CULTURE

Greek Festival set for an operatic opening

Though hurt by the economic crisis and by its near-bankruptcy last year, the Greek National Opera has decided that it will keep its annual appointment at the open-air Herod Atticus Theater.

Inaugurating the Greek Festival on June 1 (with subsequent performances taking place on June 3 and 5), the GNO will be presenting a double bill of Pietro Mascagni?s ?Cavalleria rusticana? and Ruggero Leoncavallo?s ?Pagliacci,? directed by Graham Vick, artistic director of the Birmingham Opera Company. The production is taking place under the aegis of the Italian Embassy, which on June 1 will also be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the reunification of Italy.

Tickets for the performances have been on sale since last week and it seems that the public is responding to the small reduction in ticket prices compared to last year.

The two works, which were first paired by the New York Metropolitan Opera, are emblematic in the history of opera and especially popular proponents of Italian verismo, a style that flourished in the late 19th century. According to GNO conductor Lukas Karytinos, ?verismo was a movement that has been accused of being cheap and populist; what what it really achieved was bringing a broad audience to the opera.?

Another trait that connects the two works, according to the British director, is that both stories are about simple people. ?We wanted to do something that was both impressive and human,? said Vick.

Performing the lead roles in ?Cavalleria rusticana? are Greek-German mezzo-soprano Chariklia Mavropoulou, Korean tenor Rudy Park and Mexican baritone Carlos Almaguer, while in ?Pagliacci,? the cast is led by American tenor Stuart Neill and Greece?s Elena Kelessidi and Antonis Koroneos.

Tickets — which can be purchased by calling 210.327.2000 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily or by logging on to www.greekfestival.gr — cost 25-82 euros.