New look coming to Rizarios park

Often referred to as the capital’s cultural center, the area which is encircled by Vassilisis Sofias, Rigillis, Vassileos Constantinou and Vassileos Georgiou streets and includes the Rizarios park is about to get a fresh new look. Part of the third Community Support Framework, the area will be transformed gradually, and is due to be completed in 2006. Among several plans, one project includes redesigning the archaeological site of Aristotle’s Lyceum (to be complemented by an open-air theater and a restaurant), the renovation of the Byzantine Museum’s aging buildings, the construction of a museum of contemporary art (Goulandris Museum), the extension of the neighboring National Gallery as well as the completion of the Athens School of Music, where, after 60 years, the Athens State Orchestra will finally find a proper home. The first step toward a more permanent address for the country’s leading symphonic orchestra was made only recently, with the inauguration by the culture minister, Evangelos Venizelos, of a rehearsal hall which was constructed on the premises of the Athens Music School. Designed and completed in just 35 days by Thessaloniki University’s Research Committee – a committee chaired by Professor E. Tzekakis – the new hall also has the necessary infrastructure to operate as a recording studio (at a cost of 120 million drachmas). Two other venues will be constructed next to it: a large concert hall with a capacity of 700 seats (at a cost of 1 billion drachmas) as well as a 1,200-square-meter area to be used for a variety of activities. As for the orchestra, according to the State Orchestra’s director, pianist Aris Garoufalis, the ensemble is coming home, as it was founded at the Athens Music School in 1894. Years later, in 1942, the orchestra was taken over by the State, thus changing its name. Since then, it has been wandering in friendly and unfriendly places, rehearsing and performing in theaters, cinemas and other spaces – the most recent being the Pallas Theater on Voukourestiou Street, which closed down recently, making it necessary to find a new place. Garoufalis hopes that the new concert hall will be constructed soon, so that the orchestra can fully develop its educational and cultural activities. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture is looking to solve a number of problems related to the other state orchestras. During the rehearsal area’s inauguration, Venizelos stressed that although the Athens State Orchestra enjoys a privileged relationship with the Athens Concert Hall, for its performances it must have its own premises if it is to develop independent activities. The redesigning of the Byzantine Museum together with the general area of the Rizarios park will cost 7 billion drachmas (excluding the Goulandris Museum), while the cost of the National Gallery’s expansion will reach 3 billion drachmas. Lee also referred to his love for the Greek language. I started learning Ancient Greek at the age of 12, and I never forgot it. Though I don’t understand Modern Greek, if I look at a newspaper I’ll be able to read about 50 percent of it.

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