Events in the Middle East cast a shadow over last Friday’s press conference for the upcoming performance of Mikis Theodorakis’s opera, «Lysistrata,» at the Athens Concert Hall. «I would like to express my deepest sorrow for the events occurring [in the Middle East]; events that have made culture a highly political issue,» said Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, present at the press conference to announce that the opera is part of the Cultural Olympiad. «The quest for a culture of peace is the focal point of the Cultural Olympiad and ‘Lysistrata’ is the most timeless, symbolic, anti-war message we can relay,» he added. Theodorakis spoke of the reasons why he decided to compose this work: «I had decided to give up composition,» he explained. «Christos Lambrakis [president of the Friends of Music Association] gave me the idea to write a very large lyrical work. I began composing and arranging the music in May 2000 and it was complete in October 2001. I am very happy with the result. I did not think that I still had that much joy for music within me.» Theodorakis discerns certain elements in his work that make it special: «With its lyricism and its proximity to our popular roots and the way it reflects the emotions of our national identity through collective memory and the Greek language. I hope that every Greek finds a piece of him or herself in it,» said the composer. Theodorakis has reserved a special place in his opera for late counterpart Manos Hadjidakis, dedicating a character to him who appears in ancient Greek dress singing «Ena Mytho tha sas Po» (I’ll tell you a legend), from Hadjidakis’s own 1958 version of «Lysistrata.» «After the death of Manos Hadjidakis, I felt orphaned,» said Theodorakis. «Our rivalry had nothing to do with the two of us. We used to telephone each other in secret to preserve our public image. ‘Mythos’ is one of Manos’s most beautiful songs; I would have liked to have written it myself,» he admitted. The show’s stage director, Giorgos Michailidis, defined Theodorakis’s music as «euphoric, full of rhythm and vivacity,» adding that the composer «dedicated his work – a celebration of music, spectacle and peace – to the Palestinian people.» The role of the poet/narrator will be interpreted by popular singer Giorgos Dalaras in his first experience with opera. The sets for the performance are by award-winning designer Dionysis Fotopoulos, the costumes are by Giorgos Gavalas with choreography by Vangelio Ieronymaki. The music is directed by Nikos Tsouchlos and Vassilis Christopoulos. The title character of Lysistrata will be alternately interpreted by Julia Sounglakou and Dafne Evangelatou. «Lysistrata,» will be performed at the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 010.728.2000, on Sunday and April 16 to 19, as well as at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus in September.