Adapting an opera for youngsters

How do you know when a performance aimed at children is a success? When, after watching it, you feel like a kid yourself. «The Magic Flute,» currently playing at the Athens Concert Hall, is being staged in two different productions: one for adults and one for kids as well as grownups who want to relive the years of innocence. The special performances of this adaptation of Mozart’s popular opera are being held tomorrow and Saturday, and on December 23, 25, 26 and 28. Kathimerini spoke to the conductor of the production’s orchestra, Nikos Haliasas – who is also the heart and soul of the nascent Intrati music ensemble of the Aetopouleio Cultural Center in Halandri – and asked him how the version for children was different from the «real» one. «The ‘grownup’ one,» he said, «has a lot more prose and is longer at two hours and 45 minutes. This is a bit too long for children. The adaptation, by German director Michael Hampe, who also created the role of the actor/narrator/theater director, also has an educational purpose to it. The entire performance is no longer than an hour-and-a-half. Hampe himself has played this role over 200 times in Germany.» Gerasimos Skiadaressis, who performs the part in the Greek production with great simplicity and candor, explains to the children in the audience (when wearing the theater director’s hat) the concepts of theater, opera and music, and helps them feel a part of the performance. But how easy is it for a child to follow a performance such as this? «It is not just the music that’s familiar and very easy to take in,» said Haliasas. «It is also the in-between part of prose, which requires the children’s participation, as well as the sets and costumes that keep them riveted.» The performance is full of magic, adventure and humor. Mozart speaks the language of children in a highly symbolic way and what the performances at the Athens Concert Hall are hoping for is a rapprochement between the younger audiences in Greece and music and opera. «What we lack in this country is the education of the young,» commented Haliasas. «Just imagine that some 12,000-13,000 people will watch this performance and for many of them this may be the first time they have ever experienced this kind of show. It is an opportunity for us to mold our audience. And, who knows, maybe one day, someone from this audience will become a performer.» Younger children seem to enjoy the performance especially, notes the conductor. «During the dress rehearsal we had 500 children from different schools in Halandri, and they all wanted to be photographed with Papageno,» who is their favorite character, declared Haliasas. «He is so naive and innocent, a child of nature that children find easy to identify with. The next favorite character is the Queen of Night.» Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.