Countdown to the Callas Anniversary
The Greek National Opera in Athens is commemorating the Maria Callas centenary with an opera gala, an exhibition and a documentary film, among other events.
- The opera gala “Callas at the Herodium” takes place on 16 September in Athens at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus – featuring performances by the celebrated sopranos Anna Pirozzi, Catherine Foster, Vassiliki Karayanni and Nina Minasyan, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Greek National Opera under the baton of Philippe Auguin.
- The exhibition “Unboxing Callas” – An archival exploration of the Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive – opens on 26 November.
- The documentary film “Maria, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas” by Vasilis Louras premieres on 2 December.
The Greek National Opera’s celebrations the Maria Callas’ centenary are nearing their climax: on September 16, the grand opera gala “Callas at the Herodium” will take place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Four celebrated world-class sopranos – Anna Pirozzi, Catherine Foster, Vassiliki Karayanni and Nina Minasyan – will sing arias that Callas herself performed during her historic performances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in 1944 and 1957, thereby making musical history. The Greek National Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Philippe Auguin. The GNO Maria Callas tribute programme is sponsored by the PPC (Public Power Corporation). This tribute programme is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.
The GNO’s Callas tribute celebrations began back in April of this year with a new production of Cherubini’s Medea and continued in May with the first installment of the Unboxing Callas art installation in the GNO lobby. After the opera gala, other events honoring Callas will take place through the end of the year. These will include an exhibition at the National Library of Greece, a documentary film about the early years of the Greek diva, a video concert dedicated to her “first, formative repertoire,” and an educational workshop in collaboration with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab) of the Technical University of Crete.
Star sopranos of today sing Callas’ 1957 (+1944) arias
Maria Callas’ performance career in Greece intersects with the Odeon of Herodes Atticus across two separate eras. In July 1944, one year before she left Athens for New York, Maria Kalogeropoulou would perform the role of Smaragda in the Manolis Kalomiris opera The Masterbuilder at the venue, conducted by the composer himself and directed by Sokratis Karantinos; days later, in August 1944, she would also play Leonora there in Beethoven’s Fidelio, conducted by Hans Hörner and directed by Oscar Wallek. A full thirteen years later, in 1957, and having since conquered the world, Maria Meneghini-Callas would return to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to give an historic recital at the Athens Festival, featuring arias from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino and Il trovatore, Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, conducted by Antonino Votto.
On 16 September 2023, the anniversary of Maria Callas’ death, this precise repertoire is to be presented at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus by the Greek National Opera as part of its 2023 tribute gala titled Callas at the Herodium. Four internationally-renowned leading lights of the opera world will pay tribute to Maria Callas, performing arias from operas by Kalomiris, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Donizetti, and Thomas that she herself performed at that very Roman venue, making full use of her remarkable vocal range and singular virtuoso abilities to leave a mark that has never been surpassed. Appearing are the great Italian dramatic soprano Anna Pirozzi, who triumphed in her recent debut in the title role of Cherubini’s Medea at the GNO; the dramatic soprano –and Bayreuth Festival darling– Catherine Foster; the internationally acclaimed Greek coloratura soprano Vassiliki Karayanni; and the highly sought-after Armenian coloratura soprano Nina Minasyan. Conducting is the great French maestro Philippe Auguin.
“Shining example of talent and hard work”
The Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera, Giorgos Koumendakis, says: “With this GNO programme, presented to mark the centennial of Maria Callas, we hope to showcase her connections to our opera house, but also to connect younger generations with the legendary Callas as a shining example of talent and hard work, of dedication and impeccability and brilliance.”
The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has inducted celebrations marking 100 years since the birth of Maria Callas into the official list of anniversaries to be commemorated by UNESCO in 2023. This annual list includes eminent personalities honoured by UNESCO for their contributions to the development of the sciences, education, culture, and communications, with a view to recognising and promoting their universality and importance.
Opera Gala: Callas at the Herodium
16 September 2023 at 8:30 pm
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Conductor: Philippe Auguin
Soloists: Anna Pirozzi, Catherine Foster, Vassiliki Karayanni, Nina Minasyan
With the Orchestra of the Greek National Opera
Manolis Kalomiris: “The Master Builder
– “The Sun, the Sun”
Aria of Smaragda from Part II – Vassiliki Karayanni
Ludwig van Beethoven: “Fidelio
– “Abominable one! Whither hasteest thou? … Come, hope” / “Monster! Whither hasteest thou? … Come, Hope”
Leonore’s recitative and aria from Act I – Catherine Foster
Ambroise Thomas: “Hamlet”
– “À vos jeux, mes amis” / “To your games, my friends”
Ophélie’s “mad scene” from Act IV – Nina Minasyan
Giuseppe Verdi: “La forza del destino”
– “Pace, pace, mio Dio” / “Peace, peace, my God”
Leonora’s aria from Act IV – Anna Pirozzi
Gaetano Donizetti “Lucia di Lammermoor”
– “Regnava nel silenzio” / “Reigning in silence”
Lucia’s aria from the first act – Vassiliki Karayanni
Giuseppe Verdi: “Il trovatore”
– “D’amor sull’ali rosee” / “On the rosy wings of love”
Leonora’s aria from Part IV – Anna Pirozzi
Richard Wagner: “Tristan and Isolde
– Prelude and Isolde’s “Liebestod” – Catherine Foster
“She rose brilliantly to the challenge, conquering the title role of Medea – and, moreover, with the perfect vocal imperfection so reminiscent of the singular timbre of Maria Callas’ voice” is how the prestigious French magazine Diapason reviewed Anna Pirozzi’s triumphant debut in the exceptionally challenging role of Medea this last April at the Greek National Opera, in the production that launched the house’s major tribute to Maria Callas. Pirozzi has carved out a singular career path over the last ten years after her 2012 debut in Torino and the massive success she enjoyed at the Salzburg Festival in the role of Abigaille, conducted by Riccardo Muti. She immediately became highly sought-after by the world’s most major opera houses and, to date, has sung at such venues as the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, La Scala in Milan, Opéra national de Paris, the Vienna Staatsoper, Teatro Real in Madrid, El Liceu in Barcelona, Arena di Verona, the San Francisco Opera, and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
The great dramatic soprano Catherine Foster –who has set herself apart internationally through her work within the Wagnerian repertoire, to a degree few other singers have achieved– will be making her Greek debut as part of the Callas at the Herodium opera gala, just months before her appearance in the upcoming GNO production of Die Walküre. She is considered one of the most important soloists to have appeared over the last decade at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival – the most important opera festival in the world. At this year’s edition alone, it is telling that Foster will be performing not just Isolde, but also Brünnhilde in both Götterdämmerung and Die Walküre. This internationally renowned soprano has enjoyed an exceptional 2022/23 season, with debut appearances at the Victorian Opera in Melbourne as Elektra, and at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples as Isolde, not to mention her highly anticipated debut at the Royal Opera House in London (March/April 2023) performing the title role in Andrei Serban’s staging of Turandot. Foster is recognised around the world as one of the great Brünnhildes of our times but has also drawn acclaim in other dramatic roles, such as Elektra, Turandot, and Isolde, making celebrated appearances at the world’s most major opera houses, including those in Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna, Amsterdam, Washington, Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Helsinki, Tokyo, and Shanghai, to name but a few.
The great GNO soprano Vassiliki Karayanni –who impressed this season performing the three female lead roles in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, as well as the role of Glauce in Medea (the production which launched the GNO tribute marking the centennial of Callas’ birth)– has starred in lead roles over and again at the Greek National Opera, as well as at Megaron – the Athens Concert Hall and the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. She has appeared at the world’s most major opera houses, festivals, and concert halls, including the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), La Scala in Milan, Komische Oper Berlin, Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf), Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Cadogan Hall, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, and the Royal Danish Opera, as well as the New National Theatre and Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo, and Biwako Hall in Shiga, Japan. Karayanni has performed a long series of exceptionally demanding roles, including the Queen of the Night, Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta, Amina, Rosina, Norina, Olympia, Gilda, Zerbinetta, and Zerlina. She won the Union of Greek Critics for Drama and Music’s Best New Artist Award in 2001, and has recorded Cimarosa’s Il marito disperato and Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia.
The up-and-coming young coloratura soprano Nina Minasyan has enjoyed an impressive career trajectory in recent years and is set to reach new heights next season by making her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York City this coming October. Born in Armenia, she became a soloist at the Yerevan Conservatory Opera Studio in 2010, and the following year joined the programme for young artists at the Bolshoi Theatre, where she launched her professional career. She has distinguished herself performing such exceptionally difficult roles of the repertoire as Lucia di Lammermoor, the Queen of the Night, Gilda, Violetta, Olympia, Oscar, Amina, Norina, and Adina (to name but a few) at such major opera houses as the Vienna Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper Berlin, Opéra national de Paris, Opéra national de Lyon, La Monnaie in Brussels, and Teatro Real in Madrid, as well as at the opera houses in Amsterdam, Zurich, Munich, Dresden, and Hamburg, and at the Arena di Verona, Aix-en-Provence, and Glyndebourne Festivals.
The gala is to be conducted by the internationally acclaimed French maestro Philippe Auguin, formerly the Music Director of the Washington National Opera. Auguin, who studied in Vienna and Florence, has made a great many appearances at some of the most major opera houses in Europe and America, including the Vienna Staatsoper, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Royal Opera House in London, and Deutsche Oper Berlin, the opera houses in Zurich, Bologna, and Barcelona, as well as opera houses in Australia, Japan, and China, not to mention his appearances at such major events as the Salzburg Festival and the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Ticket prices: 15 €, 20 €, 25 €, 35 €, 45 €, 55 € | Students: 12 €
Tickets on sale: 25 July 2023 | Available at the GNO box office at SNFCC (+30 2130885700 / daily 9.00-21.00) and online via ticketservices.gr
Production Sponsor: PPC
Main sponsor of the GNO & promoter of the tribute:
STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
An archival exploration of the Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive.
26 November to January
Second floor of the National Library of Greece – SNFCC
Curator: Vassilis Zidianakis / ATOPOS cvc
Curatorial assistant: Steffy Stouri
Advisor: Dimitris Pyromallis
Research assistant: Sophia Kompotiati
With the artists Aggeliki Bozou, Petros Efstathiadis, Panagiotis Evangelidis, Alexis Fidetzis, Eleftheria Kotzaki, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Aristeidis Lappas, Lykourgos Porfyris, Antigoni Tsagkaropoulou, Maria Varela
Represented in the parallel events programme are: Yannis Belonis, Alexandros Efklidis, Fatma Fayade, Giorgos Koumendakis, Helena Matheopoulos, Stella Kourmpana, Panaghis Pagoulatos, Tota Pritsa, Zoi Tzamtzi.
The second part of UNBOXING CALLAS, an art programme curated by Vassilis Zidianakis and inspired by the act of “unboxing” that has become popular in online communities, i.e. a ritual process, documents the first contact with an object. The exhibition is inspired by the private stories, memories and archives of Maria Callas and attempts to create a collective artistic chronicle of her career.
It is a performative exhibition of archival materials, the entire content of which is presented on large work surfaces, as if in a large laboratory where researchers and artists work on the collected archive – classifying, preserving, recording, cataloguing and reinterpreting the artefacts.
Maria, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas
A documentary film by Vasilis Louras
Stavros Niarchos Hall of the GNO – SNFCC
Concept, research, screenplay: Vasilis Louras
Directors: Michalis Asthenidis, Vasilis Louras
Cinematography: Fotis Zygouris
Producer: Stella Angeletou
Artistic assistant to the production manager: Io Calochristos
Scientific advisors: Aris Christofellis, Sophia Kompotiati
A GNO co-production with ESCAPE Productions
On 2 December, a new documentary about the greatest soprano of the 20th century, who took the first big steps of her career in Greece, will premiere at the Stavros Niarchos Hall – exactly 100 years to the day after Maria Callas was born. Produced by the Greek National Opera in collaboration with ESCAPE Productions, Vasilis Louras’ documentary focuses on the years when she received her artistic training and sang her first roles at the Greek National Opera (1937-1945), as well as on her three later performances in Greece: at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (1957) as part of the Athens Festival and at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus (1960 and 1961) with the Greek National Opera.
For more information on the events, click here.