“We were rather late this year, but we managed to put together a broad program, which has been adapted to next year’s special needs, given that it’s the year of the Athens Olympics,» said Christos Lambrakis, president of the Athens Concert Hall Organization, at a press conference recently. The occasion was the presentation of the Megaron’s cultural calendar for the 2003-2004 season. As for the expansion of the concert hall, or Megaron as it’s commonly known, Lambrakis noted he will be meeting with members of the media next month, in order to announce progress in the construction of the concert hall’s new wing, right next to the existing building – thus avoiding questions on the subject during the press conference. Furthermore, in unison with colleagues who followed, Lambrakis underlined that the Athens Concert Hall is entering a new phase which comes under the general banner of «Art and Education.» Essentially, this means that the organization is currently developing a wide array of educational programs in collaboration with various other organizations, while enlisting prominent artists scheduled to appear at the Megaron for master classes, workshops and seminars. At the press conference, Lambrakis highlighted some of many performances on next year’s list, such as two works by Guiseppe Verdi to be performed in Athens by an international cast: «Vespri Sicialiani» will be directed by Nikos Petropoulos, who is also in charge of the production’s costume and set design, in October 2003, while «La Traviata,» scheduled for May 2004, will be directed by Ulrich Peter with set design by the late Nikos Georgiadis. Other highlights include performances by great orchestras and leading soloists: A production of Bertolt Brecht’s «Mother Courage» with singer Marinella, based on an original score by Stamatis Kraounakis, will be directed by Nikos Mastorakis (although a recent Megaron communique had announced that the production would not go ahead due to financial differences with Kraounakis, Lambrakis clarified at the press conference that the problems had to do with casting); Arthur Honegger’s oratorio «Jeanne au Bucher,» directed by Thomas Moschopoulos, with set design by Dionysis Fotopoulos and starring Nonika Galinea, and a repeat of this year’s tribute to Vassilis Tsitsanis featuring Giorgos Dalaras. For Christmas, the Athens Concert Hall will welcome Russian ballet sensation Vladimir Malakhov, accompanied by soloists Diana Vyshneva and the Kiev Opera House’s corps de ballet. Also at the press conference, the Megaron’s artistic director, Nikos Tsouchlos, and composer Dimitris Marangopoulos, in charge of the Bridges series, spoke about the Greek artists scheduled to appear next year. These include Eleni Karaindrou, Pericles Koukos, Dimitra Galani, Maria Farandouri, Alexandra Papastefanou, Sonia Theodoridou, Marina Krilovich, Dimitris Sgouros, Leonidas Kavakos, Costas Kotsiolis (in charge of the Guitar Festival), Danae Karra, Chronis Aidonidis, Dora Bakopoulou, Aris Garoufalis, Thodoros Kotepanos, Eleni Mouzala, Alexandros Myrat, Elena Kelessidi and Constantinos Beta, and still others as well. Prominent artists and companies also feature on the international front. These include sopranos Ruth Ann Swenson and Inga Nielsen in «La Traviata»; the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin; the Camerata Salzburg conducted by Leonidas Kavakos (the well-known Greek violinist was recently appointed as its director); the London Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Mazur in works by Brahms; the Stuttgart Bach Academy interpreting «St Matthew’s Passion»; leading soloists such as pianists Arcady Volodos and Paul Badura-Skoda and violinist Maxim Vengerov, as well as composer Zu Livaneli, singer Dulce Pontes and guitarists Leo Brouwer and John Williams, among others. Also on the program are performances by the Derevo theater troupe, Dino Saluzzi and the Rosamunde String Quartet as well as the Andreyev Balalaika Orchestra. Greek artists scheduled to perform in recitals and concerts are soloists Dimitris Sgouros, Leonidas Kavakos and Alexandra Papastefanou, all appearing in the «Romantic Cycle.» Also concerts by Greek chamber orchestra La Camerata and the Greek Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Thodoros Andoniou; a concert with Maria Farandouri and Livaneli; a new composition by Pericles Koukos touted as a musical performance for both children and adults; serenades from the Ionian islands featuring mandolin music; and a tribute to Christos Aidonidi’s 50 years of popular Greek song. Meanwhile, Eleni Karaindrou is scheduled to perform four concerts accompanied by La Camerata in November, while the chamber music ensemble will also accompany Dimitra Galani. The Tsitsanis tribute featuring Giorgos Dalaras will be directed by Stamatis Fasoulis, while the production of «Anixon,» based on music by Constantinos Beta and lyrics by Thanassi Kaloyianni, will be directed by Olia Lazaridou and Maria Nikolopoulou. The Megaron’s list of recitals include artists Sonia Theodoridou, Marina Krilovic, Dora Bakopoulou, Aris Garoufalis, Danae Karra, Eleni Mouzala, Elena Papandreou and Elena Kelessidi. Finally, a series of performances by Greek dance troupes has also been scheduled, though this program will be announced later.