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Maria Callas > Mementos of a grand passion for a grand Diva May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Extensive Italian Cultural Institute exhibition on Maria Callas takes in public, private persona > At the Italian Cultural Institute, the exhibition showcases garments, costumes, correspondence, opera programs and more.

the_diva.jpg  The Greek Diva with maestro Antonino Votto at Athens’s Herod Atticus Theater in August 1957

In a long, often dramatic, journey which took her from New York City to Greece and the rest of the world all the way to immortality, Maria Callas became a global symbol of absolute adoration. The emotion continues.

“Maria Callas: A Woman, A Voice, A Myth” opened earlier this week at the Italian Cultural Institute in Athens and runs to May 28. More than showcasing precious items, the show reflects the love that Callas still incites around the world. Smaller or larger mementos demonstrate the grand passion with which Callas fans carry on the myth.

Also organized by the Italian Cultural Institute in Athens, the show was largely put together by Venice’s Cultural Association Maria Callas, counting on the support of Greece’s Foundation for Studies and Solidarity. It comes under the aegis of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

For Italian audiences, Callas was simply La Divina, the divine figure triumphing at Milan’s La Scala and Venice’s La Fenice. For the world, she began her life as Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos, born to immigrant parents in New York City in 1923.

At the Italian Cultural Institute, the exhibition features over 500 objects, ranging from garments and costumes to correspondence, opera programs, countless photographs and pieces of stage jewelry. On display are family shots and photographs of early performances at Athenian theaters, including the Greek National Opera, in the 1940s. It also follows the subsequent transformation of a rather unsophisticated young woman into the elegant, and often tormented, international star.

There are photographs from her triumphs at La Scala: “Lucia di Lammermoor” in 1954, “Norma” and “La Sonnambula” in 1955 and “Anna Bolena” in 1957. Private documents range from her birth certificate to letters to her housekeeper, her beloved teacher Elvira de Hidalgo, a last letter to Maurice Bejart, as well as the lighter side, including her recipe for chocolate souffle. And there are also rare items such as her first gramophone record: Bellini’s “I Puritani.” Other photographs include: paparazzi shots depicting her with Aristotle Onassis in the beginning of their passionate and ill-fated affair; dining with friends, including Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly in Monaco.

There is also the warm orange gown Callas wore in her final stage appearances: at the Theatre des Champs Elysee in 1973 and the Auditorium NHK in Tokyo in 1974; the black garment and impressive neckpiece she wore in Pier Pasolini’s cinematic “Medea,” as well as letters to the Italian director written on Olympic Airways stationary.

The elegance of the 1960s is depicted with two black gowns designed by Italian Biki and a silver-thread crochet gown from the 1920s, offered by Onassis aboard the Christina, as well as her faithful allies on stage: intricate costume jewelry including Kramer diamonds for “Traviata” and an elaborate neckpiece from an “Aida” performance in Mexico City, in 1950. Following Athens, the exhibition will travel to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, where it will go on display throughout June.

Meanwhile, Greece is currently marking 30 years since Callas’s death and the Greek state has named 2007, Maria Callas Year. Celebrations include about 70 recitals and concerts, among other tributes. In March, for example, world-renowned Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa paid tribute to Callas at the Athens Concert Hall. The Callas flame remains international, however: stage jewelry worn by the diva went on display at the New York City’s Metropolitan Opera earlier this year.

Italian Cultural Institute, 47 Patission Street, Athens, tel 210 5242646.

A legendary ensemble to play at the Athens Megaron May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Classical.
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Under maestro Fabio Luisi, the Staat-skapelle Dresden and pianist Radu Lupu will play the Megaron

The Athens Concert Hall is playing host to one of the world’s oldest, most established orchestras, a highly distinguished maestro as well as an acclaimed pianist. The legendary Staatskapelle Dresden, under the baton of Fabio Luisi, will give its second performance of works by Beethoven and Richard Strauss with pianist Radu Lupu at the Friends of Music Hall tonight.

The program will begin with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4, Opus 58 and will continue with Richard Strauss’s symphonic poem “Ein Heldenleben,” completed in 1898, which consists of six parts: The Hero, The Hero’s Adversaries, The Hero’s Female Companion, The Hero’s Battlefield, The Hero’s Work of Peace and The Hero’s Retirement from the World and Fulfillment.

On September 22, 1988, the Dresden National Orchestra, better known as the Staatskapelle Dresden, celebrated its 450-year anniversary. Its uniqueness lies in that it has maintained its position as a top music ensemble unchallenged for four-and-a-half centuries, through different periods in the history of music. In one of his notebooks dating to 1823, Beethoven wrote that everyone talked about the orchestra of the Dresden court being the best in Europe.

The orchestra was founded in 1548 by Elector Moritz of Saxony. Its conductors have included great personalities such as Johann Walter, Heinrich Schuetz, Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner, and more recently, Karl Boehm, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Sir Colin Davis.

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

Theater as a tool to study life’s routine May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Stage & Theater.
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Latvian Alvis Hermanis’s “Theater of Memory” and Serbian Biljana Srbljanovic’s “Locusts” met with great success during the XI Europe Theater Prize, which ended in Thessaloniki recently.

The event, which included a series of meetings with leading European and other directors, attracted the city’s theater aficionados, who flocked to the performances organized by the National Theater of Northern Greece.

“It took me a number of years to realize that what matters most to me is life and not theater. I use theater as a tool to carry out my anthropological research. Now my obsession is focused on people’s daily lives,” said Hermanis.

Speaking at the first presentation of the winners of the Europe Theater Prize, the Latvian author/director clarified his professional ideology and the methodology he follows in his work. Foreign journalists, critics, actors and theater designers participating in the panel discussion defined his innovative work as “Theater of Memory.”

“Until now, Latvian culture was known for being Soviet. Hermanis managed to break this tradition and for the first time Latvian theater went beyond its borders, turning into a source of inspiration and experience in contemporary theater,” they noted.

True stories recreated by an actor on stage becomes basic subject-matter for the award-winning artistic director of the New Riga Theater. Following the speakers, Hermanis spoke about his theatrical pursuits:

On his obsession with daily life: “In 21st century Europe, people lead double lives. The social, a boring, never-ending game, and the private, where true life, passion and inspiration lie. That explains my obsession with private spaces.”

On time: “I’m not interested in the future, I’m interested in the past. The future is boring and predictable. As an art form, theater has a different kind of rhythm. In the past, theater could stop time for reflection. The rhythm of theater and culture outside the theater have nothing in common. Genuine, everyday theater is introverted, it is much more than straightforward meditation.”

On the audience: “I treat the audience as part of the family, not as someone foolish who simply wants to be entertained.”

On his ideas: “I’m not interested in presenting traditional productions. Together with the actors, we act as private investigators looking into people’s daily lives. Any one person’s real-life story incorporates more drama than the entire body of work of Shakespeare.”

On contemporary theater: “It is now vital to produce theater with clean hands and a kind heart.”

Iraklis is crowned volleyball champion May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Baseball Handball Volleyball.
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Thessaloniki volleyball club beats champ Panathinaikos for 3-1 series win and the title > Iraklis needed to overcome tough resistance last night for a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 win in the best-of-five final series.

Iraklis, the Greek league volleyball champion two seasons ago, returned to top the domestic league last night with a 3-2 win against defending champion Panathinaikos for a 3-1 win in their best-of-five final series.

Iraklis, a losing European finalist in 2005 and 2006, won the opening set with a 25-20 score but a determined Panathinaikos side rebounded to take the second set 25-19. Iraklis regained the lead at 25-22 in the third set but the visiting side leveled again, winning the fiercely contested fourth set with a 25-23 score. The final set, also tight, was eventually won by Iraklis, 15-12.

Iraklis looked the more capable side in last night’s match, but a series of unforced errors throughout the crucial contest turned the Thessaloniki club’s task into a longer-than-expected adventure. The game was interrupted for several minutes shortly after its start when the home team’s fans littered the playing arena with shredded paper.

Iraklis’s home stadium was packed with 2,000 fervent fans while a significant number of supporters stood outside the arena and watched the game unfold on a giant screen.

Panathinaikos went into last night’s match having squandered the home advantage it had gained for the best-of-five final series following a 3-0 loss in Athens earlier this week. In that game, Iraklis performed exceptionally, especially in serving and blocking.

Panathinaikos’s heavy defeat prompted the dismissal of the club’s Brazilian coach Francisco dos Santos about an hour after the game had ended. Santos, who led Panathinaikos to a Greek Cup triumph against provincial Lamia earlier this year, when the competition was held, was replaced by his assistant Nikos Boutsouris for the remainder of this league final series. Boutsouris described his task as extremely difficult.

Panathinaikos went up 1-0 in the final series with a tight 3-2 win in the opening game at home. Iraklis leveled the series with a straight-sets victory in Thessaloniki before annihilating Panathinaikos in Athens in Game 3. 

Annual Athens Fun Run this Sunday May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Sports & Games.
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Thousands of Athenians and visitors are expected to participate in the annual Athens Fun Run this Sunday, bringing traffic to a standstill until early afternoon.

The main race will start at the Panathenaic, or Kallimarmaro, Stadium at 10 a.m., while the race for disabled participants is to begin in Syntagma Square at the same time. Participants will follow one of three routes: an 8-kilometer route, a 3.5-kilometer route and a 700-meter course for the disabled. All routes terminate at Zappeion Hall. Public transport for participants will be free between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

UPDATE > May 14th, 2007

Some 17,000 people are estimated to have taken part in the Athens Fun Run, held in the city center yesterday.

The event started at 10 a.m, in front of the Panathenaic Stadium and participants could choose to take one of two routes, running over 3.5 kilometers or 8 kilometers. A separate 700-meter track started in Syntagma Square for disabled participants. All routes ended at Zappeion Hall. Traffic in central Athens was interrupted as the joggers flooded the central Athens area.

Tourism in Greece is not low-income, official data reveals May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Official data from local and international tourism organizations shows that Greece is far from being a low-cost tourism destination, despite the stereotype that Greece does not attract high-income tourists.

Reports by the World Economic Forum, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the Bank of Greece all converge to an average annual tourism revenue of $1,200 per capita in this country. This places Greece fifth among the top countries in global tourism.

For 2005, on the basis of average spending by visitors, Greece ranks 10th in the world with $1,073 per tourist, ahead of its direct competitors. All this puts an end to the myth of the cheap Greek tourism product.

In a separate report by the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), Greece is placed 24th in terms of travel and tourism competitiveness, far higher than the country’s position in the overall economic competitiveness list (47th).

The contribution of tourism to employment continues to be very significant, as for every position of full employment in tourism almost one more is created in the tourism economy in general. Total employment in the tourism economy has reached 840,000 jobs, or 19 percent of all people employed.

An analysis of available data shows that there is one new tourism job created for every 30 tourist arrivals, which translates into 1.9 new jobs in the economy as a whole. Last year, an estimated 32,000 new jobs were created in tourism, a figure which represents 6.8 percent of all jobless people in 2005.

Last year was the second in a row in which the key figures of the tourism economy rose, which is very important for a mature tourism market such as Greece. With respect to arrivals, after a 5.6 percent annual rise in 2005, there was a further increase of 7.5 percent in 2006, leading to a new record of 13.7 million foreign tourist arrivals. Meanwhile, Bank of Greece data shows that revenue last year totalled 11.4 billion euro, a rise of 5 percent compared to 2005, when it had also posted a 4.7 percent annual increase.

Perhaps most importantly, these positive figures for tourism in 2006 were achieved despite the severe oil crisis that pushed up the price of oil from $55 per barrel (January 2006) to more than $75 per barrel (August 2006), once again confirming the resilience of the tourism economy in general.

The WTO expects a 4 percent rise in arrivals internationally in 2007, but just 3 percent in Europe. For Greece to improve its ranking, it will have to at least exceed the projected European average growth in tourism this year.

Tram is headed to Piraeus May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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In a decision that will likely be welcomed by commuters and tourists, it was agreed yesterday that the tram will run to Piraeus by 2010 as Attica’s main port continues to improve its public transport links with Athens.

Piraeus Mayor Panayiotis Fassoulas and Transport Minister Michalis Liapis settled on a preliminary agreement that the tram line, which currently terminates in Neo Faliron, will be extended 3.3 kilometers to Karaiskaki Square in Piraeus and then loop back to the Peace and Friendship Stadium. It is expected that an extra 30,000 people will use the tram daily as a result of the 68-million extension. The deal has to be approved by the Piraeus Municipal Council.

Piraeus officials had been reluctant until recently to agree to a deal with the tram operator as they appeared to be holding out for a deal to extend the metro to the port. The government has agreed to extend Line 3 of the metro to Piraeus from Haidari in western Athens. The extension to Haidari is due to be completed next year. However, Fassoulas revealed that several other concessions had also been made to Piraeus so local officials could agree to the deal.

One of the main sweeteners in the deal was an agreement by the government and transport authorities that an underground tunnel will be built for the section of the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway that passes through the crowded streets of the port area. As a result, the railway will run underground between the Neo Faliron station and Piraeus. The project will cost almost 60 million euro.

The Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) has also agreed to conduct a detailed study of Piraeus’s transport needs. The Proastiakos suburban railway is also expected to begin journeys to the port this year.

The construction of the new transport links is also likely to lead to the regeneration of Karaiskaki, Diliyianni, Alykakou and Korai squares in Piraeus. It was also revealed that there are plans to create another tram line to serve other neighborhoods near Piraeus.