Great voices show stylish flair in National Opera’s ‘La Follia’

Opera divas are celebrated for their imposing voices and commanding stage presence. At the National Opera in Athens, a select group of vocalists are about to be feted for their sense of style in “La Follia” (Folly), which will take place at the main entrance hall and staircase on Saturday, April 13.

The idea for a show mixing opera and fashion belongs to journalist and classical music/opera critic Isma Touliatou, while the performance is a part of the company’s “Afternoons at the Foyer” series and the Guest Composer Cycle currently hosting Giorgos Koumentakis.

Linking the worlds of style and musical brilliance is Dimitris Dassios, an actor-singer-turned-fashion-designer who came up with the idea of “La Follia” as the performance’s backbone concept and also directs the show.

Dassios studied opera at the Athens Conservatory before joining the National Opera’s operetta department. A few years ago, however, he decided to focus all his attention on another facet of his creative personality, when a fashion passion originally channeled through part-time costume jewelry design turned into a full-time job in apparel and accessories design.

“It’s about the folly of grandeur, creativity, vanity, love, deception and loss,” said Dassios of the upcoming show, “when the human spirit moves away from a normal state due to some kind of psychological tension, whether sadness or joy.”

There is plenty of material in opera illustrating these emotions, says Dassios, who, among other operatic excerpts, is directing the folly scene from Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the high-intensity display of passion by Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Musetta’s vanity cry in Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme.”

Meanwhile, the works will be interpreted by a significant portion of the local opera scene’s creme de la creme, sopranos Vassiliki Karayanni, Irini Karaianni, Elena Kelessidi, Julia Souglakou and Vassia Zacharopoulou.

What will the divas wear?

“A combination of my own pieces, including garments based on fabrics made of bin bags, in tandem with items from the National Opera’s own garderobe, costumes created by masters of the craft, including Nicholas Georgiadis, Yiannis Metzikoff and Nikos Petropoulos, pieces which I have used in alternative ways, giving them a couture touch,” said the designer.

While the mix of disciplines and talent in “La Follia” highlights the National Opera’s rich resources, the show also underlines a tremendous display of positive energy during tough times.

“Everyone involved in the production is doing so voluntarily and what I find very moving is the availability of the artists, their high spirits. Each singer interprets a grandiose moment of her chosen art, a role at its most extreme. The same is true of the musicians and the dancers and in the end all of this combined effort brings the entire project under the folly of creativity,” said Dassios.

On the night, a live screening of the event will take place at the Olympia Theater’s Maria Callas Hall, as space at the theater’s entrance area is limited. “La Follia” will end with a presentation of the designer’s winter 2013-14 collection, though Dassios is keeping this part of the evening a surprise.

“The performance stresses how important garments are in terms of the actors’ relationships to their roles, while at the same time reflecting a recent trend in leading opera houses and theaters across the world with major fashion designers working on the costumes,” said Dassios. “Essentially, garments have to do with the semiology of theater. A garment has a very powerful function because, ultimately, it means the role.”

National Opera, Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.366.2100. Starts at 8 p.m. Entrance with priority coupons.