The Athens Concert Hall launches its winter season tomorrow with the first of nine performances of an epic drama, Giuseppe Verdi’s «Sicilian Vespers.» The production features an international cast of world-renowned operatic artists and is directed by Nikos Petropoulos, with stage design by Rodolfo Craja. «The opera, written in 1855, will be presented in its Italian version at the Athens Concert Hall, without dance interludes, to maintain all the work’s dramatic dimension,» the venue’s president, Christos Lambrakis, told a news conference earlier this week. The production will include Greek subtitles. As part of the concert hall’s efforts to provide more focus on education this season, the Athens Concert Hall will «open its doors» to music students, Lambrakis said, by offering free tickets for the final two nights of «The Sicilian Vespers.» The opera’s plot is based on a Sicilian uprising against occupying French forces. According to legend, in 1282 French soldiers flaunt their power in the great square of Palermo by forcing Elena, whose brother has been killed by the French, to sing for them. Her patriotic song rouses the Sicilians to attack the occupiers. Following various complex circumstances and detailed, cunning plotting by Sicilian patriots, the French occupiers are eventually massacred. «We’re staging the work as it has been written,» noted Nikos Petropoulos, the opera’s director, who added that his approach was guided by «film and aesthetics of the 21st century.» The production’s musical director, Donato Renzetti, who will conduct the Athens State Orchestra, described «The Sicilian Vespers» as one of the «classical music repertoire’s most demanding works.» He called the late-19th century work a «pioneering opera» that is «loaded with dramatic elements.» The orchestra will be backed by the National Opera of Sofia Choir, conducted by Christo Kazandjiev. The Verdi opera’s key character is Guy de Montfort, the French Governor of Sicily. The role’s weight will be shared by three baritones over the nine-night run: Alexandru Agache, Vladimir Chernov, and James Johnson. Other cast members include basses Francesco Ellero D’Artegna and Paata Burchuladze, both as Procida, a Sicilian patriotic leader, and sopranos Eliane Coelho and Susa Neves, as Elena.