Tuesday 17 September 2013

Remembering Maria Callas

Ethniki Lyriki Skini, the Greek National Opera, organised a musical extravaganza around Athens on Sunday in memory of Maria Callas.

A musical celebration, a 'road gala', a musical walk in five acts, starting from the Museum of the Acropolis and finishing at the Archaeological Museum. At each stop, different sopranos sang some of the arias that Callas had performed, accompanied by a piano, with the exception of the last one at the Archaeological Museum which lasted for one hour and where the singing was accompanied by a whole orchestra. In between, we walked and marvelled.

What utterly amazed us was the thousands of people who took part and who walked from one location to the other: we were sure that the event would be well attended, but the sheer numbers were breathtaking. We also thought that people would pick and choose locations, but it was literally thousands that walked. I wish my photographs could have conveyed the mass of the people who attended, but it was impossible: it felt like being in a massive demonstration where you know that there are thousands of people taking part, but you can only see those immediately around you at any particular time. Unlike demonstrations, the crowds were utterly silent while the divas sang.

6:00 at the Acropolis Museum:

Romeo and Juliet, Charles Gounod - Je veux Vivre
Gianni Schichi, Giacomo Puccini - O mio babbino caro
Carmen, Georges Bizet - L'amour est un oiseau rebelle
Samson and Delilah, Camille Saint-Saens - Mon Coeur s'ouvre a ta voix

Soprano: Irini Karagianni.

Dionysou Aeropagitou St. was packed as were the steps down to the museum. We managed to walk down the ramp, snaking around all the people, and were able to sit on the lower steps, having access to very good views.

We then walked up Dyonissou Aeropagitou, to Herodotou Attikou theatre

18:45: The steps of the Herodotou Attikou theatre:

La Wally, Alfredo Catalani - Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana
Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi - Anch' io Dischiuso un Giorno - Salgo Gia
Gioconda, Amilcare Ponchielli - Suicidio
Cavalleria Rusticana, Pietro Mascagni - Voi lo Sapete, o Mamma

Sopranos: Antonia Kalogirou, Julia Souglakou

We managed to sit on the bottom step, so were as close to the action as was possible

At one point one of the sopranos climbed the steps in the middle of all the people

and then we had a visitor - how that dog managed to squeeze through all these people is beyond me, but that's what it did.

It was great being this close

The walk to the next act was beautiful and Lykavitos Hill in the distance had a golden glow

zooming in


while the Acropolis was a blur of gold as the setting sun's rays struck it.

19:35: Greek Archaeologists' Club:

Rigoletto, Giuseppe Verdi - Caro Nome
The Barber of Seville, Gioachino Rossini - Una Voce Poco Fa...
L'elisir d'Amore, Gaetano Donizetti - Prendi, per me sei Libero
Lakme, Leo Delibes - Air des Clochettes

Soprano: Vasiliki Karagianni

 Ms Karagianni sang from the balcony of the building  (photograph taken by Ken)

and the crowd stretched as far as the eye could see. (photograph by Ken).

We decided to give the next act in Plateia Kotsia a miss

and walked to Monastiraki Square instead, looking for something to eat.

The square was teeming with people - this is what a lot of people do in these days of austerity, they go out in the squares, maybe pick up a sandwich or a souvlaki, and then they sit around soaking up the atmosphere.

We stopped here for a quick souvlaki.

We wanted to get to the Archaeological Museum early, because we knew that this would be the busiest of all the locations.

This is the Museum seen from across Patission, I love the blur of the motorcyclist

Having missed Plateia Kotzia, we were half an hour early, and yet there was not a seat to be had, we tried the steps but they too were all taken.

21:30: Archaeological Museum:

Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi - introduction
La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi - Addio, del Passato bei Sogni Ridenti
I Vespri Sicialiani, Giuseppe Verdi - Merce, Dilette Amiche
Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini - Un bel di Vedremo
Tosca, Giacomo Puccini - Vissi d'Arte
Il Trovatore, Giuseppe Verdi - D'Amor sull' ali Rosee
Macbeth, Giuseppe Verdi - La Luce Langue

Sopranos: Elena Keleside, Tselia Kostea, Dimitra Theodosiou
Conductor: Myron Michaelides

We managed to find two narrow spaces on the steps

 behind the orchestra, but the sound was not very good

so we moved to the side and stood for the rest of the concert. (The final photographs taken by Ken, as he is much, much taller and had a better view).

There were two encores, Sempre Libera and Libiamo from La Traviata. The audience were going wild by then, all us of clapping to the music, and then we heard a tenor's voice, and there he was, on the steps, Dimitris Paksoglou,

before joining the sopranos on stage. The event finished at 10:30.

It was an amazing evening, most memorable. What an excellent idea, bringing classical music and opera to the streets.

Sempre Libere sang by Maria Callas

Libiamo, sang by Maria Callas

The Greek National Opera are having another similar event, a rehearsal this time,  on 26 September in the Port of Piraeus, Gate E9, at 18:00.