Arecent press conference organized at the Olympia theater on the occasion of a double bill National Opera production featuring dance and opera included some good news (a distinction for Vassiliki Spyridonos and Zoe Schinoplokakis, both students at the National Opera’s Dance School, at the third International Berlin Dance Festival) while also raising a major question: Why isn’t the National Opera Ballet scheduled to participate at the revamped Athens Festival this summer? At the Olympia theater, performances kicked off last Sunday, with additional shows set for tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and March 7-8. The first part of the evening features Antonis Foniadaki’s choreography «When the Dove Cries,» while Ruggero Leoncavallo’s «I Pagliacci» takes over the second half, directed by Themis Sermie. First collaboration Based on Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s «Stabat Mater,» Foniadakis’s «When the Dove Cries» marks the choreographer’s first collaboration with the National Opera. «I selected 17 dancers from the company. I’m amazed at their abilities, their willpower and their enthusiasm. We encountered some difficulties, of course, but it was a great lesson for me,» said Foniadakis at the press conference. «The music had been going in and out of my mind for a while now. There is no narrative mood but a piloting of ideas in relation to the music. I created a poetic landscape based on Pergolesi’s lyricism and energy.» «This is a group effort. There are lots of contrasts and changes in the space. We had to break our lines, to roll all over the floor, to let ourselves go against gravity,» noted Natasha Siouta, a National Opera dancer participating in «When the Dove Cries.» Leoncavallo’s popular one-act opera «I Pagliacci» is set in a completely different mood. At the National Opera, the opera’s director Themis Sermie talked about the desire «to bring out all the movement and action from within the music» as well as the need to «imbue the singers with the joy of performing in a play full of substance and passion.» At the Olympia theater, the musical direction for «I Pagliacci» is by Vladimiros Symeonidis, with sets and costumes created by Polytimi Machaira. The cast includes soloists Ioulia Troussa and Silvio Zanon, among others. The National Opera’s Olympia Theater is situated at 59-61 Academias (tel 210.361.2461/364.3725).