Greek opera to mark start of Olympics

The International Olympic Committee will celebrate the opening of the 2004 Olympic Games with a contemporary Greek opera about Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, which will take place in Lausanne, where the committee is based. The opera is called «Olympias» and has been written by well-known Thessaloniki-born musician and pianist Sarantis Kassaras. The selection of the opera was made upon Denis Oswald’s initiative. It will be performed at the end of July in the gardens of Lausanne’s Olympic Museum by an international cast of opera singers, including some Greeks. The opera will then travel to other Swiss cities before moving on to other European countries. It is also scheduled to be performed in Greece, most likely at the Herod Atticus Theater, but due to election fever, the place or time has yet to be determined. The composer told Kathimerini that the libretto was inspired by Angeliki Stergiou’s book «Olympias,» which includes all known facts about Olympias’ life and personality. «Initially, I wrote the music for an event where extracts of the book would be read,» said Kassaras. «The audience’s reception to both the text and the music made me consider composing an entire opera on the subject.» «The opera has both modern and traditional sounds,» said the composer. Its style is mostly classical, but it is enriched with traditional and contemporary touches. «In some parts, one can detect the musical tradition of Epirus, where Olympias came from, and that of Macedonia, when the plot evolves at the Pella palace, but also that of Thrace, because the princess met Philip during the Mysteries of Samothrace.» Apart from Olympias, the opera also features Philip, Alexander and Olympias’ nurse. The story starts with the princess as a young girl, moves on to her meeting Philip, their wedding, the birth of Alexander and ends with her tragic death by stoning. The composer will soon travel to Lausanne to attend the auditions of opera singers who have applied to interpret the parts. Greek tenor Michalis Doukakis, who will also perform at the Athens Concert Hall next week, is the only singer whose participation has been confirmed. The production will be directed by a Swiss artist. The conductor (and artistic supervisor) and the director will choose the remaining cast, in collaboration with the composer. The opera’s duration is slightly over two hours, but the orchestra that will interpret it has yet to be named. It is almost certain that Greek musicians will participate in the parts that include traditional Greek music. Funding will come from the IOC, the city of Lausanne and the greater area and private sponsors.

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