Attendance figures at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall have risen gradually since its recent millennium launch, a leading venue official told reporters at a recent news conference. During the 2000-2001 season, the venue’s first, attendance figures at the 1,500-seat hall averaged 66.7 percent. The figure was steady the following season, then dropped slightly to 63.6 percent in 2002-2003 before rebounding to 69.4 percent. With numbers such as these, the concert hall covers some 40 percent of its budget costs through ticket sales, while the remainder is covered by the Culture Ministry and sponsorships. Construction of a new three-story wing, to include conference centers and parking facilities, will begin over the next few days. The extension, which will add further capacity to the nine-story seafront venue, is budgeted at close to 30 million euros. The data was provided by the venue’s general manager, Giorgos Parisakis, during a presentation of upcoming productions for the first four-month period of the 2004-2005 season by the concert hall’s artistic director, Nikos Athinaios. The four-month agenda includes opera, tributes to Greek composers, an international jazz festival, dance productions, Sunday-morning performances, as well as a new concert series titled «At the Megaron’s Foyer.» Continuing its annual September 16 opera performances dedicated to Maria Callas – the day the legendary artist passed away – the Thessaloniki Concert Hall this year will present Albanian soprano Inva Mula for interpretations of popular arias from operas by Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Massenet, and Guno, under Athinaios. Donizetti’s «Lucia di Lammermoor,» the venue’s seventh opera production, is scheduled for September 1, 3, 6 and 9. It will be directed by seasoned Italian soprano Renata Scotto, with Francesco Maria Colombo at the podium. The venue’s tributes to Greek artists include two concerts by Giorgos Dalaras performing work by the late rembetika and old-school laika (Greek popular) legend Vassilis Tsitsanis. The production, scheduled for October 16 and 18 and titled «Whatever I Say, I’ll Never Forget You,» will be directed by Stamatis Fasoulis. State radio and television ERT’s National Symphony Orchestra, directed by Athinaios, will present «The Birds» by Manos Hadjidakis for two successive nights beginning October 23, the late composer’s birthday. Also on the agenda is a three-day jazz festival featuring both local and foreign acts. Performers include the vocalist Jackie Allen, who has just released a new CD, «Love is Blue,» as a follow-up to her acclaimed release, «The Men in My Life,» and the Mike Kocour Trio from Chicago, as well as Athens Jazz Orchestra led by the festival’s artistic director, Thanassis Zervas. It will be joined by the renowned trumpet player Rex Richardson. The Spanish Ballet of Murcia will present an extravagantly produced flamenco performance, «Penelope,«» inspired by Homer’s «Iliad,» on November 22 and 23. The venue’s «Horos» dance series will continue in the new season with the Bolshoi State Academy on December 4, 5, 6 and 7. A children’s Christmas production, «The Child and the Dream,» a musical based on music written by Yiannis Makridis and directed by actress Carmen Ruggeri, is also on the agenda. It will include the Sofia Chamber Orchestra and a 12-member cast. Also lined up for the festive season, on December 12, is a Christmas gala based on music by Johann Strauss.