Changes that have been made and are still to come

Nikos Mourkogiannis is proud of the backstage door he was able to get opened behind the theater onto Harilaou Trikoupi Street as well as the renovation of the theater’s foyer. «Do you know why I did it?» he asks, smiling. «The foyer of the GNO will be leased out for social and cultural functions. It may be a book presentation or a wedding. This means more revenue for the company.» You talk about straightening out the company’s finances, but you have an outstanding 120,000 euro debt to Yiannis Kouroudis’s K2 design firm. This is a well-respected firm that has won awards internationally and its work has been identified with the GNO’s rebirth. Why did you end your collaboration so abruptly? I really like Yiannis Kouroudis’s work, but his firm is just too expensive for us. As a board we have to save money wherever we can. If we have to sever ties with a supplier, we invite him to discuss a payment restructuring scheme – let’s not kid ourselves after all, the GNO is close to bankruptcy. He asked that 75 percent of the debt be repaid. But when I have 39 suppliers who have accepted the deal we offered, why should I make this one exception? He was the one who wasn’t being reasonable, not us. Why did the Acropol Theater close? That decision weighed heavily on my conscience but it was a burden on the GNO’s finances and, had I let the situation continue, I would have betrayed my cause: saving the GNO and, by extension, contributing to the preservation of downtown Athens. In 10 years’ time, you won’t see one Greek walking the streets of central Athens. This is why I never want to leave the Olympia Theater. We offer four products, not just opera. We are an opera theater as well. Two of our activities are all about central Athens. Firstly, we are the country’s biggest theater for children. Secondly, we represent Athenian operetta and there is one product I really miss that I would like to revive and would bring in revenue: the musical. The two halls at the new complex on the Faliro Delta are not enough. You’ll argue that I feel as though we haven’t got enough space yet still closed the Acropol. But, as I said, the rent was just impossible at this time. What is happening with the probe into the former management’s handling of the company’s finances? Why the secrecy? Some have accused me of something I have never been accused of before: populism. Now these same people are asking me to publish the findings, the epitome of populism. The outcome of the investigation is a judicial matter and the committee’s findings are currently with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under my responsibility. I make the findings known to the authorities; that is as far as I can go. Have you read it? Yes, but it’s confidential. My job was to pass it on to the minister. The investigation reports 39 suspect actions and it is 29 pages long. Bear in mind that it is the product of an excellent inquiry by a committee of university professors. Yet, despite all the wrongs committed by that management, it did make progress by drawing young people back to the GNO? You are making the same mistake again. Today’s audience does not come from just one age group. And I repeat that this is a strategy that has been applied by default. There will be surprises to come, however.