CULTURE

Sir Elton John plays in honor of needy children, at Versailles

“Ah, mes amis grecques» was the open-armed welcome a group of four Greeks received from former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing as they entered the Opéra Gabriel at the Chateau de Versailles Monday night bearing invitations from Giscard d’Estaing’s wife Anne-Aymone, who is the founder-president of the Fondation pour l’Enfance, the organizer of the recital by Sir Elton John. The British singer had offered his services – his voice, his piano, his music and his big heart – free of charge for the evening. Once again he showed himself worthy of the title bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth in 1997 for his services to causes such as the fight against AIDS and the many children in Africa orphaned by the disease. The international evening that saw the Versailles Palace and the Trianon floodlit for the occasion belonged to the cause of children and the foundation whose members work year-round toward alleviating the plight of so many children who are abused, who disappear, who are malnourished or illiterate. Celebrities from Paris, London, New York and, in recent years, Greece have been helping this cause. This year the audience included the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Madame Jacques Chirac and many prominent members of Paris’s fashion world. The Greeks included Geli Angelopoulou, president of the Epistrophi association for the rehabilitation of people with dependencies, singer George Dalaras and his wife Anna and, of course, Helbi. With our invitation (1,300 euros each) in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, we mounted the steps of the Opéra Gabriel, a miniature version of La Scala in Milan. After Madame Giscard d’Estaing thanked the packed house – and Sir Elton – for their support, there was a screening of a film of the devastation in Sri Lanka caused by the tsunami, where the foundation has provided valuable assistance, and then a film about two children orphaned by AIDS. Elton John appeared in a dark plum-colored suit, orange-framed glasses, his usual laughing, good-humored self. At the end he dedicated his last song to the audience before taking off for Finland. At the dinner which followed the concert, the Greek guests were seated next to the officials’ table along with a young duchess from Portugal, the Duc d’Anjou, the Lebanese pianist Omar Harouche and Madame Lenore Scherrer.