Frankfurt fair regaled with the sounds of Greece

FRANKFURT, Germany – The Alte Oper in Frankfurt went Greek Wednesday as a large crowd gave Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa an enthusiastic reception at a concert marking the opening of the book fair. Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and fair director Lorenz Rudolf were among the official party. The Rheinland Pfalz State Orchestra, under the baton of Nikos Athinaios, started the concert with The Sea, a demanding work by Greek composer Nikos Skalkotas. Agnes Baltsa, a flamboyant figure with fiery copper hair, sang classic crowd-pleasers from the operatic repertoire in a dramatic style that had the largely Greek audience begging for more. Among the crowd were her fellow musicians Maria Farantouri and Giorgos Dalaras, the latter of whom performed last night at the same venue with the Modern Ionian Orchestra. Earlier on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made a brief visit to the Greek pavilion at the fair. He came again yesterday, in the company of Evangelos Venizelos, and he showed special interest in the historical exhibits, pronouncing them to be very nice. Visitors to the Forum yesterday afternoon for the Blue Book award ceremony struck a somber note in an otherwise happy occasion by observing one minute’s silence in remembrance of those who had lost their lives in the attacks on the USA exactly one month previously. Presenting the Blue Book to Menis Koumandareas for his novel The Handsome Captain, National Book Center director Christos Lazos explained that the prize was intended to promote Greek literature in Germany. Koumandareas thanked the writers who had come to the event, which he views as support for Greek literature in general. In Greece, he said, literary prizes don’t usually mean much, because we are just a small circle of people who write and we tend to think prizes are part of the job. Other highlights yesterday were readings by Katerina Angelaki Rook, Thanassis Valtinos and Amanda Michalopoulou. Besides, it is precisely this constant work with the horses that gives birth to new ideas.

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