Turning notes into color and light

It’s been 20 years since the Greek theater world began to recognize the art of lighting as an integral element of stage productions – until then, it was all about lights alternating on the stage. During this period, a number of «light magicians» emerged, all breathing life into the events on stage. One of the field’s leading professionals is Lefteris Pavlopoulos, an award-winning cinematographer whose credits include a number of films and television series. Audiences recently enjoyed Pavlopoulos’s work for Euripides’ «Ion,» in a National Theater production directed by Lydia Koniordou, as well as Aristophanes’ «Frogs,» in a production by the State Theater of Northern Greece, directed by Sotiris Hadzakis. Pavlopoulos’s talents will be on display once again this week, in collaboration with the Orchestra of Colors as the prominent symphony orchestra makes its annual appearance at the Athens Festival at the Herod Atticus Theater this Saturday. In a performance titled «Colors with the Orchestra of Colors,» under the direction of Miltos Logiadis, the orchestra will interpret Alexander Scriabin’s «Prometheus, or the Poem of Fire,» Yiannis Papaioannou’s «Funeral of Sarpedon» and Theodore Antoniou’s Concerto for Five Soloists and Orchestra. The works will be interpreted in terms of light and color by Pavlopoulos. Following Saturday’s concert, Pavlopoulos faces a plethora of theater productions, including a National Theater production of «Hamlet,» a Sarah Kane play directed by Lefteris Voyatzis, a children’s play in collaboration with Xenia Kalogeropoulou, a production starring Katia Dandoulaki and directed by Stathis Livathinos, and Mimi Denisi’s production of «Victor-Victoria,» not to mention two of the Cultural Olympiad’s theater monologues, featuring Aleka Paizi and Dimitris Economou. Meanwhile, he is also considering working on a new film by Giorgos Karypidis. «In any case, cinema is my job,» says Pavlopoulos. Is that so, even after working in theater for the last 16 years? Theater is my life; I love it. Cinema is my love. Having studied film, I worked in cinema for many years before entering the theater world in 1986. Having said that, I come from a theatrical family – my grandfather, Stefanos Chrystomidis, owned three or four theaters in Piraeus. Theater was our backyard! So the bug was always lurking somewhere inside? Actually, I had other plans. Initially, I wanted to study architecture, but after watching a few films during my final year at school I decided that what I really wanted to do was cinematography. Not direction – that sounds strange. But cinema is all about the image – narrating with images. Light is fascinating. And you don’t have any unrequited dreams about directing? No, that’s why I’m always on excellent terms with directors. During the first 15 years of my career, I worked on films – and at the same time in television and advertising. Do you still work in television? I did a series last year. Television may not be art but it can still be interesting. And it also has to do with the people. I don’t enjoy working with people who are bad-mannered. And good manners are usually to be found in the theater, and that’s why I find myself there more and more… Is it wrong to assume that your success came via the theater? I don’t really know… I remember doing this show for television, «Anatomy of a Crime,» and many colleagues commenting on how I changed television’s image. I heard equally positive things after working with film directors like Karypidis, Siskopoulou, Boulmetis and Mavrikios. Meanwhile, the theater productions were top-quality ones, with extensive coverage. Recognition can only come through quality productions, not through a bad film or a bad play. Leading cinematographers have been recognized through landmark film productions, not because of some insignificant film. The main factor here is the production’s structure, who is directing and who wrote the script… In the theater, the set designer is also very important. Going back to Saturday’s concert. What does «lighting a concert» mean? It’s straightforward. When there’s an art director, he decides and you follow. This is not the case here and my job is to embellish the music with light and color. My job is to recreate every single note through color. It is a difficult but challenging task. In the Athens Festival program, Saturday evening’s event is billed as an «audiovisual extravaganza.» Does the term scare you? I believe that these kinds of terms are used in Rolling Stones concerts, for instance, where light acts as an element of the entertainment. In the case of the Orchestra of Colors concert, light has to play a theatrical role. Scriabin, for example, saw Prometheus as a revolutionary who brought people fire and the light of wisdom; he had strong views on what is light, darkness, life and death… The lighting, therefore, must work in such a way as to «translate» the music into light and color, into images.

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