On May 1, center stage was not taken by politics but by culture, as more than 650 million viewers around the world tuned into the annual European Concert of the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and featuring Greece’s Leonidas Kavakos on the violin, from the Athens Concert Hall.
The live broadcast of the performance was accompanied by a brief documentary about the Greek capital, featuring the acclaimed soloist Kavakos, and was shown during the concert’s intermission.
So Athens celebrated Labor Day with a spectacular artistic event (thanks to a private sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous) of international acclaim and with a symbolic message: uniting Europe and promoting the European ideals through culture. Thousands of Greeks who watched the performance, either in the theater, on a big screen in the garden outside or at home, did not just feel a sense of national pride and dignity as they saw the wonderful concert hall hosting one of the world’s finest orchestras and with a Greek playing the violin solo. They did not just feel that Greece has its own advantages in the increasingly competitive and demanding globalized world. They celebrated culture, a factor of stability and freedom, as Kavakos said in the documentary on Greek classical art.
As audiences around the world enjoyed the Berlin Philharmonic, a few hundred meters away, at Syntagma Square, a different message was being spread at a May Day rally: “We will not be blackmailed. We will not back down.” It reflected the government’s denial to compromise or stand down, deepening its own quagmire.
What is more effective in projecting the image of a country that is unstoppable? Recycling the same tired, empty and trite “warnings,” slogans that have absolutely no bearing on reality, or the living proof that Greece has strengths and potential, that it is a modern country that is open to the future? Fearful conspiracy theories or open, equal dialogue? The answer lies in Friday’s event. In the way that the Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle and Kavakos joined forces at the Athens Concert Hall for a performance full of symbolism. And this is just one example.