censorship”; if it ever gets shown in Cyprus, a big ‘if’, the debate clearly won’t revolve around aesthetics. Yet its plastic qualities are part of its charm: the placid village rhythm, the obvious love for the Cyprus landscape, the actors’ mostly toned-down performances, Chris Greco is soulful as our Turkish-Cypriot hero. The camera seldom moves, unless it’s to follow someone. A traditional singer narrates in verse, finally wishing the audience good health over the closing credits, and offers a telling parable for the tragedy of Cyprus: “A crazy man threw a pebble down a well, and 10 wise men jumped in after it”. When the film has its heroine sitting in a grotto, head on hand, it feels like a campy 50s love story; when EOKA attack in the night, with very blue moonlight and exciting music, all rattles and swooshes, it feels like some 70s Alistair MacLean adaptation. But it’s all for the best; if Akamas were slick, it might seem manipulative. Instead it’s plain and decent, only really faltering in some over-literary dialogue. As for the Message … well, I agree. But some will cry treason.

In the end, neither film featured in the Greek State Film Awards, where a Greco-German drama called Eduart was the big winner. Maybe the Greeks felt a bit embarrassed by our problems, mired as we are in bitter nationalism while Greece becomes ever more ‘European’, and the Festival’s many events included a tribute to Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, with both an exhibition of his photos and a screening of his latest film, marital drama Climates. Retros and tributes are often the best part of Thessaloniki, and this year’s goodies included a look at Brazilian cinema, from the ‘Cinema Novo’ of the late 1960s to recent hits like Central Station, a few films by Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer and a complete retrospective of German auteur Wim Wenders, of Wings of Desire (1987) fame. His superb Alice in the Cities (1974) was shown on the king-size screen at the Olympion, preceded by a ceremony where fellow master Theo Angelopoulos presented Wenders with a special ‘Golden Alexander’. Applause was tumultuous, not least because Angelopoulos used to be President of the Festival, left on bad terms two years ago and was now making his return/reconciliation. Everyone loves a bit of drama.

It’s a feast, a marvellous Festival, and I haven’t even mentioned the Competition itself, which was won by a low-key Korean drama called Family Ties but included gems like the brash Mexican offering Drama/Mex, depressed middle-ager befriends teenage runaway in Acapulco, and the hypnotic Day Night Day Night, young woman prepares for something unmentionable in New York City. Nor have I mentioned the many Special Screenings, more high-profile fare including The Queen, Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Diana, The Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, and Inland Empire, the mind-blowing latest from David Lynch. Nor have I mentioned the many selections from other festivals including my favourite film of the year, the Thai Syndromes and a Century. Nor have I mentioned the beautiful setting, right on the Gulf of Thermaikos where sea and sky merge into cream-coloured light on a hazy day.

Above all, perhaps, Thessaloniki is a young Festival. The audiences are young, mostly students, making them volatile but loudly appreciative. The staff are young, which explains the many parties lasting through the night. At the ceremony giving Wenders his award, I saw the man himself, tall, imposing, leonine, ambling to his seat near the stage, then one of the young volunteers rushing to her friends on the sidelines. “I said ‘hi’ to him!” she burbled excitedly. “And he said ‘hi’ back!”. And they giggled like cinephile schoolgirls.

ROBERT ALTMAN, 1925-2006 > I heard about it in Thessaloniki, at the ceremony honouring Wim Wenders. “But first I have some bad news,” intoned the presenter, and broke the news of Robert Altman’s death. He asked for a minute of silence, and the audience instantly rose as one, completely unbidden. Granted, this was a film-festival audience, but we’re also talking of a massive cinema holding several hundred people, and every one of them had heard of Robert Altman. How could you not?

For such a legendary filmmaker, Altman’s career was surprisingly erratic. He was over 40 by the time he found fame, having toiled for decades in TV and documentaries, which explains his always-acerbic attitude to Hollywood, he never won an Oscar, despite five nominations. ‘M.A.S.H.’ (1970) was the film that made his name, a military comedy,  touching a nerve in the time of Vietnam, with just enough blood to shock and just enough goofiness to charm. Above all, ‘M.A.S.H.’ was anarchic and casual, which made it even more anarchic, not a fiery satire like ‘Catch-22’ but a loose, irresponsible sort of film, thumbing its nose at all Authority.

That was the Altman sensibility, especially in his golden years of 1970-77 when he made six masterpieces and some pretty good movies one after the other. Altman’s trademark was overlapping dialogue, as if refusing to privilege one character over another, which often made his films seem chaotic. ‘The Long Goodbye’ (1973) played fast and loose with Raymond Chandler’s private-eye classic, cast Elliott Gould as a shambling, seemingly incompetent Philip Marlowe, and was assailed as “a spit in the eye to a great writer” by critic Michael Billington. ‘McCabe and Mrs. Miller’ (1971) was deliberately murky, forsaking the clean surfaces of traditional Westerns. ‘3 Women’ (1977) was incomprehensible, if magical.

Altman was a genuine free spirit; that he cared about his films seems self-evident, yet he also refused to care too deeply, at least if caring meant cocooning and coddling them, and sucking the life out of them. He valued their faults; he valued their individuality. In his career he was fearless, and reckless. ‘Popeye’ (1980) may be the oddest children’s film ever made by a Hollywood studio, a failure in almost every way yet somehow admirable for being so perverse, taking beloved kiddie characters like Popeye and Bluto and Olive Oyl and making them cranky and recessive. It made Altman a pariah, till he returned with ‘The Player’ (1992) ironically, a satire of Hollywood.

Altman in his 70s, finally acclaimed as a Grand Old Man, remained abrasive and irreverent, slipping out a couple more masterpieces, ‘Short Cuts’ (1993) and ‘Gosford Park’ (2001) and looking at the world from behind beady eyes and silver goatee. His last film was ‘A Prairie Home Companion’, made a few months ago when he already knew, but hadn’t told anyone, that he had cancer. Death looms large in the film, but there’s no self-pity: “The death of an old man,” we’re told, “is not a tragedy”. Prickly and unsentimental to the last.

The opera of operas December 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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Love, seducation, statues coming to dinner, it’s all in Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Everyone knows the story of Don Juan, the famous seducer of women. Not only did he believe that no woman could refuse him, he also used people around him without any moral questioning as he had no misgivings in allying himself with evil just to satisfy him self. It is on the archetype of this immoral man that Mozart’s highly acclaimed Don Giovanni is based.

This coming weekend you can enjoy Mozart’s masterpiece, often named ‘the opera of operas’, at the Rialto Theatre in Limassol. Presented by the Opera of Cottbus from Germany and the Cyprus State Orchestra, prepare for a contemporary production of high aesthetics where comic elements interchange with dramatic tension. All this is played out to the wonderful music of Mozart and the poetry of Lorenzo Da Ponte.

This opera premiered at the Estates Theatre in Prague back in October 1787 and was named a dramma giocoso or ‘playful drama,’ belonging to a genre which is neither completely comic nor completely tragic. Mozart himself directed all the rehearsals, had the singers come to his house to study, gave them advice on how some of the difficult passages should be executed, and explained the characters they represented with accuracy and detail. He wanted everything to be just perfect, but he wasn’t quite as organised as everyone thought. It has now come to light that the overture of Don Giovanni was written at the very last minute. Rumour has it that on the eve of the premiere Mozart passed a great evening with one of his friends who reminded him, “Tomorrow the first performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ will take place, and you have not yet composed the overture!” Mozart got nervous about it and withdrew to his room, where he found music-paper, pens, and ink. It was about midnight when he began to compose, and he worked straight through until the early hours of the morning.

The next evening, a little before the curtain rose, the copyists had just finished transcribing the parts for the orchestra. Although the musicians had not had time to rehearse the overture, they played it with such precision that the audience broke out into fresh applause. As the curtain rose and the character of Leporello came forward to sing his solo, Mozart laughingly whispered to the musicians near him, “Some notes fell under the stands. But it went well.”

Today, Don Giovanni is recognised as one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed. Directed by the Cypriot born Anthony Pilavachi, the opera was presented with enormous success at the Germany Cottbus theatre last May. The event was given particular prominence as the world celebrated 250 years since Mozart’s birth. In the upcoming production, under the baton of conductor Spiros Pisinos, the beauty of Mozart’s music hits the listener at a deep emotional level and emphasises the various tones and action on stage.

As the curtain draws back in the first act, you see Don Giovanni in the bedroom of his latest paramour, Donna Anna. She is clinging to him madly as she exclaims, “Do not expect me ever to let you escape, unless you kill me.” Matters quickly turn sour and an exchange of insults follows as her father, the Commander, hears her cries and appears on the scene. A sword fight ensues, Giovanni kills the Commander and manages to escape with his servant, Leporello. Donna Anna, who has left to get help, returns with her fiance, Ottavio, to find her father murdered.

After this serious beginning, the opera turns to rather comic scenarios. Expect various practical jokes, disguises, frustrated seductions and pranks. In particular, Don Giovanni is pursued by a distraught woman whom he has abandoned, Elvira, who manages to disrupt his seduction of other women. Don Giovanni gets himself into another sticky situation and escapes from his latest imbroglio by jumping over a wall to hide in a cemetery late at night.

While in hiding, Leporello and Giovanni discover the Commander’s tomb and jokingly ask his statue to dinner. To their surprise, the statue accepts. Later that evening, the statue arrives and summons Giovanni to hell, leaving the others to reflect on the result of Giovanni’s immorality.

As you sit back while the drama unfolds, you may wonder how you’re supposed to judge this famous protagonist. Is he a hero who has managed to stand his own ground as he defies church and convention following his own rules? Or is he purely an immoral wrongdoer evading all responsibility, or worse, a murderer and rapist? Then again, as everything reaches a dramatic climax, you can just relax and enjoy all the spectacle and fun which is what a night out at the opera is all about.

Don Giovani > By the Cottbus-Germany State Opera and music by the Cyprus State Orchestra. In Italian with Greek and English over-titles. December 8 and 9. Rialto Theatre, Heroes Square, Limassol. 8.30pm. £20-25. Tel: 77777745.