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Successful experiment continues at the Hellenic Festival March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Festivals, Hellenic Athens Festival.
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The Hellenic Festival’s program for 2008 follows format that was established just two years ago > Top dancer Sylvie Guillem will perform ‘Le Sacre de Printemps’ as part of the tribute to Maurice Bejart.

Ever since Giorgos Loukos took over, the Hellenic Festival has undergone an unprecedented change. By reaching out to young audiences and introducing new venues, from 2006 the institution has acquired a new identity.

This summer promises to continue the newly established tradition. At yesterday’s press conference Loukos announced the, once more, rich program, which has two novelties, a stronger emphasis on visual arts and on collaboration between foreign directors and Greek actors. Highlights include a tribute to the recently deceased dance master Maurice Bejart with Sylvie Guillem, choreographies by Trisha Brown and Pina Bausch and a dance performance with Mikhail Baryshnikov, but also Dimitris Papaioannou’s milestone performance “Medea”. Music fans will be able to enjoy Nana Mouskouri’s last concert.

“The Hellenic Festival may be the most popular and recognizable institution of the country. The experiment has worked,” said Minister of Culture Michalis Liapis, who was present at the press conference. Pointing out the audience’s warm response and the sold-out performances, he went on to say that the festival can now claim its own position on the international cultural map.

“I am very pleased,” said Loukos, who explained the contrast with the beginning, in 2006, when everything was so uncertain. “We made mistakes but we learnt from them.” He proudly announced that various productions that opened at the Hellenic Festival, such as Michail Marmarinos’s “I’m Dying Like a Country” and Lefteris Vogiatzis’s “Antigone” will travel to international festivals and said that acclaimed institutions abroad, including London’s Old Vic Theater, have expressed their interest in working with the festival.

05-03-08_herod_atticus.jpg  The program at the trademark venue, the Herod Atticus Theater, will start with the Greek National Opera production of Puccini’s opera “Turandot” on June 1, 3, 5 and 7. The Paul Taylor Dance Company will take the stage on June 11, followed by the tribute to great 20th-century choreographer Bejart with top dancer Sylvie Guillem on June 16 and 17. In what Loukos described as a performance “not to be missed” and “a mixture of gospel and Greek tragedy,” Lee Breuer will present his take on the story of Greek mythical hero Oedipus with “The Gospel at Colonus” on June 21. June will end with a concert by composer Olivier Messiaen (23), a tribute to Greek variete and revues by Stamatis Kraounakis (27, 28) and a concert with classical pianist and jazzman Fazil Say (30).

July will kick off with soprano Renee Fleming in her first performance in Greece (July 3) and will continue with a Greek music extravaganza by Nikos Portokaloglou and various guests (July 6, 7). Distinguished maestro Riccardo Muti will lead the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestra on July 8, followed by an evening of Ravel melodies with the Orchestre de Paris under Christophe Eschenbach (July 11). Stavros Xarchakos will pay tribute to Manos Hadjidakis (July 13), the Bolshoi Theater orchestra and choir will play compositions by Prokofiev (July 14) and the Cyprus Theater Organization will stage Aristophanes’ comedy “Plutus” (July 16). On July 18, the Lyceum of Greek Women will present a show based on percussion and the Karolos Koun Theatro Technis will perform Aristophanes’ “Birds” which was just staged in China (July 20, 21). Eternally popular vocalist Nana Mouskouri will round off her career on July 23. Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will present his work with the Shaolin Monks (July 26) and composer Lena Platonos will follow (July 28). July will end with a concert by the Greek-Turkish Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy on the 29 and then singer-songwriter Paolo Conte (July 31). The program at the hugely popular Pireos 260 venue will kick off with a renewed version of Dimitris Papaioannou’s 1993 “Medea” (June 1 to 5). Choreographer Josef Nadj and artist Miquel Barcelo will experiment in “Paso Doble” (June 1 to 3) and the Theseum Ensemble will once more stage Dimitris Dimitriadis’s “I’m Dying Like a Country” directed by Michail Marmarinos (6, 7). The Compagnie Maguy Marin will perform June 8-10 and the Wooster Group will return for an original take on “Hamlet” (12-15). Mikhail Lermontov’s play “Masquerade” by Stathis Livathinos will go on stage June 24 to 26 and Yiannis Houvardas will present Oden von Horvath’s play “Tales from the Vienna Woods” (27-30).

The acclaimed Schaubuehne company will return with Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (June 29-July 1) and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (July 8-10,) directed by Thomas Ostermeier. Dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov will dance July 3 to 8, then flamenco revolutionary Israel Galvan will perform July 10-12. The Trisha Brown Dance Company, that has only performed at the Kalamata International Dance Festival so far where Greece is concerned, will give two performances (12, 13) and French choreographer Alain Buffard will follow, July 15 and 16. Hanoch Levin’s play “Krum” by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski, will be staged July 16 to 18 and be followed by an adaptation of Josephine Hart’s novel “Damage” by Haralambos Gogios (21, 22). July will end with Mabou Mines and Lee Breuer’s award-winning performance of Ibsen’s “Dollhouse” (21-24), Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” directed by Cezaris Grauzinis (29-31) and Dimitris Kourtakis’s performance “Kafeneion” (30-31).

Highlights at the Athens Concert Hall include a 16th-century Chinese opera (June 12-14), Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” by the Lyon National Opera in a Greek first (July 7, 9) and Mussorgsky’s opera “Boris Godunov” by the Bolshoi Opera (July 15, 16). There will also be concerts by string quartets mid- to end-June and the Greek Ensemble of Contemporary Music (July 24), a concert by pianist Fazil Say and percussionist Burhan Ocal (June 28, although the venue might change) and religious compositions by Les Talents Lyriques on June 27.

At the Scholeion venue, actress Aspassia Papathanassiou will do a reading on June 9 and drog_a_tek will present an audiovisual performance on June 12. Actresses Reni Pittaki and Loula Anagnostaki will join forces June 17 to 21 and Jean-Christophe Sais’s take on Euripides’ tragedy “Andromache” will be staged on June 22 and 23. The program will continue with Vassilis Alexakis’s play “Call Me by My Name” (June 29, 30), a tribute to mythological hero Oedipus by the Theater of Silence (July 1 to 5), and duets and solos from the contemporary Greek dance scene (July 7, 10). Renate Jett will present Heiner Mueller’s “Quartet” starring Betty Arvaniti and Christos Stergioglou July 15 to 20. Ethnic music, by the Taksim Trio, three Greek ensembles, Buika, Iranian singer Shahram Nazeri and Marta Sebestyen will follow (22-26). Ibsen’s “Ghosts” by Ektoras Lygizos will be staged July 27 to 31. July will end with Euripides’ tragedy “Bacchae” by Thomas Moschopoulos (30, 31).

Anastassia Lyra’s dance installation will inaugurate the Mikroskopiko Theater, June 21 to 23. The Technopolis Arts Complex will host once more the avant-garde Synch Festival June 13 to 15 and a modern art exhibition from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection will go on display at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex.

The Epidaurus Festival of Ancient Drama will open with Beckett’s “Happy Days” (July 4, 5) directed by Deborah Warner and starring Fiona Shaw, which was only staged for one night last summer because of the fires in the Peloponnese. The program then features Aristophanes’ “Frogs” by Dimitris Lignadis (July 11, 12), Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” by Pina Bausch and the Paris Opera (July 19, 20), Euripides’ “Phoenician Women” by the Spyros Evangelatos Amphi-Theater (July 25, 26), Euripides’ “Orestes” by the National Theater of Northern Greece (August 1, 2), a unified Greek National Theater production of Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” and “Oedipus at Colonus” by Roula Pateraki (August 8, 9), Euripides’ “Medea” by Anatoly Vasiliev (15, 16) and Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” by Angela Brouskou (22, 23).

The cozy Epidaurus Little Theater will host Matthias Langhoff’s take on Heiner Mueller’s play “Philoctetes” (June 27, 28), Mediterranean melodies by Savina Yannatou (July 11, 12), Britten’s “Curlew River” by the Lyon National Opera (July 10, 11), a concert with Periklis Koukos (July 18, 19) and a concert with George Emmanuel Lazaridis and Maria Farantouri (July 25, 26.)

For detailed info please visit > http://www.greekfestival.gr

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Change, loss and belonging at the Museum of Cycladic Art March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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‘Nostos,’ a large exhibition on the work of Yiannis Psychopedis, taking place at the Museum of Cycladic Art. ‘Greek History Lesson’, 1976 (50×70 cm) and ‘Tribute to Delphi,’ 1994 (30×50 cm) are among the exhibits. References to ancient Greece prevail in the artist’s work.

The word “nostos” occupies a distinctive place in the Greek collective unconscious. Encountered in Homer to denote Odysseus’ return home, it is a word about man’s connection to his roots, family and cultural heritage, the yearning for a place that remains unchanged. Nostos and “algos” which means pain in Ancient Greek, have borne nostalgia, a feeling that prevailed in the lives of generations of Greek immigrants. Nostos is the return after a long absence to a place or to people the memory of which may no longer correspond to reality. Beautifully written about in Giorgos Seferis’s poem “The Return of the Exile” nostos involves self-fulfillment but is also subject to risks and disillusionment. It is about change, loss and the powerful feeling of belonging.

In “Nostos”, a large exhibition on the work of the distinguished Greek artist Yiannis Psychopedis which opens today at the Museum of Cycladic Art and is curated by Takis Mavrotas, one will strongly sense this feeling of a return, a journey back to Greece’s cultural heritage, antiquity, history and memory. It is neither a romanticized nor a “nationalistic” return, but a “return” that aims at self-knowledge. It is about cultivating a deeper understanding of Greece’s cultural heritage and obtaining a critical appraisal of the present, a “critical nostalgia” in the words of the artist.

The 100 works on display date from the late 1970s to the present and include the most important projects by the artist, who is also a professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts. Visually, the works share a more or less similar language. Both his paintings and mixed technique works look like visual diaries, a collage of different images put together to produce contrasts and connections. References to ancient Greece prevail: There are images of the Parthenon and the ancient site of Delphi in the series “Columns and Pillars” or “Oracle”. There is an entire series inspired by Homer’s “Odyssey” and another on the ancient philosopher Parmenides.

05-03-08_psychopedis.jpg  “The Letter that Never Arrived” (1985) 35X48. Psychopedis usually works on a particular theme for several years. Among the most well-known series is “The Letter that Never Arrived” which began in 1977 and continues into the present. Postcards that are painted over, letters (the written word recurs in the work of Psychopedis), envelopes, maps as well as motifs from the ancient Greek civilization are combined in visually and conceptually dense works which communicate the feeling of a journey that never reaches its destination. There is an autobiographical aspect to this work. Psychopedis had been living in Germany since 1970 (he remained there until 1987, then moved on to Brussels and settled in Greece in 1992) and it is perhaps his life as an expatriate Greek that set him on this mental journey back home, to his cultural heritage.

In another series, known as “A Lesson in Greek History, Art, Society, Politics” (1964-2004), references to Greece’s ancient past are paired with images taken from demonstrations or crucial political events in the history of this country. The political content that is found in all of the artist’s work is particularly strong in these images.

There is also an underlying sense of entrapment, urgency and the threat of destruction. The work of Psychopedis urges us to obtain a better understanding of who we are and what our history is. During the exhibition’s press conference, the artist spoke of last summer’s destructive fires. “A country that allows a disaster of this magnitude and could not protect Olympia from it should rethink its identity and its relationship with its cultural past,” he said. His work is a reminder of this responsibility. It is an incentive for thought on self-identity, history and the importance that an understanding of one’s cultural heritage has for a more fulfilling existence.

The exhibition on the work of Yiannis Psychopedis opened as planned, despite the recent death of Dolly Goulandris, founder of the Museum. This would have been the wish of Goulandris, who wanted the Museum to continue its work long after she passed away. Her niece and successor, Sandra Marinopoulou, formerly a member of the Museum’s Board, is now President of the N.P. Goulandris Foundation. Marinopoulou has been working closely with Dolly Goulandris for the past four years and intends to follow the same path and vision as its founder. As she said, Goulandris did not leave any strict guidelines but was firm on one thing: keeping up the profile of the archaeological museum and hosting parallel, non-archaeological exhibitions as side events. Scheduled for the upcoming months is the opening of two of the museum’s permanent collections. Also planned is an exhibition on the Russian avant-garde, an event organized in collaboration with the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki.

Yiannis Psychopedis “Nostos”, Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neophytou Douka Street, Athens, tel 210 7228321, to April 30.

Related Links > http://www.cycladic.gr

Greek tourism industry is globaly competitive March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Tourism.
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Athens International Airport helped Greece score points in the global tourism competitiveness report.

Greece’s tourism industry has become slightly more competitive on a global scale, despite a slide in the quality of healthcare and safety levels offered by the country, according to a report made public yesterday. Tourism is one of Greece’s most crucial industries, accounting for about a fifth of annual economic growth and almost 20 percent of jobs.

A Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, prepared by non-profit group World Economic Forum (WEF), showed Greece had climbed two places to position No 22 from 2007, out of a total of 130 countries. Switzerland took position No 1, followed by Austria and Germany.

Greece scored well in points given for airport infrastructure and human resources and was given top marks for the priority given to the industry, according to WEF. On the downside, the country slipped from position No 3 to 16th place regarding health and hygiene services. A lower score was also given regarding safety and security, placing Greece in 31st position, versus No 18 last year.

Commenting on the report, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said tourism is not solely reliant on factors strictly relating to the industry. “The competitiveness of tourism is the result of total government action for each country and not exclusively on the Tourism Ministry,” SETE said.

The conservative government set up a separate Tourism Ministry after being elected in March 2004, in a move seen as helping to give the sector a higher position in state policy.

The WEF report also pointed out the growing importance of environmentally friendly policies in tourism.

Greek scheme to save water is unveiled March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Nature.
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Greece has drawn up a plan to manage its dwindling water resources in a bid to ensure that no area or island in the country is left without access to water in the future.

Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday presented the plan, which contains several controversial elements that include the insistence on the diversion of the Acheloos River and the construction of at least 20 hydroelectric dams.

The plan to divert the Acheloos from western Greece to Thessaly in central Greece to provide water for farmers has already been blocked five times by the Council of State and is opposed by residents in the west of the country. But Souflias says that Greece will need to learn to live with these kinds of projects.

“We have to understand that diversions of water in Greece are unavoidable because in some areas water is readily available and in others there is a large demand for it,” said the Minister.

The water management plan is based on research done by the National Technical University of Athens, which recorded the state of Greece’s water resources.

Athens’ biggest park up for a facelift March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Infrastructure, Environment, Nature.
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Athens’s biggest park, Pedion tou Areos, near the city center, is set for a 9-million-euro makeover that will include the addition of 90,000 new plants and trees, the renovation of two theaters and the creation of a skateboard park, according to plans unveiled yesterday.

The park covers 23 hectares and is one of the city’s most significant areas of greenery but has suffered from years of neglect and lack of supervision that have led to parts of it becoming a no-go zone at certain times of the day.

However, Athens-Piraeus Prefect Dina Bei has announced ambitious plans to restore the park to its former glory and make it safer for Athenians. Respected architect Alexandros Tombazis has been brought on board for the project that will see more grass and better lighting throughout the park. How the park will be maintained once it has been refurbished is unclear.

Road Safety gets TV spots March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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A new series of TV spots will be aired over the next few weeks in a bid to heighten road safety awareness, the Transport Ministry said yesterday.

Greek roads are among the most dangerous in the European Union, with some 1,500 people being killed in car crashes each year. Accidents have dropped by 13 percent since a tougher highway code was introduced last year but the Ministry said that it hopes the advertisements will help Greek drivers further change their attitudes.

Experts predict blazing heat waves March 5, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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Mankind’s folly > Rising temperatures will make the intense heat waves of the past few years seem mild, experts said yesterday.

“The unprecedented heat wave of 2003, that caused hundreds of deaths across Europe, will seem cool in 2060 and positively freezing in 2100,” warned Christos Zerefos, the President of the Athens Observatory.

Experts say there has been a sharper rise in temperatures in the past 30 years than the rate of increase recorded over the past millennium. Mankind has taken 40 years to destroy the ozone that it took nature 1.5 billion years to create, according to Zerefos.