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Porcelain’s long road to Europe December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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An exhibition at the Byzantine and Christian Museum examines the history of a refined art

porcelaintableclock.jpg porcelainflowervase.jpg Table clock (right) with stand, hard porcelain, early 18th century. This object was produced by Germany’s Meissen factory, which was the first European porcelain factory. At left, a French decorative flower vase of hard porcelain and dating from the 18th century. Both objects belong to the European ceramics collection owned by the J. and D. Passas Foundation. Since 2005, the collection has been with the Byzantine and Christian Museum on a 20-year loan.

It is said, that when Marco Polo first saw objects made from Chinese porcelain during his travels in Asia he was stunned by their refined workmanship and compared their surface to the mother-of-pearl interior of a porcella shell.

Once it was discovered by the West, Oriental porcelain became a rare and expensive commodity in Europe. Alchemists in the royal courts attempted to find the formula for making porcelain as fine as that from Asia; it was not until the 17th century that they succeeded.

But the routes of trade between the East and West had already bred stylistic cross-influences and increased the production, distribution and consumption of ceramics and porcelain artifacts.

«Clay & Color» which is the title of an alluring exhibition at the Byzantine and Christian Museum, maps out the art of porcelain in the East and the West during the period from the mid-15th to the early 19th century. It underlines the parallel trajectories and shows similarities and cross-influences. Around 150 items, which belong to the collections of ephorates and Greek museums, trace the development of ceramics in Greece while a second section focuses on the history of porcelain making outside Greece. The objects shown in this section belong to collection of the J. and D. Passas Collection, which the Byzantine and Christian Museum has on a long-term loan. The exhibition is curated by archaeologist Maria Borboudaki and art historian Anna Papastergiou. Architect and museologist Lena Katsanika-Stefanou is in charge of the design.

Post-Byzantine pottery produced in some of the most important ceramics workshops of Greece, including Thessaloniki, Veria, Trikala and Arta, are included in the exhibition’s first portion. They are colored in earthy and green tones and designed with simple, Byzantine-inspired motifs. Compared to the pottery that was subsequently imported from Italy in greater quantities to the Latin-ruled areas of Greece and Asia Minor, they appear more minimal and perhaps a bit rougher.

Included in the exhibition are the so-called maiolica, the term for Italian tin-glazed earthenware that was produced from at least the 13th century, which are singled out for their full range of colors and large, figurative motifs. Among the finest objects are those produced in the Iznik workshops which in the early 16th century were known worldwide for the high-quality craftmanship of ceramicware. The blue and white motifs that are typical of early Iznik pottery make evident the influence of Chinese porcelain.

Chinese porcelain was also a major influence on 17th-century Dutch pottery. In the second part of the exhibition, the similarity between a vase in the style of the Chinese Yuan period porcelain and a pair of large, blue and white vases produced in Delft during the 17th century is striking.

In this second part of the exhibition, the figurines and objects produced in Germany’s Meissen porcelain factory during the late 17th century are among the most important. By today’s standards their rococco, highly decorative and often trompe-l’oeil style seems perhaps a bit kitsch, yet it should be remembered that Meissen was the first European porcelain factory. Meissen porcelain is singled out for the virtuosity of modeling, sense of movement, lively expression and extensive range of figures. It dominated the early 18th century style of pottery and was imitated by craftsmen across Europe.

In the mid-18th century the Meissen factory went into decline. The factory in Vincennes in France, which later moved to Sevres near Paris, supplanted its importance. Specimens of Sevres porcelain are among the finest in the «Clay & Color» exhibition.

Three-dimensional, sculptural pieces designed by artists such as Boucher became a typical and sought-after objects of the Sevres factory porcelain. This was the only factory in France to be allowed at the time to use the technique of gilding.

Sevres porcelain pieces were luxury objects that adorned the royal courts. Decorative vases and objects that were placed on banquet tables are among the most striking objects of the exhibition.

Stylistically, they are miles apart from the post-Byzantine ceramic plates and bowls or from the 18th century Canakkale jars that were exported en masse to Greece and the Orient.

Yet each of the above examples form important moments in the development of the art of porcelain. «Clay & Color» outlines this development through a variety of objects and in a clear and concise way.

«Clay & Color, European Porcelain of the J. and D. Passas Collection. Early Modern Ceramics in Greece» at the Byzantine and Christian Museum, 22 Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7211027, through February 17.

Fairy tales retold in offbeat work that mixes up classics December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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Constantinos Rigos stages a show that suits both children and adults

The acclaimed Greek choreographer’s ‘Fairy Tale Mix-Up,’ on at the ACS Arts Center in Halandri in northern Athens over the next three days, is dominated by subversion, satire and the unexpected. The wolf isn’t that bad, for instance, and Cinderella is your average working girl.

The acclaimed choreographer-director Constantinos Rigos certainly isn’t your conventional storyteller, especially considering his staging of “Fairy Tale Mix-Up,” whose seemingly happy ending may be a ruse.

Following performances in Thessaloniki, the dance-theater project, performed by the New Thessaloniki Theater’s Neaniki Skini, is now scheduled for a three-night run in Athens today, tomorrow and Friday, at the ACS Arts Center in Halandri in northern Athens.

“Its method is a bit anarchic. Some people who saw the performance in Thessaloniki said it was a political work made for children,” said Rigos, the project’s director, choreographer, and set designer. “The performance comprises a mix of] fairy tales, well-known stories familiar to all children and grownups. The stories are so familiar that the characters seem like relatives.”

Adapting a children’s work for adults is not a new concept for Rigos, who also did the same in his staging of “Frutopia” by the author Evgenios Trivizas.

“Adults and children pick up on different aspects,” Rigos noted. “I’d like to believe this is more a theatrical work that recalls the circus, musicals, comedy, and pantomime, while carrying plenty of pop elements and classical references.”

Evil stepmothers, sly witches, conceited princesses, wolves, dwarfs, hippopotamuses, and hunters all feature in “Fairy Tale Mix-Up.” So are they caricatures of fabled protagonists and antagonists?

“Some characters, like the evil stepmother, are definitely more caricature-like, but Cinderella is a normal working girl. She establishes a group to overthrow the monarchy when the prince abandons her,” said Rigos, 39, a key contributor to the modernization of contemporary Greek dance with the establishment of the Oktana dance company back in 1990.

His plot here is full of bizarre twists and endings. “You can marry the wolf because the dream isn’t always about the girl marrying the boy,” said Rigos. Audiences should not be perplexed if the frog does not want to kiss the princess “because he likes being a frog and falls in love with a cow,” Rigos explained.

Though movement is not missing from this production, it is not a key aspect. There is more emphasis on the spoken word than dance. Paintings by 20th century artists such as van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Kandinsky make up part of the sets.

“It doesn’t matter whether the kids know what they’re seeing, but it’s important to bring them into contact with significant visual artists,” noted Rigos.

Besides this latest project for youngsters and grownups, Rigos is currently preparing two ballets, “Les Sylphides” and “A Little Piece of America,“ for the National Opera. Performances have been scheduled for February and April, respectively.

Tonight, tomorrow, Friday, ACS Arts Center Athens, 53 Garitou Street, Halandri, tel 210 6393341. For ticket info: 210 7234567.

Double CD of love for composer December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Music Life Greek.
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Over two nights at the Athens Concert Hall in November 2005, George Dalaras sang the poetry of Yiannis Ritsos and Odysseas Elytis to the music of Mikis Theodorakis.

The performances of «Romiosyni» and «Axion Esti» were recorded and are now on a double CD album. All proceeds from sales will go toward Epistrofi, a non-profit organization for recovering drug addicts, run by Geli Angelopoulou.

The two concerts were of historical value since they featured the first rerelease of «Romiosyni» since 1966, when it was recorded with the legendary Grigoris Bithikotsis on vocals. «Bithikotsis had set a very high standard for the song,» noted Theodorakis. «It holds very particular difficulties for any interpreter.» Dalaras, who sang the song in 2005 agreed, saying that «when we say we love the great composers, we also have to prove it, and this is what I try to do at every given opportunity.»

The music at the concerts was performed by the State Greek Radio and TV (ERT) Contemporary Music Orchestra under Andreas Pylarinos and the Mikis Theodorakis Folk Orchestra. The participating choirs were the Public Power Corporation Choir, the Athens Municipality Choir and the Leondiou High School Youth Choir of Nea Smyrni. In addition to Dalaras, the other soloists were Tassis Christoyiannopoulos and Giorgos Kimoulis.

An event was also held early last week to announce the 2007 program of the Mikis Theodorakis Museum, which was inspired by the composer’s 14-month exile in Zatouna in the Peloponnese, during the dictatorship (1967-73).

The building where the composer was held has been renovated and transformed into a cultural center and organizers are hoping to have it fully operational in the new year. Among their plans is a corridor lined with busts of poets Seferis, Ritsos, Elytis, Neruda and others who inspired Theodorakis’s music.

Final Four countdown begins December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Tickets for Euroleague’s title battle, to be held in Athens May 4-6, now available online

Tickets for this season’s Euroleague Final Four tournament, to be held in Athens at the OAKA Olympic basketball arena between May 4 and 6, have gone on sale via the competition’s official website (www.euroleague.net) at prices ranging from 75 to 500 euros.

According to sources, the total number of Final Four tickets to be made available, all online, will range between 8,000 and 10,000. Participating teams will be entitled to 1,000 tickets each for distribution to their fans, while the remainder will be reserved for sponsors, guests and journalists.

With archrivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos being among the early favorites for berths at this season’s Euroleague Final Four, organizers have already mapped out seating arrangements that would keep the rival Greek fans as far apart as possible inside the OAKA stadium.

After nine rounds of first-stage group play completed, Panathinaikos, competing in Group B, remains the 24-team competition’s only undefeated side with an impressive 9-0 record. Olympiakos, doing battle in Group A, lies second with a 7-2 record, one win behind front-runner Tau Ceramica. Olympiakos holds a two-win advantage over its nearest rival, third-placed Efes Pilsen. Thessaloniki club Aris, Greece’s other Euroleague representative, is currently fifth in Group C, one win ahead of Eldo Napoli. Defending champion CSKA Moscow, with Greece guard Thodoris Papaloukas among its leading players, is the group’s leader with an 8-1 record, one win ahead of Barcelona.

The top five teams from all three groups and the sixth-placed team with the best record advance to the Euroleague’s next round, where 16 teams will be divided into four groups. The top two from each will carry on to the quarterfinals. Online ticket buyers can either arrange for ticket deliveries, once the sale procedure has ended, or collect from the OAKA stadium from May 2 onward, according to the the Final Four tournament’s organizer. Tickets cover all four games to be contested at the Final Four tournament.

Striker Charisteas is finding his target December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Angelos Charisteas, a key scorer in Greece’s sensational Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal, has since enjoyed less success at club-level competition, but the striker is showing signs of a scoring comeback with his current club Feyenoord in the top Dutch league.

Charisteas headed in the equalizing goal in his side’s valuable 1-1 draw, away, against the Dutch league’s front-runner PSV Eindhoven. It was the Greek striker’s fourth goal with Feyenoord this season and second within a few days. He transferred to the Rotterdam club from archrival Ajax Amsterdam last summer.

Eindhoven, which went into yesterday’s game looking for an 11th successive victory, leads the Dutch Eredivisie with 50 points from 19 games, 10 points ahead of second-placed Alkmaar. Feyenoord lies fourth with 36 points.

Projects are taking off December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Infrastructure.
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This has been the year of jointly funded projects, which once required more than 72 months from the day they were auctioned until the time their contracts were signed.

The construction sector may be experiencing a tough period, but at least contracts are getting signed, even if there are delays in that optimistic timetable issued at the beginning of the year by Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias.

Souflias did, however, sign three important contracts during the year, while in the first four months of 2007 three more jointly funded projects are expected to be signed.

Given that it was the previous government which auctioned the projects without even basic studies, such as the blueprints for a road, the ministry is, by comparison, doing good work. Yet the tender for the crucial extensions of Attiki Odos and the planning for future projects have been put on hold.

Last week, the contract for Ionia Odos, in western Greece, was signed with a consortium of Spanish groups and the GEK-Terna group. In the fall a contract was signed with Aktor for the Thessaloniki road tunnel and before that the contract for the Thessaloniki metro, after 20 years of delays.

On January 22 the contract for the Corinth-Tripolis-Kalamata national road will be signed along with the Lefktro-Sparta section, with the Aktor group. By March, the projects for the Maliakos-Klidi section of the Athens-Lamia national road and the Central Greece motorway (E65) will also get a signature. All jointly funded projects require the Parliament’s approval.

Greeks set to bet 8.5 bln euros in year December 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.
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Casino punters on the rise

With gambling fever about to peak on New Year’s Eve, sources said that Greeks are expected to have gambled 8.5 billion euro this year with growing amounts being spent in casinos, on OPAP lotteries and on illegal online games.

About 3 billion will be spent in all of the country’s nine casinos in 2007 while annual turnover booked by OPAP, one of the largest companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, is around the 3.5 billion mark.

Experts said that a combination of slick marketing campaigns, people’s belief in the possibility of getting rich overnight and a shift in community values has fueled demand in gambling.

«From the OPAP marketing campaigns to television game shows, there is the message everywhere that there are ways to win money quick and that those who are rich are also happy,» sociologist Andreas Fountoulakis said. «This, in combination with the economic difficulties that exist, has brought gambling to the spotlight,» he added.

The number of visitors heading to casinos is expected to nearly double during the festive season. Data show that the Loutraki casino, west of Athens, is visited by about 3,000 people daily but the figure shoots up to around 5,000 around Christmas.

Meanwhile, punters turning to illegal electronic gambling are spending almost 1.5 billion per year on their pastime.

Illegal betting on the Internet has been winning more fans as it offers better returns than OPAP and the opportunity to gamble on only one sports match, helping boost their chances of winning.

«The number of those who play [illegal games] are fewer than those who play the legal games, but the amounts that are bet are much larger,» said a senior police source.

A large number of betting agency owners are allegedly helping support the increase in illegal electronic gambling by accepting debts from their trustworthy customers and then processing the bet themselves for a commission of up to 4 percent.

«One in 10 betting agency owners does this,» the police source added.