French Institute to host cross-cultural spectacle

The French Institute in Athens embarks on the new season with a music and theater show about love, which transcends all barriers between different cultures. «Poemes et Chants d’Amour» (Poems and Songs of Love), a joint venture between Romain Pompidou and French troupe Tour de Babel and Greek actress Tatiana Lygari and the Train at the Rouf, will be staged at the institute’s auditorium tomorrow evening. The performance, which lasts a bit over an hour and is divided into two parts, blends poetry and music from the East and West with movement, highlighting the universality of love. «This is a love story between a man and a woman. Starting from Athens, the production will travel to other countries, including Portugal, Senegal and Hungary; the idea is to eventually return to France and then stage a show together with all the artists who worked with us in every country and point out the universality of love,» said Pompidou, concept creator of the performance, to Kathimerini English Edition. The first part of the performance, featuring poetry and extracts from Paul Eluard to Juan Ramon Jimenez and Louis Aragon and from Omar Khayyam to Charles Baudelaire, consists of the show which Tour de Babel has been staging since 2003, when the production was first launched. In the second part, the French and Greek actors and musicians will join forces to present the result of their collaboration, which features poetry by French and Greek poets (including Odysseas Elytis and Jacques Prevert) recited in both languages with lots of music and singing. «This spectacle is a modern, cross-cultural creation which blends traditional elements, not some folklore show,» explained Pompidou. «It is a dialogue between the East and the West and Greece is the link between the two,» he had said earlier at a press conference. Founded in 1992, Tour de Babel engages in a cultural dialogue between East and West and also researches the connection between traditional means of expression and modern creations. It counts 12 productions to this day; in its work, the troupe uses and adapts various legends, myths and novels from different cultures. «We have an ongoing project with Latin America, two months a year, where we collaborate with Native American and Afro-Caribbean artists. We are interested in the dialogue between European, Native American and African roots. We have performed in festivals in many countries: France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Lebanon and Latin America,» said Pompidou. «France has changed greatly over the last 20 years, with a significant increase of immigrant population coming from Africa and the East, yet there are still few cultural venues that welcome a dialogue between all these cultures. We want to become part of this inter-cultural movement that wants to change things, so that when we talk about cultural diversity it is not just a phrase without meaning. We engage in lots of educational activities too,» he added. When asked why the group chose Greece as the starting point for the production’s journey, Pompidou gave several reasons. «We have already performed in Greece (at the XI International Meeting of Ancient Greek Drama at Delphi in 2002) and both the French Institute and the French Embassy in Athens know us already, which makes a difference. Also, we feel close to Greek culture; it is part of our work, which includes an adaptation of Euripides’ ‘Bacchae.’ Finally, music was very important. I believe that Greece today offers one of the most original and powerful musical experiences. There are many young Greek musicians willing to experiment with traditional sounds and music from the rest of the Mediterranean and also work with more modern kinds of music like jazz. I was lucky to meet Tatiana (Lygari), who is already experienced in combinations of theater, music, singing and poetry and also works with singer Zacharias Karounis, who is very gifted and is ideal to work with our own singer. Besides, Tatiana has a solid structure behind her, the Train at the Rouf, which is necessary if we are to take the show to Europe. I think this must have been interesting for Tatiana too, because it was something different; everyone had something to gain from the project.» Participating artists include, on the French side, actors Anne-Sylvie Meyza (who is also director) and Romain Pompidou, singer Emanuelle Drouet and musicians Alain Servant, Benjamin Laubert and Johan Gardre. The Greek side includes actress Tatiana Lygari, singer Zacharias Karounis, composer Giorgos Papadakis, actors Maria Tsima and Spyros Perdiou and musicians Lefteris Andriotis (lyra), Ilias Vamvakoussis (outi) and Danae Papadopoulou (ney). «We wanted to add the Greek element,» Lygari said at the press conference. «We hope the production will travel to France.» «Poemes et Chants d’Amour» will be staged at the French Institute, 31 Sina, Kolonaki, tel 210.339.8600, at 8.30 p.m. tomorrow.