Baroque revival with ‘Giustino’

Chief conductor Giorgos Petrou likes to see a happy ending, and Antonio Vivaldi’s opera «Giustino,» a baroque fairy tale which will be performed for the first time ever at the Athens Concert Hall (Friends of Music Hall) on Tuesday, ends in joy. There are a lot of paradoxes in this production, the first of which is the fact this is the first time the opera will have ever been performed in Greece (following Vivaldi’s other operas «Orlando Furioso» by the Greek National Opera and «L’Olympiade» by the Volos Center for Musical Theater). The other paradox is that many neglect that the composer of the famed «Four Seasons» was also one of the forerunners of the Viennese opera scene in the first half of the 18th century, gaining fame both as an opera composer and as an impresario. «Giustino,» a dramma per musica in three acts, was written during this time and will be presented in Greece in concert form with Greek supertitles. The opera takes historical figures and facts from classical sources and casts them in a fictional context, which unfolds in AD 518. In Vivaldi’s world, Giustino, who is based on the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, is a lowly peasant who dreams of a life of glory and inadvertently succeeds in becoming the savior of the Byzantine Empire. «The plot may seem simplistic, but it represents an entire world that survives to this day in fairy tales about princes, knights and dragons,» said Petrou, who will be conducting the Patras Symphony Orchestra in the Athens production. «I am one of those people who grew up watching cartoons, so it is easy for me to see high art in things that some may not consider so grand. «The story may not have the same emotional charge and intensity as, say ‘La Traviata,’ but, trust me, it is glorious and as entertaining as ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ As odd as it may sound, ‘Giustino’ was very much a West End-like production in its time.» The Athens premiere of the opera coincides with a revived interest in baroque music and opera throughout Europe. Petrou explains this revival: «It is truly the only innovation on the international stage. Last year, the most popular opera being played by European radio stations was by Handel. And then there’s also the fact that we keep discovering new and wonderful things from the era that we can now hear in the proper historical context.» The Athens production of «Giustino» features Nikos Spanos (counter-tenor) in the title role, Mary-Ellen Nezi (mezzo-soprano) in the role of Emperor Anastasio, Marousa Xyni (soprano) as Arianna, Mata Katsouli (soprano) as Leocasta and Irene Karayianni (soprano) as Amanzio. The musical preparation was done by Markellos Chrysikopoulos, while the Patras Symphony Orchestra will be performing the orchestral parts on historical instruments. Art examines the link between space and time An innovative audiovisual project with music by composer Dimitris Maragopoulos that examines links between science and art, «In Search of Space-time» will be presented at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday and Friday. A resulting recording will be used as the soundtrack for a project on simulated reality at the Digital Planetarium in Athens, beginning next autumn. Tickets for the first of the two upcoming performances, to feature the venue’s string ensemble, La Camerata, have already sold out. The planetarium’s director, Dionysis Simopoulos, explained that the concept of space and time could be better understood in terms of emotion, or art, rather than logic, or science. «Paraphrasing what Dimitris Maragopoulos was saying approximately five years ago, I also believe that science and art have the innate capability to sense each other and produce fabulous results,» said Simopoulos. «I also believe that this audiovisual project will provide an opportunity for a wider audience to become acquainted with new artistic horizons whose concepts are scientifically based, offering both food for thought on the universe and artistic creativity.» The audiovisual project was compiled by Ilias Maglinis, with visual material created by Panayiotis Simopoulos, a longtime associate of the composer. The project includes two previously published compositions by Maragopoulos, «Iros Angelos,» a piece based on excerpts of poems by the ancient poet Sappho, and «Samothraki,» a three-part suite for strings. The two are followed by «In Search of Space-time. «The idea, at its core, was simple and conventional and entailed the search for relativity between music and multicolored, three-dimensional imagery in motion,» noted Maragopoulos. «This is a journey that creates a code of communication between sound, form, and color. At the depth of this pursuit, however, there was also the need to connect it all with certain concepts and thoughts, both overt and covert,» he added. La Camerata and conductor Miltos Logiadis, will be joined by mezzo-soprano Anna Pangalou, a Vienna-based artist currently pursuing her musical studies on a scholarship granted by the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.