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Marc Almond makes a quick return back to Athens March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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The ex-Soft Cell frontman performs at the Gagarin Club in Athens this Saturday.

On his previous visit for a performance here last year, Marc Almond, one of pop music’s more enduring and artistically effervescent acts, is said to have been overwhelmed by emotion right after the show, as he sat backstage. It was one of Almond’s first shows following a car accident that almost proved fatal, and the reception from his considerable following here was particularly warm.

Almond, who is currently adding the final touches to a new album, will be making a quick return to Athens for an evening at the Gagarin Club this Saturday.

The former frontman of early-1980s electro-pop duo Soft Cell has released a steady supply of quality solo projects since the hit-making act’s split, soon after 1983’s “The Art of Falling Apart”, an album whose title hinted at the internal problems plaguing the band.

Combining humor and romance for dark cabaret-type pop, Almond’s lasting quality and appeal was recently acknowledged further by a new three-album contract with Sequel/Sanctuary Records.

His forthcoming album, “Stardom Road” which is expected soon, will feature mostly covers of songs by artists that influenced Almond’s own work, as well as one new original track. “Stardom Road” includes guest appearances from Antony Hegarty, frontman of the enormously popular Antony and the Johnsons, as well as Jools Holland and St Etienne vocalist Sarah Cracknell.

For the upcoming Athens show, Almond, who is renowned for his performing skills, will be accompanied by musicians on guitars, piano and accordion.

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A Greek composer goes West March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Classical.
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Composer and writer Haris Vrondos presents his symphony work at the Athens Concert Hall this coming Friday after 20 years

Exactly 20 years to the day since the Athens State Orchestra first performed a composition by Haris Vrondos, the orchestra will interpret the Greek composer and writer’s symphonic “West” at the Athens Concert Hall tomorrow, under the baton of Vassilis Christopoulos. The concert is dedicated to the late tubist Yiannis Zouganelis.

Penned 14 years ago, “West” is a reflection of the composer’s love for the Ionian island of Lefkada where he spent his childhood and teenage years. “It brings memories of a world deeply influenced by the Ionian civilization. Musically, it is not a particularly difficult piece. It is lyrical and expresses the angst of growing up. It reflects the beauty and difficulties of that age,” he says.

Vrondos became known to the wider public in April 2001, when the National Opera staged “The Possessed” based on Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same title and on the libretto by Alexandros Adamopoulos. His cantata “Julian the Apostate” followed a year later, but a commissioned opera, “Alcibiades”, never made it to the stage.

The composer took recourse to justice against the Athens Concert Hall because, he claims, they did not honor their agreement and only remunerated him for one act of the opera. The Concert Hall, on its part, maintains that there was never any written contract, just an agreement regarding a cantata titled “Alcibiades.”

Vrondos claims that the Concert Hall’s artistic director Nikos Tsouchlos asked him to sign a trial order for the cantata for financial and technical reasons, which they could later use as the basis of a contract for the rest of the work. “I received not a word from them for over two years,” says Vrondos. ”They only responded when the issue made it into the press and said they had never commissioned the opera.”

This is not Vrondos’s only work that remains shelved. Two operas still await production: the 2004 “Achmatova” which was suggested to Athens Festival director Giorgos Loukos last year and was turned down, and Kafka’s “Trial” which has just been completed. Things are looking better for a composition for a baritone and a quartet, based on Dionysios Solomos’s “Woman from Zakynthos” which was commissioned by the Takis Sinopoulos Foundation as part of celebrations for the 150-year commemoration of Solomos’s death.

Vrondos says he is not fazed by the negative environment. “I work, I struggle and I try to live. You can only have demands if you work,” he said. Vrondos says he will not compromise with a reality he is only too aware of.

“The National Opera cannot commission work from any new composer because of their regulations. The Athens Concert Hall has not commissioned anything in 10 years and the last time it did so, with Argyris Kounadis, the work was never staged. The Concert Hall believes there is no Greek composer worth the commission of an opera.”

For “The Possessed” he relied on private funding, which included the Costopoulos Foundation and Panos Manias, among others. “It is the only way. The cost of an opera is so enormous that no composer will take on the task without knowing the outcome.”

For Vrondos, the greatest difficulty lies in the works that actually “reach” the audience. “Could it be that Pink Floyd, Sting, Hadjidakis and Savvopoulos said everything and we have nothing left to say? This is my greatest worry. Will we be able to reach out to our audience again?”

At the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

Ernst Ziller’s magnificent architecture March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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Ernst Ziller (1837-1923) was an extremely prolific architect.

In Greece, where he spent most of his life, he designed over 500 buildings, including mansions, theaters, churches, markets, schools, museums, hotels, office buildings, shops and apartment blocks. His works were built not just in Athens but all over Greece. Aside from being a gifted architect, he was also an amateur archaeologist and a knowledgeable engineer. Today, the buildings that he designed stand out for their stately, noble style, a reminder of the late neoclassical period of architecture in Greece.

“Classical Revival: The Architecture of Ernst Ziller 1837-1923” a volume published recently in English by the Melissa publishing house, helps reveal the splendor of his architecture by presenting it in beautiful, large color photographs.

A lengthy essay written by Maro Kardamitsi-Adami narrates Ziller’s life and gives a full scope of the projects that he undertook. Michael Eletheriou’s English translation of the original Greek text is excellent.

The rest of the book includes sections on each of the 50 buildings that are presented in the volume. Giorgis Gerolympos, who photographed the buildings, provides the reader with unusual angles and details that draw attention to the wonderful decorative details for which Ernst Ziller’s buildings are known. Archival material fills out the picture when considering those Ziller buildings that have not survived in their original form.

Such is the case with the Pesmazoglou Mansion, a three-story apartment building that the banker Ioannis Pesmazoglou had commissioned Ziller to build in 1893 on the corner of Herodou Attikou and Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Originally the building took up the entire block, with a towerlike structure marking its corner side. Only a portion of this building remains today.

Undoubtedly, the Schliemann Mansion, Iliou Melathron, which Ziller designed in 1878, is his best-known work. It is one of the best expressions of Ziller’s architectural style, a blend of the neoclassical with eclecticism. The rich decorative elements, the ornate ceilings, superb woodwork and unusual wrought-iron railings that replaced the stricter design of neoclassical-inspired design with motifs borrowed from mythology and nature are also important aspects of Ziller’s work which are included in the Schliemann mansion.

Reading Kardamitsi-Adami’s text, one also learns that Ziller was the first to employ ventilation and central heating and was very concerned with making his buildings earthquake-proof.

Ziller first came to Greece to work as an assistant to the Danish architect Theophilus Hansen, whose buildings for Athens include the National Library. He settled permanently in Athens in the late 1860s and was soon appointed to a professorship in architecture and construction at the Athens School of Fine Arts. His career crested in the 1880s and early 1890s, but the economic crisis that followed crippled the family’s finances.

Many of the projects that Ziller had designed, for example his plan to turn Lycabettus Hill into a recreation area, were never implemented. This book reveals all those unknown aspects of his work. It also helps the reader link the city’s contemporary architectural landscape to its past.

Greece’s water polo men lose to Serbians March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Aquatics.
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The Greek National men’s water polo team lost its quarterfinal clash at the World Championships in Melbourne, going down 8-3 to powerhouse Serbia, the world and European champion, in a game played yesterday.

Greece will next meet Russia, a 13-3 loser to Croatia, tomorrow, seeking fifth place, at best, in the tournament. The four losing quarterfinalists will battle for fifth to eighth places. The two teams met in their opening game for the tournament with Greece emerging a 10-7 winner.

In yesterday’s quarterfinal, Serbia outscored Greece in three of their quarterfinal’s four periods (1-2, 1-0, 0-3, 1-3) for the game’s 8-3 final score.

Despite losing by a five-goal margin, Greece coach Sandro Sandro Campagna had particularly favorable words to say about his team’s first-half performance.

“In the first half, we played the best water polo I’ve ever seen Greece play, high-quality, perfect, especially in defense. I’ve never seen the Serbs look so stressed with any opponent other than Hungary,” Campagna said. “We have to make a new beginning based on this first-half performance… but, then we offered gifts to the Serbs. In the beginning of the third period, we conceded two goals with no extra-man play. In these types of games, if all the goals have come from extra-man situations until a certain point in the game, then it’s bad for the psychology when you make mistakes and concede goals when the teams are equally numbered.”

Geece’s Mytilineos and Spain’s Endesa join forces March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Greek listed metals and engineering group Mytilineos has signed a joint venture deal with Spanish power company Endesa as part of its plans to boost its energy business, the Greek company said yesterday.

The joint venture company is set to become the second-largest independent power generator in Greece, behind state-controlled PPC, as the country deregulates its energy market and expects to expand its operations further into Southeast Europe.

“The strategic alliance is an important step in the development of the Endesa European expansion plan,” the companies said in a joint statement. “It is a step forward in the leading position of Mytilineos in the Greek energy market.”

The joint venture will have initial capitalization of 1.2 billion euros, with Endesa, which is currently the target of competing takeover bids, holding a 50.01 percent stake, the companies said in a joint statement. The company is also expected to enter the retail energy market after EU liberalization rules are enacted in July 2007, it said.

Mytilineos, which is broadening its operations to include power production, will contribute its thermal and renewable energy assets and licenses, the statement said. The new company will construct and operate natural gas and coal power stations, renewable energy units, and will also include electricity and emissions trading units, it said.

Mytilineos and Endesa also submitted a bid to build a 600-megawatt coal plant in Greece, the Greek company said in a separate statement. The cost to build the plant is expected to be 720 million euros, while overall investment in the plant is expected to be about 890 million euros, it said.

Mytilineos also announced it will absorb its Aluminium of Greece (AoG) and Delta Project units as part of its operational restructuring plans. “The group’s administration decided to begin transformations and corporate restructuring in order to capitalize on the group’s energy assets,” Mytilineos stated.

Mytilineos will take over both AoG and Delta and separate the company into a power generation and trading unit, and a production, construction and alumina trading unit, the statement said. Aluminium shareholders will be offered 0.3954 Mytilineos shares for every Aluminium share they hold, while Delta shareholders will be offered 0.1888 Mytilineos shares for every Delta share, the statement said.

Greek Coke bottler planning to invest in Russia March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co (CCHBC) will invest about $120 million (90 million euro) to build a new plant in Russia, a CCHBC official said yesterday.

“This investment demonstrates our strong commitment to Russia and our confidence in exploring future growth opportunities in the region,” CCHBC’s Investor Relations Manager George Toulantas said.

CCHBC, the world’s second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola drinks, will start building the facility in the next few months, with production planned to start in the first half of next year, he said. The plant, with an initial annual production capacity of 300 million liters, will have six lines that will produce carbonated soft drinks, sports and energy drinks and iced teas to cover the increased demand in Russia.

“The increased capacity in carbonated soft drinks, ice teas and sports drinks is in response to Russia’s consumers’ desire for a wider choice of beverages,” Toulantas said.

CCHBC, 24 percent-owned by the Coca-Cola Co, will increase the Russian plant’s capacity to about 500 million liters by 2015.

The new plant will be CCHBC’s 14th plant in Russia. The country accounted for about 18 percent of the bottler’s total sales volume of 1.788 million unit cases last year. The new investment will be part of CCHBC’s 500 million plan to grow its business this year.

Biggest event for managers ever in Athens in October March 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Shows & Conferences.
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More than 700 business leaders from 40 countries are projected to attend what organizers hope to be Europe’s biggest management event ever in Athens, October 1-3, 2007.

The conference, budgeted to cost 2 million euro, is hosted by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and the Greek Management Association (EEDE) and will focus on the theme of “Building High-Performing Organizations in Europe.”

Participants will have the opportunity to hear an array of distinguished speakers, including Nobel-laureate Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, the so-called “bank of the poor”, Chan Kim, professor of strategy and international management at Insead Business School, Francois Barrot, president of British Telecom International, and Rene Carayol, an expert on business leadership issues. A number of others will present papers on entrepreneurial excellence and case studies.

The conference will be followed by the presentation of EFQM’s European and Greek Excellence Awards 2007.

Events will also include a CEO Summit, at which about 150 top European and Greek executives will discuss the topic of optimum practices for high-performing businesses in highly competitive environments.

The CEO Summit is an EEDE initiative, planned to become an annual Greek event, and is also sponsored by the Federation of Greek Industries.