Thinking ahead — National Opera gets experimental stage

Though still leading a difficult existence – given that it still lacks an appropriate edifice – the Greek National Opera continues to improve and develop its scope, presenting a plethora of activities under the leadership of maestro Loukas Karytinos. One exciting development is that the company is currently preparing for the inauguration of the Experimental National Opera Stage, dedicated exclusively to Greek and foreign contemporary and experimental musical theater productions. The new stage’s opening production has been scheduled for February, featuring three works: Peter Maxwell Davies’s composition «The Lighthouse» and two Greek works commissioned especially for the occasion. The two works (running for approximately 20 minutes each) are «The Journey,» by Theodoris Abazis, and «The Seven Year Poet,» by Stathis Gyftakis. The musical direction – preparing the musicians and the soloists as well as conducting – is by Theodoros Antoniou. «It was necessary to create this stage, as its development has to do with the essence of opera’s future,» says Karytinos. «There are those who claim – whether in Greece or abroad – that opera as we know it is dead and that everything written after Wagner may well be a musical work, musical theater and so on, but not opera. A noteworthy attempt to redefine the genre was made by Gyorgy Ligeti – that is why, this year and for the first time in Greece, we are staging his landmark work ‘Le Grand Macabre,’ on our central stage. A contemporary opera, this is not addressed to opera lovers… but to everybody else. I says this because it is a forward-looking piece of work of great interest. It is important, therefore, to offer our young composers time and space in order to allow them to experiment on the future of opera. They have to be given a chance and the necessary infrastructure to compose freely. Nobody starts writing an opera without some kind of guarantee that the work will go on stage.» «When Mr Karytinos asked me to come up with some ideas on the subject of the National Opera, I pointed out that we are the only opera house lacking an experimental stage,» says composer and maestro Antoniou. «’How are you going to pave the way for future generations?’ I asked him. ‘Lavish productions of great classical works are fine but how do you achieve continuity?’ He then went on to talk to his team and decided to create the Experimental National Opera Stage. The idea here is to stage internationally acclaimed works as the core of the productions, complemented by novel Greek works commissioned from young composers. In this light, we contacted Abazis and Gyftakis, both of whom have experience in contemporary musical theater and said to them, ‘Come and say whatever you feel is relevant to you, exactly the way you want to say it.’» Directed by Giorgos Michailidis, the performance will take place in a 300-seat venue on Pireos Street. A ground-floor space, initially reserved for the National Opera’s choir and ballet rehearsals, it is a rather bare area relegated to being used for the safekeeping of stage props and costumes. «Our aim is to carry on with our efforts so that something permanent can be established – irrespective of this year’s outcome, which in any case will be a pilot production,» says Karytinos. «That is why the production will be presented only on two nights, February 27 and 28, and free of charge.»

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