CULTURE

Opera dedicated to 1896 Games at the Herodion

In tune with the unfolding Olympic Games, the Herod Atticus Theater will be hosting a unique production this Friday as part of the Athens Festival. Spyros Samaras’s «Rhea,» the only opera ever composed on the subject of the Olympic Games revival in 1896, will be presented one week after the Athens 2004 opening ceremony. Of pivotal importance, this masterpiece of international opera, according to music specialists, is one of the composer’s best, highlighting the strong connection between contemporary Greek art music and the Italian tradition of musical composition and learning. The opera premiered at Florence’s Verdi Theater in 1908. Also noteworthy is the fact that Samaras, who was born on Corfu in 1861, composed the official anthem for the 1896 Games, based on the poetry of Costis Palamas. Using a libretto by Paul Milliet, the story of «Rhea» takes place on the island of Chios, in the second half of the 14th century. In a cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Venetians, Genoese and Turks, among other peoples, have gathered in the stadium. When Rhea crowns the winner of the wrestling match, Lysias, this signals the beginning of an impossible (and doomed) love. The opera’s overture became the first work to be interpreted by the Greek Radio and Television (ERT) National Symphony Orchestra, during the orchestra’s debut appearance in 1938. Sixty-six years later, the same orchestra will be conducted by Nikos Athineos. Also participating in the production is the ERT Choir, led by choirmaster Costis Konstantaras. The lead role is interpreted by soprano Dimitra Theodosiou, a prominent Greek soloist, while the role of Lysias is interpreted by Ian Storey. Baritone Lucio Gallo is Guarca and bass Dimitris Kavrakos plays Spinola, while soprano Marina Vouloyanni takes the role of Daphne. At the Herod Atticus Theater, «Rhea» will be presented with Greek supertitles, and is directed by Yiannis Karahisaridis, who was also in charge of the lighting. The costumes were designed by Sophia Pantouvaki. Tickets can be purchased at the Hellenic Festival Box Office, at 39 Panepistimiou (tel 210.928.2900), and the Herod Atticus Theater Box Office.