The Cultural Olympiad’s four-year series of cultural events leading up to next year’s Athens Olympics is heading for New York’s Metropolitan Opera House on May 20 for an ambitious multifaceted production titled «All Around is Light.» This show is being billed as one of the cultural series’s highlights. The performance will feature the American Ballet Theater performing «Artemis,» a new work commissioned of choreographer Lar Lubovitch. The French-based film director and screenwriter Costa-Gavras, internationally renowned for his politically motivated films, including «Z,» will direct a plethora of participating renowned Greek artists from various fields. Delegations of all United Nations member countries have been invited to attend the New York performances. Four additional nights have also been scheduled for Greece: in Athens at the capital’s Herod Atticus Theater on July 6 and 7, and in Thessaloniki on July 10 and 11. «We chose New York City as this is where the UN headquarters are and also because the city is a cultural focal point internationally,» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a recent news conference in Athens, while stressing the emphasis being placed on the event to promote both the Athens Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad. The production’s Greek cast includes the top-selling singer George Dalaras, soprano Elena Kelessidi, conductor Loukas Karytinos and the actress Lydia Koniordou. Paintings by the late Yiannis Tsarouchis as well as Alekos Fasianos and music written for the performance by Nikos Xydakis, Christopher Theofanidis and Minos Matsas have also been been included. Venizelos noted that both Costa-Gavras and Dalaras would not be receiving fees for their participation. Despite this, the events’ costs total 2 million euros, Venizelos said. The figure includes production costs for a short film by Costa-Gavras on the Parthenon, which the director made especially for New York’s «All Around is Light» performance, and performance fees for the American Ballet Theater’s four appearances in Greece this summer. Commenting on his role in this diverse project, Costa-Gavras said he had willingly assumed the task of harmonizing the performance’s various components. He stressed that the various artists and projects were not chosen at random but represented what all members of Greece’s diaspora felt about their homeland: landscape, light, music, ancient drama, monuments – especially the Acropolis – and art. As for the production’s music, Costa-Gavras said his intention was to convey the connection between Greek folk and other forms, particularly classical music. The reason for making his short film on the Parthenon, Costa-Gavras noted, was to illustrate that the greatest amount of damage to the ancient monument could not be attributed to the ravages of time but to four incidents of human barbarism. The responsible parties, he said, were the Herulian Goths in 225 BC, the early Christians, the Venetian Admiral Morosini and Lord Elgin. Also at the news conference, the actress Koniordou said that she had needed to overcome reservations about performing as a result of the war in Iraq. She ultimately decided to take part after convincing herself that the dynamics of culture were independently propelled, she stressed. Any thinking person, Koniordou noted, would inevitably associate references to the Parthenon’s plight with the more recent catastrophe of cultural treasures in Iraq. Dalaras said that what was important was the production’s prospective attendance by people who otherwise only know Greece for its tourism.