Comedy blooms into a musical at the National Opera

«The Flower of Levante,» one of the most delightful comedies written by Grigoris Xenopoulos, has been adapted as a musical and is being presented by the National Opera just a few weeks after the end of their previous operetta performance, «The Athens Apaches,» at the year-old Acropol Theater. «The National Opera has seen an increase in its attendance of as much as 10 percent, and this can surely be attributed to the operation of an additional stage,» explained Lukas Karytinos, the National Opera’s artistic director, in a recent press conference, adding that he and the organization aim at highlighting Greek operetta. «The Flower of Levante» is set in Athens at the end of the 1920s. The city’s liberal mayor has to deal with a number of problems: Pressure from his lover – a cabaret star, his efforts to keep his wife out of the seductive clutches of an up-and-coming shipping magnate, the flirtatious activities of his two daughters, his mother-in-law’s passion for Maurice Chevalier, and, of course, his professional burdens. Salvation for the angst-ridden mayor comes in the incongruous form of Nionios Nioniakis, a man who left his home on Zakynthos because he was frightened of earthquakes. «I tried to take a broad approach to the historical references and the different perspectives it shows on the social and artistic life of the era in order to create new scenes,» said Giorgos Lazaridis, who adapted the operetta from the original text. The performance also features a very careful musical selection by Giorgos Katsaros, conductor of the National Opera Orchestra. «I chose songs from the writer’s period with respect; melodies by Sakellaridis, Attik, Yiannidis and other composers of the time, Ionian folk music, choral works and mandolin ballads,» he said. The production is directed by Giorgos Remoundos with sets by Giorgos Asimakopoulos, costumes by Tota Pritsa and choreography by Angelos Hadzis. Nionios is played by the famous Greek singer and actor Yiannis Zouganelis. Grigoris Xenopoulos’s «Flower of Levante» is at the Acropol Theater, 9-11 Ippocratous, tel 361.4433, through April 28 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6.30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m.; and Sundays at 8 p.m. «I usually feel quite awful every time I’m about to record, as was the case for this live album. I was strung out during both nights it took to record it. Generally speaking, even when you’re not recording and playing to an audience, things tend to be that way. How can you remain ignorant of an audience that’s honored you with its presence?» Maryo said. «Whether I’m recording or performing for an audience, I’m giving a piece of my soul. So, of course, I’m going to be a little nervous every night, especially when I’m not feeling too well. But, you know what, I’m honest with the audience. I’ll tell them: ‘I’m feeling a little tired tonight. But it’ll be all right. We’ll get through the evening.’ We’re close, we have friendly ties, and that’s important.»

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