CULTURE

Celebrating opera from its visual art perspective

On the second floor of the Teloglion Foundation of Art in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, soprano Antigone Sgourda recently viewed a series of embroidered costumes designed by Yannis Metzikof for an Athens Concert Hall production of “Macbeth” in 1997.

The acclaimed soprano seemed equally enchanted by the exquisite details in the work of costume designer Claire Bracewell, which included a long orange dress from a 2013 production of “Il Trovatore” at the Herod Atticus Theater in Athens, as well as the craftsmanship in the dresses designed by Antonis Fokas for the same opera in a 1958 production at the Olympia Theater, the masterful sketches created by Nikos Petropoulos in 2009 and costumes designed by Giorgos Patsas for an Athens Festival production of “Rigoletto” in 2000.

During her visit to the Teloglion, Sgourda also recalled going on stage in Thessaloniki during the 80s in productions of “Fidelio,” “Tosca” and “Don Giovanni” and the costumes she wore to interpret dozens of roles in landmark theaters around the world. There was also talk of a wig that caught fire from a candle as she appeared in “La Forza del Destino” at the Vienna Opera.

Walking past the display cases of “Wagner-Verdi: 200 Years,” an exhibition exploring the world of opera and celebrating the double bicentennial of the births of two of its most celebrated composers, Germany’s Richard Wagner and Italy’s Giuseppe Verdi, the 77-year-old Greek soloist had plenty to remember.

The foundation’s new exhibition, which is accompanied by a catalog, focuses on the visual arts aspects and the tangible traces left behind by lavish opera productions. On display are costumes, stage props, photographs, librettos, sketches, music scores and accessories, among other items. Works by noted artists and designers, such as Antonis Fokas, Giorgos Patsas, Nikos Petropoulos, Claire Bracewell, Ioanna Manoledaki, Yannis Metzikof, Yannis Kokkos and Peter Sykora, hark back to a number of glorious landmark productions at Greek theaters in the postwar years to the present.

On display at the Teloglion are little-known items stemming from storage rooms, wardrobes and collections (including the Greek National Opera, the Athens Concert Hall, the Lilian Voudouri Music Library, the State Theater of Northern Greece and others), all reflecting the great labor of the people involved in opera productions.

Among the exhibition’s highlights are a number of handwritten Wagner notes, correspondences and objects once owned by the German composer who was famous for writing his own librettos. On display is a diary featuring well-known quotes from some of his libretti as well as a handwritten music score dedicated by the composer to leading 19th-century contralto Marianne Brandt. Exploring the vast and versatile oeuvre of the emblematic German artist, these rare items are from the private collection of Constantine Carambelas-Sgourdas.

In one of the dispatches showcased at the Teloglion, a handwritten three-page letter addressed to his editor, Ernst Wilhelm Fritzsch, in April 1873, Wagner writes about working on a new project and half-jokingly asks Fritzsch not to think of him as being “lazy.” It was a time when the composer was struggling to find investors and supporters who could contribute financially to his dream project of developing a new opera house in Bayreuth, the city he had been living in since 1871. After working feverishly on the presentation of his epic four-part cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” Wagner eventually inaugurated the Bayreuth Festival, dedicated to featuring his works, in 1876.

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Teloglion Foundation of Art, 159A Aghiou Dimitriou, tel 2310.991610. To February 2. For more information, go to www.teloglion.gr.