A good year for Hadjidakis’s energetic Orchestra of Colors

The orchestra that Manos Hadjidakis founded is flourishing (never mind that it is on tenterhooks over whether it will get a rise in the funding promised by the Culture Ministry) with a number of rousing performances to its name in the first four months of 2002 alone. At the Athens Concert Hall it performed Benjamin Britten’s opera «The Turn of the Screw,» held a tribute to the composer Witold Lutoslawski, and gave a gala performance called «Portraits of Women» with arias by Bellini. The Tirana concert was hailed as one of the top cultural events in Albania, and the «Romantic Tuesdays» at the Trianon cinema, a mix of film and music, were a great success with young people, as was the mix of literature and music at the Mercouri Foundation and its concerts of Greek composers at the Hellenic American Union. It is an equally creative period for the artistic director of the Orchestra of Colors, Giorgos Kouroupos, who will present his two new operas this summer. One of the operas, «The Fir Tree’s Boat» (To karavi tou elatou), which will have its premiere on Cephalonia in September, was commissioned by the local choir center. The libretto, written by Ioulita Iliopoulou, is inspired by a local folk tale and relates to the famous forest of the endemic Cephalonian fir. «It’s a folk opera,» said Kouroupos, «with lots of choirs, to serve the needs of the choir festival which takes place on Cephalonia with the participation of lots of amateur choirs. Each choral piece – sailors, courtiers, nuns, etc. – is rendered by a different choir. The work was finished last year and will inaugurate the new theater at Lixouri.» However, he expressed the fear that it might be postponed, due to production difficulties. But his other opera, «Jocasta,» which is now in the process of being finished, will certainly be performed, first at the international festival of ancient drama at Delphi in July and then in Veria as part of the performances put on by the international soprano Sonia Theodoridou, who will sing in the title role. Oedipus will be performed by bass Tassos Apostolou. «It’s an intellectual work,» said the composer; «the twin of ‘Pylades’ which I put on years ago at the Athens Concert Hall to a libretto by Giorgos Heimonas.» The libretto of «Jocasta» is also by Ioulita Iliopoulou, «in whom I have found the ideal colleague for such things.» But apart from «Jocasta,» the composer has the orchestral workload to deal with, a concert in June dedicated to the memory of Manos Hadjidakis, a tribute to Yiannis Christou in July at the Herod Atticus, and concerts on Crete in August. Kouroupos is all enthusiastic about the film and music nights at the Trianon. «I’m happy about their success,» he said. «I regard it as a lesson to all of us. Because despite the communication barrier erected by the mass media against intellectual art, for so many people, and young people at that, to attend every Tuesday means there is an audience thirsty for something different. It was a successful idea by Manos Efstratiadis, which I exploited as was its due, with the dynamic assistance of Diagoras Chronopoulos, president of the cinemas’ governing committee.» Success in Albania The concert by the Orchestra of Colors in Tirana was practically a political event, as it was attended by the whole spectrum of politicians, headed by the president of Albania himself, Rexhep Meidani, and was covered by all the mass media and broadcast live on television. «That means there is room for a Greek presence in Albania, and not only a cultural one,» said Kouroupos. The crucial question for the Orchestra of Colors is finance. «The demand for the orchestra is three times greater than its financial capabilities to respond,» said its director. «It holds over 60 concerts a year and covers all sorts of gaps, but is suffering financially in contrast to other orchestras. I laid all of this out before (Culture Minister Evangelos) Venizelos, who at once agreed to raise subsidies. Currently, we get 370 million (drachmas, or 1.1 million euros) but we need at least 550 million (1.6 million euros). We’re waiting.» He is also waiting for developments on the accommodation issue. «There are various possibilities, all of them good: We’ll have to wait and see which will be ready the soonest, perhaps the creation of a concert hall at the Athens Conservatory, which will house both the Athens State Orchestra and the Orchestra of Colors. But will the project be included in the Third Community Support Framework? There are other possibilities; we shall see. But I have the feeling this year that the orchestra is in a better position than it ever was. Furthermore, its various activities have shown how essential it is.»