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Greeks aim to bring Callas collection home October 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions, Ballet Dance Opera.
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Italians will also be vying for opera singer’s paraphernalia at auction in Milan

la_divina_maria_callas.jpg  Her relationship with Greece may have been as tempestuous as her love affair with Aristotle Onassis, but three decades after her death Greeks, it seems, cannot get enough of Maria Callas. So much so, that the cash-strapped Athens government has unprecedented plans to snap up the last great collection of paraphernalia associated with the singer when it goes under the auctioneer’s hammer on December 12.

“The sale of all these items interests us hugely,” Panayiotis Kakoliris, a senior adviser to the Greek Culture Minister, said. “Right now, we are looking into how we can raise the funds, to both buy and bring them here.”

At stake is a fabulous array of intimate letters, jewels, evening dresses, furniture, paintings, photographs, unseen stage notes and annotated musical scores released by the estate of Callas’s husband, the late Italian industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini.

The material, which allegedly unlocks every aspect of the soprano’s life with the much older Meneghini, whom she was to drop in 1957 for Onassis, is expected to fetch well in excess of £500,000 when it is auctioned in Milan. Comprising 330 lots, the collection, which also includes the couple’s engraved, gold band wedding rings, is so voluminous that Sotheby’s had to put aside a day for the sale.

“The items may be less valuable now but they are very intimate. What is quite obvious is that Meneghini, though 28 years older than Maria, never stopped being in love with her,” said Esmeralda Benvenuti, the deputy director of Sotheby’s in Milan. “He kept all her letters and, having read them, I can say they are really very passionate. A lot of her belongings, after her death, were put up for auction in Paris in 1978 and he bought those as well which is why the collection is so big.”

Since Callas’s premature death, at the age of 53 in the French capital, interest in the woman who would come to be known as La Divina, has never waned, with fan clubs proliferating worldwide. Strangely, however, international adoration has failed until this year to be replicated in Greece, the country Callas most identified with, requesting that her ashes be scattered in the Aegean, but one she avoided when, in her late 30s, her voice cracked and her often stormy relations with her family worsened.

At the last auction of Callas memorabilia in Paris seven years ago, Greek devotees rushed to buy the singer’s personal effects, but Athens’ Town Hall, which had also dispatched buyers, was unable to keep up with the bidding war. As a result, admirers in Athens have had to make do with a Maria Callas Museum whose exhibits include little more than a wig, a set of gloves and photographs of the singer playing with her favourite pooch. “Of course, we would like to have more but tell me how when there’s always been the issue of money,” said Loulis Psychoulis, who runs an Athenian conservatory dedicated to La Divina.

Augmenting the country’s paltry Callas collection has become a priority for a government that, this year, has also gone out of its way to celebrate the great dramatic singer with a series of recitals, concerts, exhibitions and shows.

But the desire to repay a debt of gratitude, long overlooked, may have come too late. When the bidding starts in Milan, the home town of La Scala where much of her career was made, the Greeks will be up against the Italians who also see Callas, their favourite opera star, as one of their own.

Born Mary Anna Kalogeropoulou to Greek emigres in New York, Maria Callas is regarded as the greatest opera singer since the second world war. She grew up in Athens, making her debut there. She moved to Italy and met industrialist Giovanni Meneghini. They married in 1949. He oversaw her career which rocketed at La Scala in Milan. In 1957, she met Aristotle Onassis, divorced Meneghini and expected to marry Onassis, but the shipping magnate’s affections turned to John F Kennedy’s widow Jackie, who he married in 1968. Callas gave her last public concert in 1974. She died on September 16 1977 in Paris.


Maria Callas Auction October 25, 2007

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Greece eyes items going under the hammer in Milan next month

Greece is thinking of bidding for various personal belongings of opera diva Maria Callas that are to be auctioned off next month, according to reports yesterday.

Sotheby’s is due to put letters, dresses and other items that belonged to Callas up for sale in Milan on December 12 after the items were released by the estate of her late husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. «The sale of these items interests us hugely» Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted Culture Ministry official Panayiotis Kakoliris as saying. «Right now, we are looking into how we can raise the funds to both buy and bring them back here.»

Thessaloniki’s Demetria Festival October 15, 2007

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Thessaloniki’s Demetria Festival was established in 1966 > Richard Strauss’s ‘Salome’ is being staged at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. In this production, the story takes place in a lunatic asylum.

As early as the golden age of Byzantium, about the 14th century AD, Thessaloniki hosted a regular spectacular “New Festival” each autumn. In modern times, since October 1966, a reborn festival bearing the name of Saint Demetrius, also known as the Great Martyr, Megalomartyr in Greek, and as he whose tomb gives forth a sweet fragrance, Myrovlitis in Greek, takes place here. Saint Demetrius is Thessalonikis’ Patron Saint.

This year’s festival is organized in several cycles of events. Opera is being represented by Verdi’s “Aida” performed by the Opera of Thessaloniki several weeks ago without the customary camels and elephants for the triumphant march in Act II, and by Strauss’s “Salome”, famous for its dance of the seven veils. The daughter of Herodias, Salome, the Bible tells us, danced for her stepfather, Herod Antipas, and demanded the head of John Baptist as a reward.

In Thessaloniki, the director Nikos Petropoulos transferred the action to the early 20th century, when Richard Strauss composed the opera and when the founder of the psychoanalytic school of thought, Sigmund Freud, created his theory of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life. A hundred years have passed since those vigorous days. Understandably, Salome’s story as told in Thessaloniki’s Concert Hall takes place in a lunatic asylum.

Incidentally, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall has just embarked upon its new season with a rather limited program. Its stable, yet meager, funding, which amounts to just 1.5 million euros, has resulted in very few events taking place this autumn. Considering the Athens Concert Hall’s funding, the sum for its northern sister seems ludicrous. At any rate, there are no flamboyant opera openings in this city. Do not imagine black-tie at the inaugurations in this Balkan capital. Instead you come across the arty, mini-skirted, bearded and habitually casually dressed local glitterati. During intermissions, one can easily chart the social and cultural changes of the, once, second city of two empires, reduced today to an unremarkable provincial capital.

However, and just for the record, Maria Callas once sang here. In one of her first appearances, in July 1940, la Divina was one of “the girls” in the choir of the Greek National Opera, when it was touring with “Die Fledermaus”. At any rate, no one remembered the event, with all the Callas festivities also happening in Thessaloniki.

Back to Strauss’s opera where the dangerous, sensual, tempting character of Salome has John the Baptist beheaded just to touch her lips to his. A Thessalonian actor and a C.P. Cavafy scholar, Nikos Naoumidis, reminded me that there might have been other reasons as well for the beheading, beyond those in Oscar Wilde’s imagination.

There is a Cavafy poem titled “Salome” which was not published during the poet’s lifetime. In it, Salome instigates the death of John the Baptist as part of a futile effort to win the interest of a young sophist who seems indifferent to the charms of heterosexual love. And when Salome presents him with John the Baptist’s head, the sophist rejects it, remarking in jest: “Dear Salome, I would have liked better to have received your own head.” Now, taking this jest seriously, the hopelessly wounded Salome lets herself be beheaded and her head is duly brought to the sophist on a golden platter. He, however, rejects it in disgust and turns to studying the dialogues of Plato. “Salome” will be performed another two nights, on October 17th and 20th.

As part of the Demetria Festival program, the National Theater of Northern Greece opens its winter season with a tribute to Nikos Kazantzakis, this time on the 50th anniversary of the death of one of Greece’s most important writers and thinkers.

Although the play “Julian the Apostate” was written some decades before Gore Vidal’s homonymous best-seller, it is reminiscent of the spirit of the novel. Could Vidal have ever read the French translation Kazantzakis did in 1948?

“Julian the Apostate” is a heretical, provocative, grandiloquent play little known to a wider audience. It was written in 1939, in the house where Shakespeare’s daughter lived, in Stratford-upon-Avon, under the roar of combat warplanes. Through the historical figure of Julian, Kazantzakis expresses his personal thoughts, creating a drama of extreme situations, rapid plot development and bombastic theatricality. He focuses on the contradictory and unpredictable personality of the Emperor, on the lonely struggle of a fighter and philosopher who sought freedom and self-awareness since he was a child. The Roman Emperor Julian, AD 331-363, linked his name to the effort to convert the Empire to the ancient Greek religion, as he was deeply influenced by his education, which was focused on antiquity. The Church branded him an enemy of Christianity and he was stigmatized with the epithet Paravatis, Transgressor, or Apostatis, the Apostate, although some believe that what he had really attempted to do was to reconcile the Greek spirit with the Christian religion.

Why did Thessaloniki’s National Theater of Northern Greece choose this play? Well, perhaps because of a paragraph, from Gore Vidal’s well-researched historical novel,  that perfectly suits our TV-adoring city: “In every city there is a special class whose only apparent function is to gather in public places and look at famous men… An elephant would have pleased them most, but since there was no elephant, the mysterious Prince Julian would have to do.”

Related Links >
http://www.dimitriathess.gr [available only in Greek language]


Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis October 3, 2007

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I fear nothing

I hope for nothing

I am free…

Greek celebrated author Nikos Kazantzakis  (1883-1957)*

Greece’s Ministry of Culture has declared Year 2007 as “Nikos Kazantzakis Year”. It has also declared 2007 as “Maria Callas Year”, “Nikos Engonopoulos Year” and “Dionisios Solomos Year”.

Honoring Maria Callas Year September 28, 2007

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Nikos Floros’s metal beauty exhibition currently showcased at the Melas Mansion on Kotzia Square in Athens > Canned knits. Sculpture inspired by Maria Callas in “Iphigeneia in Tauris” featuring ring-pulls that become a lace-like collar. A kimono sculpture inspired by “Madame Butterfly”

The shimmering folds and drapes on the sculptures create fairy-tale illusions of majestic queens clad in sumptuous fabrics. Approach closer, however, and you’ll find that everyday products can turn into the stuff of dreams.

Over a period of five years, artist Nikos Floros purchased more than 200,000 aluminium cans of soft drinks and beer and turned them into imposing works, inspired by the world of opera and its most glorious star, Maria Callas. With brands chosen primarily for their color combinations, Floros’s handmade, large-scale objects display elements of history, fashion, art and emotion, dedicated, above all, to La Divina’s spirit.

“Opera Sculptured Costumes” currently on display at the National Bank of Greece’s Melas Mansion, is organized by the non-profit Foundation for the Creation of the Opera Building and the Maria Callas Lyric Art Academy in Athens led by soprano Vasso Papantoniou. Curated by Katerina Koskina, the display at the grandiose, downtown Melas Mansion runs to October 19.

A surrealist who enjoys working with pop elements, Floros mixes the past and the present with cutting-edge flair. “Today’s temples are supermarkets, malls and department stores,” the artist said. “That’s where you exist.”

At the Melas Mansion, the sculptures are inspired by celebrated roles that the late soprano interpreted on stage at the world’s greatest theaters: Beer cans become glowing golden-brown shades for Violetta in “La Traviata”, there’s cool silver for “Iphigeneia in Tauris”, vivacious green for Rosina in “The Barber of Seville”, fiery red for “Tosca” and a kimono for “Madame Butterfly”. Also showcased is a suit for a Callas master class, as well as jackets, a corset, a pair of evening shoes and ankle boots, the latter painstakingly made in no less than two-and-a-half months.

From Elizabethan times to “Empire” and 20th century power-suits, Floros traces the history of garment design while exploring intriguing handmade techniques: Cans become fine pieces which are then woven, turning into metal fabric. Ring-pulls turn into elaborate metal lace on enormous collars and linings are executed with a stapler. For the artist, this is not about recycling, but rather about giving “a new dimension to an everyday commodity.” Powerful and beautiful, the work of Floros has captured the Callas spirit, artistic, original and larger than life.

At the Mela Mansion of The National Bank of Greece, 86 Aeolou Street, Kotzia Square, Athens. Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

floros_1.jpg  floros_2.jpg

floros_3.jpg  A Greek in New York > Born in the Peloponnesian city of Tripolis in 1970, Nikos Floros studied drama and design in Athens, before traveling to Paris to spend a year at the celebrated Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He also studied piano at the National Conservatory in Athens. Currently living and working in New York City as a costume art designer, the artist’s projects include a production of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Narcisse” at the Theater of the New City. In 2003, Floros’s sculpture “Silver Elizabeth I” received the Grand Prize of the Young Friends of French Heritage Society. In that same year, two of his works aroused much discussion at the Save Venice benefit gala. A year later, his work “Red Queen Elizabeth” was awarded the Grand Prize at the same benefit. In the same year, “Red Queen Elizabeth” was the centerpiece at the annual Art Benefit Event hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Tonight in the Capital > Athens events September 28, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Ballet Dance Opera, Music Life Classical, Music Life Greek, Music Life Live Gigs, Stage & Theater.
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Maria Callas Tribute > Seven sopranos, Martha Arapi, Jenny Drivala, Dimitra Theodossiou, Vassiliki Karayianni, Mata Katsouli, Elena Kelessidi and Julia Souglakou, will pay tribute to Maria Callas at the Olympia Theater, with a program of arias accompanied by the Greek National Opera Orchestra under Ilias Voudouris.
At the Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias Street, Athens, tel 210 3612461.

Mario Frangoulis Concert > Tenor Mario Frangoulis will give a concert in aid of the Argo Foundation for children with special needs at Piraeus’s Katrakeio Theater tonight, joined by soprano Deborah Myers. Tickets can be purchased at Metropolis music stores and at Argo, tel 210 4210096.
Katrakeio Theater, Akropoleos and Nestoros Street, Piraeus, tel 210 4927467.

Runciman Tribute Show > “On the Corner of Karolou Dil and Tsimiski,” Giorgos Andreou and Thodoris Gonis’s music and theater tribute to Byzantinist Sir Steven Runciman starring Syrmo Keke, Athina Maximou, Evi Saoulidou and Eleni Tsaligopoulou, will go on stage for the second time at the Athens Concert Hall tonight.
Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

Greek Rock Festival > Rocker Nikos Portokaloglou will lead a Greek music festival at the Vrachon Theater tonight, along with Manolis Famellos, Zak Stefanou, Nikos Ziogalas, Stathis Drogossis, Odysseas Tsakalos and others. Tickets are available at Metropolis music stores and at the Vyronas Cultural Center.
Vrachon Theater, Vyronas, tel 210 7626438.

Corda di Vento > The Corda di Vento music ensemble will perform compositions by Ginastera, Bernstein, Piazzolla and Brahms at the American College of Greece tonight. The concert will start at 8.30 p.m. and admission is 10 euros.
Americal College of Greece, 6 Gravias Street, Aghia Paraskevi, Athens, tel 210 6009800.

Goran Bregovic Concert > Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Band will play Gypsy melodies and much more at Petroupolis’s Petra Theater this evening. Tickets can be purchased at Metropolis music stores and the Ianos Bookstore at 24 Stadiou Street, Athens, tel 210 3217917.
Petra Theater, Damari Petroupolis, Athens, tel 210 5012402.

‘Cultural Year of Greece in China’ debuts September 26, 2007

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Beijing will be host to an ambitious year-old series of events, entitled “Cultural Year of Greece in China” through the autumn of 2008, featuring various aspects of Greece’s modern culture and kicking off on at the end of this month with a concert in memory of opera diva Maria Callas.

The series of events officially begin on October 19 with performance of Greek composer Stamatis Spanoudakis’ new work “Alexander: Paths you haven’t traveled”. The September 27 concert will feature noted mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa.

According to the Culture Ministry’s leadership on Tuesday, events will include theatrical performances, cinema tributes, dance, archaeological and modern art exhibitions, opera, folk concerts, modern and popular music, conferences as well as book exhibitions.

Additionally, the Hellenic Cultural Centre will open in the centre of the Chinese capital for the next two years, coinciding with Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, where it is expected to host exhibitions, seminars as well as commercial events.