Handel’s Baroque opera seria with an orchestra on period instruments

At the Athens Festival’s Pireos 260 venue, the program will end with the Greek premiere of Handel’s «Tamerlano» on Sunday and Monday evening. Based on Agostino Piovene’s adaptation of Francesco Haym’s original libretto, the three-act opera, which will be performed in Italian with Greek surtitles, is directed by Thomas Moschopoulos, while the Patras Symphony Orchestra, playing period instruments, will be conducted by Giorgos Petrou. «One of the main reasons why I accepted [Athens Festival director] Giorgos Loukos’s invitation was the opportunity to stage an opera in an industrial space,» said Moschopoulos at a recent press conference, promising that the way they have done up the space for the production «will be a surprise.» The former factory at 260 Pireos Street will form the backdrop for this masterpiece of Baroque opera seria, in which Tamerlano, 15th century emperor of the Tartars, has defeated and taken prisoner the Turkish Sultan Bajazet. Although betrothed to Irene, princess of Trebizond, Tamerlano falls in love with Asteria, Bajazet’s daughter, who secretly loves and is loved by Andronico, a Greek general and ally of Bajazet. The all-powerful emperor, ignorant of where Andronico’s affections really lie, asks Andronico to plead his cause with Asteria, promising him in return the hand of Irene and the restoration of Byzantine power. He also promises to free Bajazet who, in despair at his defeat, desires only death. Shocked by Andronico’s approach, Asteria pretends to accept Tamerlano’s love, which horrifies Bajazet. Asteria’s motive is to get near the tyrant, whom she will then try to assassinate. The murder attempt having failed, the furious Tamerlano swears he will have Asteria and her father killed. Then, having second thoughts, he renews his offer to Andronico, only to have it rejected. The conductor of the production spoke about a «directing style that goes hand-in-hand with the music.» «We were able to experiment and the result is a mixture of diverse elements. It is quite abstract, but its style is in keeping with that of operas of that period,» added Moschopoulos. The sets and costumes have been designed by Dionysis Fotopoulos, the choreography by Angeliki Stellatou and the lighting by Lefteris Pavlopoulos. Tamerlano is performed by countertenor Nikos Spanos. For tickets, contact the Hellenic Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.327.2000).