Pallas prepares for opera

The refurbished Pallas theater will be able to stage operas, the Central Council for Modern Monuments announced at its meeting on Tuesday. The Culture Ministry has approved the study submitted by architect Yiannis Kizis, which foresees raising part of the ceiling of the historic cinema on Voukourestiou Street so that operas can be staged there. This is an interesting development, given that the National Opera has no regular home. When the radically revamped Pallas opens, downtown Athens will have a new, ultra-modern venue with a capacity at least equal to that of the Alexandra Trianti Hall in the Athens Concert Hall, where operas are sometimes staged. So the Pallas may become a first-rate temporary solution for the National Opera until the ambitious project of creating a music park at the Faliron Delta takes shape. When work began on the Pallas, as part of Piraeus Bank’s major project of refashioning the Army Pension Fund building into a shopping and entertainment center, there was no plan to cater to opera. But the intricacy of the enterprise and the massive costs of modernizing the old building complex gave the investors time to rethink the project. If the Pallas was to operate solely as a theater, the project would be very slow to recoup expenditures. In economic terms it was a risky project. Two new ideas were adopted: incorporating congress facilities at both the Pallas and the Aliki theaters, and making further use of the Pallas as an opera venue. Kizis reassured those who might be worried that «all the necessary changes, such as interpreters’ booths, office areas and reception areas for conference participants are completely reversible.» And all the elements listed for preservation, such as the ceiling, box office, the characteristic art deco false ceiling and the wooden seat covers, are being fully restored. The meeting also approved work to the top floor of the building, granting permission for two semi-outdoor areas enclosed in glass. The first of these, facing Voukourestiou, will house an extension of the Attica cafe-restaurant, while the one overlooking Amerikis Street will be an area for the private use of Piraeus Bank. Opening The additional uses planned for the Pallas entail a later completion date for the project, Though no specific date was given, rumor had it that the theater would open in early 2006 with Dimitris Papaioannou’s first production since the Olympic Games. In the end, both the Pallas and the Aliki will open in October. By March the areas that once housed the famous Zonar’s and Brazilian cafe will reopen, though the cafes will go by different names. The opening will coincide with the transformation of the part of Voukourestiou Street between Panepistimiou and Stadiou into a light traffic zone. Most of the road will be pedestrianized, leaving one lane 3 meters wide to allow limousines through. Kizis’s study includes two fountains facing Panepistimiou and Stadiou.

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