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Thessaloniki’s Demetria Festival October 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Festivals, Ballet Dance Opera.
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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

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Books Life Greek.
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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”.

Dance and acrobatics meet music with passion October 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Ballet Dance Opera, Music Life Live Gigs, Stage & Theater.
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The renovated Badminton Theater presents its rich and varied program for the season

Moses Pendleton’s innovative company Momix is set to perform ‘Passion’ December 1 to 7, a tribute to Nikos Kazantzakis’s well-known work ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ and its big-screen version by Martin Scorsese.

Flamenco diva Cristina Hoyos’s performance with her ballet marked a powerful beginning for the Badminton Theater. The brand-new venue, which underwent further renovations over the summer, will host a string of interesting productions, ranging from musicals and modern dance acrobatics to Gypsy music and ice ballet through May next year.

Michalis Adam, Director of Adam Productions, the company behind the theater, laid out this season’s program but also talked about future plans at a press conference last week. “This is our first full season at this theater and we would like to call on all organizers, because it is open to all,” he said. The venue, which opened last winter, is the biggest theater in Greece, with 2,500 seats. It has been designed so as to cater to a variety of productions, but not large rock concerts, which Adam said are more suitable for stadiums. It has already successfully staged a number of performances, including the popular musical “Cats” and the Irish dance show “Lord of the Dance,” the latter being sold out despite the fact that it went on stage at the end of June, in the middle of a heat wave and at an indoor theater.

Adam Productions took over the Badminton Theater after winning the tender launched for Olympic venues; until then the company had been obliged to use other places, such as the Lycabettus Theater or the Athens Concert Hall, to bring shows by various artists including alternative masters the Tiger Lillies or the breathtaking Cirque Eloise. The Badminton Theater, which now boasts new facilities, will be developed further. As Adam explained, the aim is to turn it into a welcoming arts complex surrounded by trees, set in a park in the heart of Athens, and fully equipped with an additional music stage, a restaurant, an exhibition and events hall, an open-air cinema and even a children’s play area.

Following “Viaje al Sur,” a performance of traditional flamenco set to new forms by Cristina Hoyos’s Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia last week, award-winning Argentinean master of dance Julio Bocca is set to perform Thursday through October 8. Bocca will present one of his favorite productions, “Bocca Tango,” which combines ballet and tango. He will be joined by top dancer Cecilia Figaredo and his dance company Ballet Argentino as well as the Octango orchestra that will play melodies by Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel. Due to high demand, an additional performance will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, October 7. The shows are part of Bocca’s farewell world tour, his future plans are to focus on his school and dance company in Buenos Aires.

Internationally acclaimed Brazilian musician, poet, filmmaker and a well-known political activist Caetano Veloso will give a concert on October 25. Veloso, one of the leaders of the 1960s Tropicalia music and visual arts movement, has released more than 40 albums and has sung in various films, including “Frida” and Pedro Almodovar’s “Hable con ella” (Talk to Her).

The Pilobolus Dance Theater, a group that stretches the abilities of the human body and challenges the laws of nature, will present five works from its large repertoire from October 29 to November 2. The company returns to Greece after its two much-discussed performances in front of a tightly packed Herod Atticus Theater back in 2003. Founded in 1971, the group continues to function as a collective, based on collaborative effort.

“Beauty and the Beast,” the first Disney musical to travel to Greece, will go on stage November 7 to 25. The highly popular musical, which is based on the well-known fairy tale, has won over more than 25 million people around the world. It will be the West End production of the show that will visit Greece, starring Matthew Cammelle as the Beast, who also did a run as the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera.” The production will feature a live orchestra and Greek supertitles.

Another innovative company, Momix, which has a reputation for creating shows where its dancers-illusionists play with light, shadows and acrobatics, will perform in the first week of December. “Passion,” featuring music by Peter Gabriel, is a tribute to Nikos Kazantzakis’s “Last Temptation of Christ” and its big screen version by Martin Scorsese. It is choreographed by Moses Pendleton, the group’s artistic director and founder, who was also one of the founding members of the Pilobolus Dance Theater. Momix has gained a fan base in Greece, following its past performances at the Lycabettus Theater and the Athens Concert Hall.

Switching over to music, well-known filmmaker Woody Allen will bring his clarinet skills to the stage and will perform with his New Orleans Jazz Band on December 28 and 29. In contrast to his last performance in Athens two years ago, tickets are now much more reasonably priced. More music will fill the Badminton Theater January 4 to 6, as the 100 talented musicians of the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra, led by Sandor Rigo Buffo and Joszef Csosci Lendrai, will play a varied program from well-known Gypsy melodies to compositions by Strauss, Brahms and Berlioz.

In its first appearance in Greece, Antigravity, a New York-based group consisting of gymnasts, dancers, acrobats and street jumpers, will present a breathtaking aerial show January 16 to 20. It will be followed by innovative flamenco company Fuego! which combines traditional flamenco with the latest dance tendencies, January 23 to 27.

What has been described as “Italy’s answer to the hit Cirque du Soleil,” Gaetano Triggiano’s “Tablo,” will take the stage in February. The show is a live magical mixture of illusion and drama, led by Angelo Talocci’s atmospheric music and enriched by colorful costumes.

In March, the St Petersburg State Ice Ballet will present its ice skating version of Tchaikovsky’s classic “Swan Lake,” accompanied by the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra.

The season will enjoy a powerful closure, with the highly popular musical “Mamma Mia!” May 6 to 25. Featuring timeless Abba songs and set on a Greek island, the much-loved production is currently also being filmed for the big screen, starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, with some of the filming taking place on Skopelos and Skiathos islands in Greece.

Badminton Theater, Goudi Military Park, Athens, tel 211 1086086, http://www.badmintontheater.gr