French-Greek maestro conducts cultural bonding

In a country becoming ever more mired in insecurity over the future, there are those who continue to make the effort to show that there are some bright spots in today?s bleak landscape.

Acclaimed conductor Dionysios Dervis-Bournias has been living in France for the past 34 years but his attention right now is on Greece and he has a multifaceted project aimed at celebrating the bonds that tie Greece and France together.

Dervis-Bournias is clearly a political creature, though he defines himself first and foremost as an artist.

?We artists are not political in a way that we can present political solutions. All we can do is point out the problems using the means available to us: music and poetry,? he said in a recent interview with Kathimerini, explaining that his project will also bring together gastronomy, musical tributes and philosophy. ?We are addressing intelligent people and people in decision-making positions,? he added.

An integral part of the project is the festival Les Folies Francaises d?Athenes and the forming of an orchestra that he plans to call Les Folies Enchantees and which will hold concerts twice a year. The orchestra will be conducted by Dervis-Bournias himself and will comprise Greek musicians playing works by contemporary French classical composers with plans to expand the repertoire later to include Greeks.

The project will most likely get under way in December with the arrival in Athens of one of France?s most respected contemporary classical composers, Thierry Pecou, who will present one of his older works, titled ?Les filles du feu? (The Daughters of Fire), inspired by the Maenads of the Dionysian Mysteries. He will also provide musical accompaniment to a reading by poet Titos Patrikios of his own verse, while the evening will end with an orchestral rendition of Dionysis Savvopoulos?s ?M? aeroplana kai vaporia? (With Planes and Boats), a classic song with a zeibekiko rhythm, which has been orchestrated by Pecou and will be sung by Savvopoulos.

?The adaptation is orchestral and in Pecou?s style, which is especially violent, as well as with references to Iannis Xenakis,? said Dervis-Bournias. ?I am excited by the fact that Savvopoulos — whom my professors at the conservatory snubbed — will be the first Greek composer to have his work published by the world?s biggest classical music house, Schott, which also holds the exclusive rights to Pecou?s work.?

The concert will be repeated for a session that will be filmed, possibly in the spring of 2013, in order to create the first DVD of the festival. The plan is for ?Les filles du feu? to be performed and recorded with the Acropolis in the background and the segment on Patrikios?s poetry to be set at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus.

Savvopoulos?s piece, in contrast, will be cast in a modern urban setting.

?The song is about immigrants, people who came from somewhere else, people who live in dives,? said the conductor. ?I would like the filming to take place in an area that has this kind of housing.?

The issue of migration is one that worries the Greek-French conductor, who expressed his deep concern for the spike in racially motivated attacks against dark-skinned migrants in Greece over the past few months.

?Greece does not just have a crisis problem; it also has a Nazi problem. There is racism against people who came to the country because they were hungry, even though Greece is a migrant country par excellence,? said Dervis-Bournias.

The festival is also slated to include an annual philosophy conference in memory of Costas Axelos (1924-2010), author of ?Le jeu du monde? (Play of the World), as well as conferences, the first of which will be held in early 2013 at the Acropolis Museum. On the suggestion of the museum?s director, Dimitris Pandermalis, the conference will take the form of an ancient Greek symposium and the meal menu, which will be designed by the museum?s French chef Dominique Perrot, will have not meat or fish, just pulses and wine, as is befitting of economically tough times.

The gastronomy part of the festival will be set up along similar lines, with acclaimed French chefs proposing affordable recipes using Greek ingredients in a move meant to highlight the simple pleasures of good food.

As far as the festival?s funding is concerned, Dervis-Bournias assures that this will come from private sponsors, while all of the main participants will be working free of charge, with the exception of the Greek musicians, who will be paid.

?It would be dishonest and immoral to take even one euro from the Greek state. Either it will be done with sponsors or it won?t be done at all,? said Dervis-Bournias.

On the publicity front, the conductor has already ensured the help of the Greek Culture Ministry and the collaboration of Le Huffington Post, a joint publishing partnership with France?s Le Monde.

According to Dervis-Bournias, the festival will get front-page coverage and articles written by the composer himself will also be published.

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