Berlioz triumph by Kokkos

Hector Berlioz’s opera «Les Troyens,» put on stage by Greek stage director and set designer Yiannis Kokkos at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, had its last performance last night to resounding applause. «The audience loved it,» said Lydia Koniordou, who played a small yet crucial part in the show. «The critics talked of a triumph, with respect to the vocalists Susan Graham (Dido) and Anna Caterina Antonacci (Cassandra), the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the orchestra, two choirs, nearly 300 dancers, and mostly, Kokkos’s overall supervision,» added Koniordou. The opera has not been put on stage in its complete form – it lasts no less than five hours – since the 1960s, when it was performed in London; the Greek presence was prominent back then too, since the performance was staged by Minos Volanakis and the small but pivotal part of Andromache was interpreted by Aspasia Papathanassiou. The part of Andromache in the opera is a scene of 10 minutes maximum, and the actress playing it neither speaks nor sings. However, Kokkos wanted a great tragedy actress for the part, as had Volanakis back in the ’60s. «The reason is that the scene might strike an odd note, but it is decisive in the events that are to follow,» explained Koniordou. «It takes place amid dancing and singing, because the Trojans believe that the Greeks have lifted the siege and are gone. At that point Andromache, Hector’s widow, appears with her young son Astyanax, to bid farewell to the dead Hector. Cassandra, Hector’s sister, also appears and predicts evils for her brother’s young son and the entire city. That scene, including Andromache’s silent reactions, injects great suspense into the opera, so that the following scenes can fit in.» «Now I understand why Yiannis (Kokkos) insisted you should have the part of Andromache,» said Jean-Pierre Brossman, director of the Theatre du Chatelet, to Koniordou. For Koniordou, New York follows hard on Paris’s heels; together with Binghampton University, with which she has been collaborating the past few years, she will put on stage Euripides’ «Alcestis,» a production done by students which will have public performances. She will then return to Athens for rehearsals of «Lysistrata,» a National Theater of Greece production scheduled for Epidaurus next summer, to be directed by Costas Tsianos. Meanwhile, she will start preparing yet another show, commissioned in the United States: The prestigious J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles has asked her to put on stage ancient Greek plays on the theme of coming of age in antiquity, which will be performed during a conference dealing with that subject in October 2004. «I will use extracts from tragedies like ‘Ion,’ ‘Hippolytus’ and others, with Greek actors who speak English,» said Koniordou. «Only the chorus will consist of Americans. But we have a lot of time to discuss that.»