Greek first for Gyorgi Ligeti’s ‘anti-opera’

Gyorgi Ligeti’s original opera «Le Grand Macabre,» which opens at the National Opera’s Olympia Theater tonight, deals with the danger of the world’s destruction and the necessity of prolonging existing situations in a declining society. The performance is directed by Anastassia Vareli, based on an idea by Eike Gramss. «I won’t agree with those who described the staging of that opera as a risk,» said the National Opera artistic director Loukas Karytinos at a recent press conference. «It is difficult to stage that opera. The show is not meant for the friends of opera, but a theater organization must expand the audience’s taste.» «Le Grand Macabre» or the «anti-opera,» as it has been nicknamed by musicologists, is one of the most popular operas of the last quarter of the 20th century and was first staged in 1978. It combines serious and comic elements and the text is easy to follow because it is very direct. The music follows the flow of the text. «I must admit that my relationship with the text was a marathon,» said Ilias Voudouris, who conducts the performance. Ligeti became involved with Michel de Ghelderode’s work «La Balade du Grand Macabre» when the Royal Opera of Sweden was looking for a new work. The text won the composer over from the very first reading. The plot evolves around the destruction of the world: The destruction is announced, the signs become all the more evident, but when the time comes, it doesn’t happen. The ending is a praise to joy and life. Michael Meschke was chosen to adapt the libretto, but the composer gave it its final form. The libretto was initially written in German and then translated into Swedish, maintaining its French title. Nowadays, it is usually staged in German, with the French title. The National Opera has decided to stage the English text of the revised 1996 work. The sets are by Eberhard Matthies with costumes by Renate Schmitzer. The choir is directed by Nikos Vassiliou and the lighting is by Yiannis Theodoridis. The performance features Monte Jaffe as Nekrotzar, Julious Best as Piet the Pot, Maria Marketou as Mescalina, Ruth Wember as Gepopo, Jenny Drivala as Venus, Nikos Spanos as Prince Go-Go and others. The show will also be staged on Sunday, March 31 and April 2.

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