CULTURE

A whole new chapter for National Opera

«Rigoletto,» «La Boheme» and «Eugene Onegin» are coming back, «Ariadne on Naxos» keeps the promise of European co-productions, while an Opera Studio is about to open its doors to a new, younger generation of singers, musicians and technicians. These are but a few glimpses of the new artistic chapter unfolding for the National Opera, the details of which were presented last week. This time last year, the company’s artistic director Giovanni Pacor was examining the significance of co-productions as part of the National Opera’s repertory, in the hope that at least 80 percent of its performances for the following season would be produced along with other companies. This initial promise has been kept, with this season’s numerous co-productions indicating a desire to expand and develop further creative cooperation. Speaking to Kathimerini, Pacor made reference to the decisions he has made for the 2009-2010 season, all of which are linked to the difficulties that accompany a global economic crisis, as well as the company’s adaptations for a future that will see it move into a new space that is already attracting international interest. «The greatest parameter in the choice of this year’s repertoire was to combine what the National Opera needs at this specific time and what is financially feasible,» said Pacor. «It was crucially important to maintain a level of self-awareness, recognizing that we are a relatively young theater and focusing our efforts on the things of which we are capable.» The return of Giuseppe Verdi’s «Rigoletto» and Giacomo Puccini’s «La Boheme» were a certainty, given the success met by both National Opera productions over the past few years. According to Pacor: «Our aim is to maintain our repertoire in the programming. Both productions did very well and, in some way, have now become National Opera traditions.» Recently, the opera-going public of Genoa, Italy, got a first taste of Richard Strauss’s «Ariadne on Naxos,» a co-production between the city’s Teatro Carlo Felice and the Opera de Oviedo. The opera will arrive in Athens in November. Then it will be time for Gioachino Rossini’s «The Fortunate Deception,» followed in February of 2010 by Camille Saint-Saens’s «Samson and Delilah,» jointly produced with the Amazonas Opera Festival in Manaus, Brazil. Also on the program is Moliere’s «The Imaginary Invalid,» a co-production with the L’Illustre Theatre in Paris, directed by Jean-Marie Villegier, as well the Greek debut of Gabriel Faure’s «Penelope,» a co-production with the Stadtische Buhnen Munster, directed by Arnaud Bernard, known for his work in this year’s «Thais.» This year, there is also an important change in the terminology being used. What were once referred to as «collaborations» with the Athens Concert Hall are now called «co-productions,» a word that defines the change in the essence of the projects, in the sense of equal responsibility in decisions regarding artistic matters as well as the division of costs. «At a time of crisis, we are not competing, we work together,» says Pacor. «The 2009-2010 season will show a renaissance in the way the two organizations work as well as in the way we collaborate with the Athens Concert Hall. Besides, it is only via co-productions that it is feasible to book a director such as Hugo De Ana.» The leading Argentinean director is to present Giuseppe Verdi’s «Un Ballo in Maschera» (A Masked Ball), which will be presented in January next year. In addition to next season’s performances, the company’s new artistic season essentially begins with the opening of the Opera Studio. «It is a program for the preparation of young artists as well as for people who wish to work on the more technical aspects of opera production,» says Pacor. The decision for this kind of academy, as it were, is undoubtedly related to the company’s future move. According to its artistic director, the theater has great and numerous needs on the technical side and one of the solutions is the training of young people toward this end. «We aim to attract young people who want to deal with solving problems on stage,» said Pacor, whose aim for the Opera Studio is for it to produce its own performances within the next couple of years. «It is vital to ‘build’ new people here, via the theater and to bring them into contact with the right professionals.»