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Cyprus welcomes old icons repatriated from U.S. January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied, Religion & Faith.
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A procession of priests carry religious icons outside the St. John Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Friday.

A procession of priests carry religious icons outside the St. John Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus  A group of six plundered medieval icons repatriated from the U.S. was welcomed back to Cyprus in a solemn ceremony attended by senior Orthodox Church officials Friday.

Church bells pealed in celebration as a procession of priests carried the religious paintings into the 17th century St. John’s Cathedral in Nicosia, along a path strewn with laurel leaves. Cyprus Church leader Archbishop Chrysostomos II waited on the Cathedral doorstep and kissed the icons before a special religious service.

“Today we have these holy icons with us, in our church, in the place they belong, and we will be happy to soon see them in the places they were taken from,” Chrysostomos said.

The paintings, which date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, were returned to the Church of Cyprus earlier this month after an agreement with the California-based Charles Pankow American Foundation. Church officials say they proved ownership of the artifacts, but paid the Pankow foundation $160,000 for their maintenance and safekeeping.

In the Christian Orthodox faith, icons, pictures of Christ, the Virgin or Saints painted on wood, are considered a consecrated form of art that is part of the worshipping service.

One of the icons, a 13th century depiction of Saints Andronikos and Athanasia, was stolen from a chapel in the village of Kalopanayiotis, on the Troodos mountain, in 1936. The origin of two others, the Mother of God and Archangel Gabriel, dating from the 13th century and 15th or 16th century, has not been determined.

“We don’t know from which church in Cyprus they come from but they are definitely Cypriot,” said Neofytos, Bishop of Morphou. “The style proves that.”

The three other icons, dated between the 13th and 14th centuries, were last seen in Kyrenia, now under Turkish occupation since the 1974 Turkish military invasion that divided the island into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north.

Scores of religious artifacts, including icons and mosaics, were plundered from Greek Cypriot Churches in the occupied north after the Turkish military invasion. Many have since appeared on the international art market.

Year of Russian language opens in Cyprus January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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A gala ceremony to open the Year of the Russian language was held in Cyprus on Friday. Representatives of the Russian and Cypriot public layed wreaths to the bust of famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in Limassol.

“The opening event of the Year of the Russian language in Cyprus is devoted to the memory day of Pushkin. The island is also beginning a literary contest on the topic “My beloved Russian writer”. The winner will be awarded a trip to Russia,” head of the Russian Cultural Center Roman Vavilov told Tass.

“The Year of the Russian language should attract the attention of Cyprus residents to the Russian language as a means of developing multilateral cooperation with Russia. It has to enhance the interest of young foreigners in learning the Russian language and encourage compatriots abroad to preserve the native tongue and Russian cultural traditions,” he added.

Limassol was chosen for the start-up of the event as the biggest Russian community of close to 10 thousand people is living there. The city also hosts the offices of major Russian-language newspapers coming out in Cyprus.

XL increases Cyprus flights network January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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XL Airways will launch tri-weekly flights to Larnaca from London Luton on February 6.

XL will also base an aircraft in Larnaca in order to expand its programme of Cyprus flights across the UK this summer.

The charter airline’s commercial director, Andy Fleming, said that being based in Larnaca will allow the airline to introduce flights from Durham Tees Valley, Humberside and East Midlands in May, because the fees will be less than they would be if the aircraft was based in a UK airport.

XL already operate regular seasonal flights to Larnaca from Birmingham, Bristol, London Gatwick and Manchester.

Related Links > http://www.xl.com

Greek Composer and Architect Iannis Xenakis January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Music Life Classical.
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Iannis Xenakis is the only composer of any note whose name begins with the letter X. Not surprisingly, he is Greek, though born in Romania. Xenakis’s life is unbelievably fascinating.

Trained in mathematics and architecture, Xenakis dropped everything to join the Greek Resistance and fight against the Nazis during the Second World War. It is very unusual for a 20th century composer to fight against Nazis, because composers generally try to stay out of the line of fire and wait for things to blow over, but also because some composers were themselves Nazis.

Xenakis fled Greece in 1947, under threat of execution by the appalling people who were running the country. Xenakis is the only serial music composer ever sentenced to death by a junta, though this is probably because there are not that many composers working in that idiom, not because the junta members are running low on writs of execution.

Coming late to music, Xenakis studied under the great composer and theorist Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen, who often used bird sounds in his compositions, is one of the few brazenly innovative composers of the 20th century whose works are still performed. For a while (the late 60s, the early 70s) this was also true of Xenakis, whose short, somewhat brutish compositions were known to turn up on programs in otherwise strait-laced communities like Philadelphia.

This was largely because the pieces were so short that conductors could put them on the program in a cunning ploy to establish their bona fides as cutting-edge innovators, but still get the entire performance wrapped up while the audience was out having a smoke or visiting the loo or telephoning the nursing home to ask what time the jitney was coming back to pick them up. Then the conductor and the orchestra could get back to the really serious task of playing Tchaikovky’s Piano Concerto or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

For many years, Xenakis worked with the famous architect LeCorbusier, only writing music on the side. LeCorbusier did not like musicians, but apparently made an exception in this case. Xenakis’s work is a complex fusion of serial music and the music of chance, fused with many, many mathematical concepts. It is music that is much more fun to talk about than to listen to, though Xenakis himself did not like talking about it.

Xenakis loved to give his compositions titles like Metastasis, Terretektorh and Nomos Gamma and was fond of pieces that required scattering an entire orchestra throughout the audience to keep everyone on their toes. He died in 2001 and is sorely missed.

Ianis Xenakis Death Reaction > 04/02/2001 
Noted composer and architect Ianis Xenakis died on Sunday at the age of 78 in Paris, his adopted hometown for several decades, following a long illness.

Born into a wealthy Greek family of Romania, Xenakis fought with the resistance during the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-44), losing an eye during battle. He was expelled from Greece in 1947 for his political views at the height of the Greek Civil War and sought refuge in France, becoming a naturalised French citizen in 1965.

In a brief statement on Sunday, Greek Culture Minister praised Xenakis’ work, saying,”Ianis Xenakis represents with his work one of the most advanced chapters in the history of music”. “Xenakis identified himself with modernity and research, that is, with two basic components of cultural creation. His talent, his profound and multi-faceted culture and his cosmopolitan spirit fascinated and will fascinate people. His death is a great loss but in no way does it signal the end of a work which has been and will always be ‘open’,” the minister said in a statement.

Xenakis developed a new composing technique using computers, based on the mathematical probability of the recurrence of notes and rhymes.

The New 7 Wonders of the World January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Vote For 7New Wonders.
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THE CONTENDERS >

The Acropolis, Greece; Hagia Sophia, Turkey; the Colosseum, Italy; Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany; Stonehenge, Britain; Alhambra, Spain; Kiyomizu Temple, Japan; the Sydney Opera House; Taj Mahal, India; Timbuktu, Mali; the Pyramids of Giza; the Statue of the Christ Redeemer, Brazil; Peru’s Machu Picchu; the Statue of Liberty; the Eiffel Tower; the Great Wall of China; the Kremlin/St. Basils; Angkor, Cambodia; Petra, Jordan; Easter Island statues, Chile; and Chichen Itza, Mexico.

OLD 7 WONDERS >

Besides the pyramids, the traditional list of the wonders of the ancient world includes: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Colossus of Rhodes; the lighthouse in Alexandria, Egypt; the Temple of Zeus in Greece; the Temple of Artemis in Turkey; the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in what is now Turkey.

TO VOTE ONLINE > www.new7wonders.com

Documentary fest enriched by new slots January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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This year the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival will run from March 16 to 25. Besides the usual lineup of categories, the event adds two new sections, one on human rights and another on Asia.

Two new sections have been added to the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, an annual spring event that comes as a complement to November’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Running from March 16 to 25, the festival will have its usual lineup of competition and out-of-competition entries, thematic unities and tributes.

This year, however, it will also have a section on human rights, organized in collaboration with the local branch of Amnesty International and drawing from its, unfortunately, vast archive of material relating to the abuse of human rights around the world. Freedom of speech, war, the position of women in society and the right to political and religious freedoms are but some of the themes addressed by the section, which is an apt addition to a festival with a rich sociopolitical content.

Each year from now on Amnesty International will provide the festival with a panel of judges who will be responsible for awarding the films in this new section.

The second new section of the festival is called “A Look at Asia” and it aims at presenting the untapped wealth of Asian documentary in a similar way to last year’s festival, which also had a special Asian section. The themes of the films presented in this section vary as much as the countries included in it, covering a plethora of topics from illiteracy and the role of motherhood to the relations between different countries in the region and the ethnic dynamics between them.

All domestic documentaries produced over the past 18 months are entitled to participate in the festival, and are sorted into the various categories by festival artistic director Dimitris Eipides and a four-member committee.

Taking time to feel love and pain January 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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British stage director Stephen Langridge talks about ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ at the GNO

Stephen Langridge looks out over the Athenian skyline from a sixth-floor balcony. The capital has become the British stage director’s second home these past six months as he rehearses with the Greek National Opera (GNO). “Orpheus and Eurydice,” in its French version and featuring a tenor in the lead role, premiered for the very first time at the GNO’s Olympia Theater last week. Langridge is a well-established director, best known for the work he has done with prison inmates and people with special needs on productions such as “West Side Story” and “Julius Caesar.”

“Yes, we do go to hospices and prisons, not in order to show something to a passive audience but to involve people who may not have set foot in a theater or at an opera,” says the director. He also explains the process: “We arrive on a Monday morning and spend two to three weeks preparing a production with around 20 or 30 inmates. Normally we are talking about an entirely new production. The basic concept may be based on a well-known play, but once we’re done with it, the unsuspecting audience can hardly recognize the original source.”

Langridge continues: “It is important to tell, in your way, people who are unfamiliar with this sort of thing, ‘Look, you’re welcome to join.’ You highlight the concept of access. But, let’s not restrict ourselves to the idea of a prison or a hospice, because it limits the scope of this type of initiative. Often, out there in our open societies, we encounter a plethora of mental ‘prohibitions’ that bar certain categories of citizens from participating. Imagine, for example, an elderly lady who loves the blues but will never go to a blues club because she won’t see any other people her age.”

Langridge and his associates do not claim to put on operas for therapeutic purposes. “We are not trying to change people who are in prison. We work professionally with non-professionals and produce art. Similarly to the myth of Orpheus, there is a process in the production of art that is not an entertainment ‘snack,’ but a real human dynamic. Orpheus achieves the unachievable in his own way, through music and love, and there is a message in that for all of us, whether we are in prison, in a hospital or sitting at our desks.”

The projects at the prisons and hospices are not state-funded, explains the director, but private initiatives. Numerous artistic bodies in the UK have been developing similar projects since the 1980s within the framework of their education and social missions. As far as the human dynamic is concerned, Langridge says that “although you may find limited amount of organization, there is a lot of passion and a huge need for expression. In a more professional environment, you normally find the opposite: a high level of organization but limited passion. By the way, that is not the case at all in Greece.”

According to Christoph Willibald Gluck’s version of the tale, Orpheus appears denuded of all his trappings. “In Gluck, there is only Orpheus and Eurydice,” says Langridge. “The composer has focused on Orpheus and his inability to accept his loss. Through the tribulations of Hades, he discovers that the only way to win back his beloved is through love and art. The focus of the opera is on pain and Gluck is unrepentant. It is this very obsession that makes the opera so contemporary. It seems so sparse in terms of dialogue or the manner we have got used to imagining the opera being. It’s as if Gluck is inviting us to observe details that we normally overlook.”

In this production, Langridge has attempted a balance with the present. “When you watch 18th century operas you can see how unrealistic they are. Even ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ seems completely unreal. If, however, you focus on the emotions and the human experience, it all seems painfully real… What we did was place the heroes in an environment the audience can connect with. We wanted to discuss the pain of loss and to examine Gluck’s direction. We arrived at the frightening realization that when you love someone, when two people are in love, pain is unavoidable. This is the case even in the positive parts of the opera: that despite the pain, the trouble is worth it. It is better to love and hurt, than to never make the effort and keep a distance. This is something so simple that we are in danger of forgetting. Because we are always in such a rush.”

“Orpheus and Eurydice” is on at the Olympia Theater (59-61 Academias Street, Athens) on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and February 7 and 9. The lead roles are performed by Canada’s Colin Ainsworth as Orpheus, Elena Kelessidi as Eurydice and Vassiliki Karayianni as Eros. The music is conducted by Giorgos Petrou, the stage designs and costumes are by Giorgos Souglidis, the lights are by Eleftheria Deco and the choreography by Fotis Nikolaou.