Elli Papakonstantinou. Photo: Courtesy of Elli Papakonstantinou
ATHENS – The internationally renowned Greek director Elli Papakonstantinou has been collaborating for the last year with the great Ukrainian ensemble of young contemporary music artists Nova Opera. The rehearsals started in December 2021 with the aim of her new project to premiere in the Netherlands at the O. Festival in Rotterdam on May 21-22 this year with a planned tour to follow of historic sites in Ukraine, specifically, the Kyiv Opera House in June, the Odessa Opera House in August, and the Kharkiv National Philharmonic in September. This international co-production is supported by the Greek Ministry of Culture, The House of Europe, and the Dutch organization The Performing Arts Fund NL.
In fact, for the rehearsals in the Ukrainian capital, the director, together with the American visual artist Stephanie Sherriff, set designer Myrto Lambrou, and songwriter Nalyssa Green were set to travel to Kyiv in March – exactly one week after the invasion.
The irony is that the artists on the project, Ukrainians and Greeks, were working on the Platonic Symposium to be presented in the form of an oratorio with a libretto by Elli Papakonstantinou and Louiza Arkoumanea. The work, titled Eros, focused on desire and the relationship between the world of ideas and the modern material world through a philosophical and political perspective.
But, somehow, completely unexpectedly and paradoxically, Plato was found speaking to today’s Ukrainians and the war with Eros.
Unfortunately, the invasion of Ukraine finds the artists- Serhii Vilka, soprano Anna Kirsh, baritone Andrey Koshman, baritone Ruslan Kirsh, Zhanna Marchinska – cello, Andrey Nadolskyi – percussion, Serhii Vilka – keyboard / flute, Elias Spricht – piano, escaping from Kyiv by electric car, trying to reach the Polish border.
Some have succeeded, but Zhanna Marchinska has not yet been heard from, as she is in a city that is heavily bombed.
Elli Papakonstantinou speaks daily with the Ukrainian artists via Zoom in shelters and all the show’s actors are in contact with each other and try to find ways to cross the Ukrainian border. In defiance of the times and the situation, the same Ukrainian artists stated the following: “As long as we reach the border with Poland we feel safe and we will start rehearsals online with you from there!”
Unfortunately at the moment the only sure thing is that the show cannot tour in Ukraine.
However, it will premiere in the Netherlands at the O. Festival in Rotterdam, May 21-22, and the hope is all of the artists from the war-torn country will participate.
Video of Elias Spricht, the Ukrainian pianist and one of the artists set to perform in Eros, in a bomb shelter playing Beethoven’s 9th on a toy piano that belonged to his composition Professor Karlheinz Essl: https://bit.ly/3pF4Jdg.
About Nova Opera
Nova Opera is a formation of young Ukrainian artists whose goal is to find new ways of developing musical theatre. The main activity of the formation is the creation of new synthetic genres (opera requiem, opera circus, dreamOpera, opera ballet) and experiments with atypical musical and scenic solutions. The musical language of plays has no aesthetic limitations, freely combining avant garde and rock, Gregorian chant, and trip-hop, neo-baroque and folklore improvisations. Their work has been performed regularly in Austria, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States, among others.
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He wasn’t the first one to think about it but a humor columnist for POLITICO suggested - ironically, of course - that if Greeks want back the stolen Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum that they should just steal them back, old boy.
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