A fresh and vibrant ‘Il Trovatore’

There were so many surprises and every single one was pleasant. The members of the choirs became visible just as they began to sing. Until then they just looked like a group of rather noisy kids and, in fact, some were being reprimanded by the audience for the noise they were making. One young man, holding an iced coffee in his hand and dressed in sports clothes, sauntered to the center of the stage. When we heard his smooth baritone voice we knew he wasn’t some obnoxious member of the public looking for his seat. Within seconds, the entire atmosphere at the theater had changed. But this was not northern Spain in the Middle Ages; we were at the Bios arts center on Pireos Street. There were no grandiose sets and costumes, in fact nothing more than a narrow stage lit by two light bulbs, a few folding chairs and young artists in blue jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, sneakers and sandals. Their movements and acting style may have been somewhat mundane and minimalist, the orchestra may have been no more than five instruments (trumpet, percussion, guitar, accordion and piano), but there was no doubt whatsoever that we were watching Verdi’s highly popular «Il Trovatore» in a most lively, fresh, euphoric and attractive version. The vengeful Conte di Luna, the unfortunate Leonora, the «troubadour» Manrico and the Gypsy woman Azucena addressed us from just a few meters away. And, oh, wonder of wonders, they didn’t flounder, not even once. Their dramatic passion and melodic lyricism was perfect. Changes in rhythm and the clash of characters filled the room in beautifully natural voices. The intensity of emotions was put across wonderfully and the overall impression was further enhanced by a refreshingly amateur 25-member choir from Athens University’s Department of Music. The musical theater ensemble, Beggars’ Operas, headed by composer Haralambos Gogios (who adapted and orchestrated the opera) and directed by filmmaker Ektoras Lygizos, has taken «Il Trovatore» off the pedestal of the Italian stage and reworked it with passion and respect, with the aim of talking to us. «A drink that others serve in a silver cup, we give you in a plastic one. If the taste is real, then it will not be lost,» is the philosophy behind the production. And on Monday night at Bios, we drank the cup down, to the last drop. We (some 70 members of the audience) applauded with vigor, we felt liberated, we felt like witnesses to a a true event. And not just an artistic one, but a social one too. Because this generation of 30-something artists, who are trying to make their way through the harrowing Greek world of the arts, have ideas, guts, ingenuity and knowledge. Young artists, free of the intrigues that often plague such circles, with serious studies and dedication to their art. Simple and clean. Respectfully disrespectful, true innovators.