Re-joining forces for blast to the past

The 15-year collaboration between artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou and composer Giorgos Koumendakis culminated with the opening and closing ceremonies at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens last year. But their work together did not end there. The two artists are now set to present a concert of works by Koumendakis written for past performances choreographed by Papaioannou, both for his dance group, Omada Edafous,and for the Olympic ceremonies. The performance, titled «Before,» is something of a wake-up call after the enormous effort made for the Games – the influence of which still lingers. Since then, Koumendakis has returned to the solitude of composition, while Papaioannou is planning his first post-Olympics project. Meanwhile, Papaioannou has directed the performance with Koumendakis’s work, which will be staged at the Little Theater of Ancient Epidaurus on July 1 and 2 to inaugurate this year’s Musical July festival. Which of the pieces in the concert were featured in the Games’ ceremonies? Koumendakis: It’s the piece from the very beginning of the ceremony, the dialogue between the drums in Ancient Olympia and the Olympic Stadium, and it will be performed by Petros Kourtis and Nikos Hadzidavitidis, who played in the ceremony. There is also the piece of the young couple in love, who kissed in the lake with Eros flying overhead. These are two of the 10 pieces in the concert. Most of the rest come from work I did with Dimitris and Omada Edafous, and specifically, the performances «Forever,» «Dracula,» «Storm,» «A Moment’s Silence» and «Tales of the Brothers Grimm.» Only two pieces are unrelated: the Concerto for Piano and Strings No 3 and a piece I wrote after the Olympics, but which had been commissioned a while ago by Radio France, titled «Typewriter Tune.» All the works belong to the post-1995 period, and they are all romantic in character. Papaioannou: The pieces will be heard live for the first time and heard outside the context of the visuals – that is, without the pressure of the visual side of the show. The music is the star in this performance. Who are the artists in the performance? Koumendakis: The Camerata Friends of Music Orchestra, conducted by Miltos Logiadis, the ERT Choir under Antonis Kontogeorgiou, soprano Elena Kelessidi (who will close the concert with the song «Requiem for the End of Love» from the performance «One Monet’s Silence»), solo pianist Giorgos Lazaridis and violinist Sergiu Nastasa, the Parisian madrigal ensemble Accentus (which will perform three chorals from «Dracula» a capella), Olia Lazaridou in the narrative of one of the Grimm Brothers’ tales and Fotis Nikolaou, who will dance a piece for «Forever.» What has your contribution been, Mr Papaioannou? Papaioannou: I haven’t done very much, really. The music is the focus here, and we are there just to show people how the music was born. Some music pieces, for example, will be accompanied by screenings of edited extracts from the performances for which they were written. «Requiem» is the only piece that has new visuals, and this is of a very simple landscape based on concept by Angelos Mendis. The only live performances on stage, other than by the musicians, are by Fotis Nikolaou and Olia Lazaridou. Koumendakis: It is a musical performance which we created only with friends with whom we have worked in the past. We titled it «Before» exactly because it revisits our collaborations over the years. The milestone, of course, was the Olympic Games ceremonies, which took three years of very intensive work and took us away from everything else. How are the post-Olympic «blues» going? Papaioannou: At first, after I took some time to get some rest, I felt fine. Now that I am going ahead with certain projects, there is something throwing me off. I can’t really put my finger on it… Half my hard drive wants to do the work, and the other half doesn’t. Koumendakis: In contrast, because that three-year period was very intense and not at all personal for me, I am happy to be back in familiar territory, having time for myself. That does not mean that I do not appreciate those three years. Quite the opposite. I am very happy that we did what we did and it went as well as it did. Now I am just back in the creative process. Papaioannou: We must not forget that it was a favor to get Giorgos to write the musical script of the ceremonies. Because Lilly Pezanou, for example, was there to do the sets – which is her job – and I was there to direct – which is my job. Giorgos is a composer, which means that even though the work was creative, it did not express him on a personal level. Koumendakis: If you exclude the period when we were working on the whole thing together, when the other composers started to come in for their individual bits, I guess I was doing the job of a music producer. Of course, I was responsible for some very crucial selections, because this had national dimensions and required some very fine balancing acts. Papaioannou: And we are talking about something which, basically, the broad public knows nothing about, except for those who were in the stadium. The sound on the live TV transmission was absolutely lousy and unfortunately it is also lousy on the official DVD. Won’t there be a CD with the music of the ceremonies? Papaioannou: We hope so. Koumendakis: We’re begging for it. Will its sound quality be very different to the DVD? Koumendakis: Absolutely! Like the night with the day. Papaioannou: One of Giorgos’s top priorities was top sound quality. Thankfully that sound came through at the stadium. But it did not come through the television; we couldn’t control that.

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