Athens to get a musical taste of ‘La Vie Parisienne’

One of the best-known operettas, Jacques Offenbach’s «La Vie Parisienne» (Parisian Life), is currently playing at the Olympia Theater for the first time in Greece. Containing much-loved tunes and plenty of romantic misunderstandings, the operetta is produced in Greek and is directed by Yiannis Iordanidis. «Producing an operetta is a special occasion for the National Opera, since in the past 15 years it has only produced four,» said Loukas Karytinos, the theater’s artistic director, at a recent press conference in Athens. Iordanidis’s directorial approach was described as subversive yet respectful of the classic structure of operetta. Iordanidis himself describes the plot as being very fast-paced and action-packed, with a fair sprinkling of subversive situations. «We set the show in the 20th century, in the 1960s, and used contemporary costumes and choreographies. This shows that Offenbach is still of interest to us to this day. It was difficult to strike a balance between the expected touch of madness and the music. We also used a cinematic approach in the show.» Offenbach began composing «La Vie Parisienne» after the great success of his operettas «Helen of Troy» and «Bluebeard» during Napoleon III’s reign in France. Paris was at the peak of its glory at the time, with many construction works going on everywhere and endless festivities. Every day there were dinners, dances and parades with fancy carriages. The institution of cafe-concerts also emerged in that period. There, one could encounter the whole gamut of society, ranging from wealthy French and foreign men, family men and elegant ladies, to prostitutes, pimps and other crooks. Offenbach wanted to describe all these contrasts of Parisian life in his operetta, which is about a Swedish couple that wants to experience everything that Paris can offer, namely entertainment, good food, spectacles and love. They embark on many adventures when a dandy, fascinated by the Swedish baroness, decides to become their guide. «Rehearsals were difficult because we have not been trained in the field of operettas,» said Maria Mitsopoulou, who alternates in the role of Gabrielle with Gina Poulou. «The chorus is also a very important part of the show,» she added. «La Vie Parisienne» is conducted by Andreas Pylarinos and Liza Xanthopoulou, with sets and costumes by Giorgos Patsas. The choir is conducted by Fani Palamidi and the choreography is by Isidoros Sideris. The libretto has been translated and adapted by Iordanidis himself. The remaining characters are played by Dimitris Kasioumis, Costis Konstandaras, Lydia Angelopoulou, Eleni Liona, Marina Krilovic, Nikos Stefanou and others. Olympia Theater, 59-61 Academias, tel 210.361.1516. Performances take place on Saturday, December 31, January 9 & 10, and March 3, 5-7.