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Guest Viewpoints

Peter Tiboris Remembers Olympia Dukakis

NEW YORK – Greek-American conductor, producer, and impresario Peter Tiboris shared his thoughts on the passing on May 1 of his dear friend, Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis. Tiboris has conducted over 50 concerts in Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center and produced nearly 1300 concerts worldwide through the company he founded in 1983, MidAmerica Productions. He also founded the International Festival of the Aegean on the island of Syros, Greece, in 2005. The festival brings together world-class artists from dozens of countries to perform for music lovers from Europe and all over the world.

Tiboris’ statement on Dukakis follows:

“Olympia Dukakis' mother … was born in the southern Peloponnese, Greece – where my grandparents were from as well – near the town of Megalopolis, in the ancient region of Arkadia. Olympia was born in the United States on June 20, 1931, and passed away on May 1, 2021, at the age of 89.

During her professional years, she had a mega-career in movies and theater and with me also performed on the concert stage both in New York and in Syros, Greece.

I presented Olympia at a MidAmerica Productions concert in Carnegie Hall some sixteen years ago, where she … [was] part of the U.S. premiere of Taneyev’s Agamemnon. She was a trifle nervous about doing the reading in Carnegie Hall in the midst of a 200-voice chorus with the Manhattan Philharmonic behind her in this 90-minute concert production, but she overcame this stage situation when she gave a dramatic reading of the role of Clytemnestra. Her 20-minute speech at the end of Act I stole the show. It was, in short, simply overwhelming and captivating. I clearly remember standing on the podium facing the orchestra and chorus with Olympia to my right, and watching and listening to her deliver the role, shaping each word in compelling tones without any musical sound or movement. It was consummate and unforgettable. The audience understandably went wild, and the New York Times praised the event as "a significant musical presentation."

Several years later, Olympia – with her entire family, including her grandchildren – came to the island of Syros, Greece, and the historic Apollo Theater at my invitation, where she gave two performances of Rose, a one-woman play, as part of the Festival of the Aegean. She had previously performed it for six months on Broadway, which was met with glowing reviews. Rose, by Martin Sherman, who was also present at the performances, is a monologue. The story is about an 85-year-old Jewish woman who has recently lost her husband. Olympia was sitting shiva on a couch facing the audience; she spoke about her life during the Holocaust, then moving to the U.S. with her husband and raising her family.

Olympia and her husband, Louis Zorich, who was also a well-known TV and theater actor, both lived in Montclair, New Jersey, where I also lived. I first met Olympia at the baggage carousel of Newark International Airport as we both arrived at the same time late one Sunday night, two decades ago. From that time, partly because we were both Greek-American, we became good friends.

Over the years, I found her to be magical, memorable, dramatic, and intense as a performer, as well as a great and captivating artist. On a personal level, we had a warm and engaging friendship. She will be missed.”

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