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Music

Singing and Laughing are Coming Back in Athens

ATHENS – Slowly but surely, live entertainment is returning to Athens, and one of the most pleasant and convenient venues is the ‘Foyer’ at Θέατρο Τζένη Καρέζη – the theater near Syntagma Square named in honor of the late Tzeni Karezi, one of Greece’s most beloved actresses.

A recent Friday featured the fiery and imaginative musical stylings of Jenny Chatzopoulou – singer, pianist, composer – and the wit and wisdom (go ahead, laugh, he is Stand-Up comedian and he’ll take ‘em as he gets ‘em – he said so himself – of actor/musician Aristotelis Rigas.

Rigas and Chatzopoulou performed back to back, and the feeling and the shows were wonderful for the audience looking to put lockdowns, masks, vaccines – and the arguments about those – behind them, but several in the audience were happy for the performers too.

While the whole world has struggled and suffered through the pandemic, musicians and performers in general have been hard hit, especially in Greece.

Actor/musician Aristotelis Rigas blends humor and music in his act in the ‘Foyer’ at Θέατρο Τζένη Καρέζη, a theater near Syntagma Square. (Photo by Constantine S. Sirigos)

Chatzopoulou titled the gig ‘Jenny’s Got a Gun – All Time Radio Hits’ – not because she is angry about the effects of the pandemic, but because she led off with that Aerosmith Song. Yes, she presents Rock, and Jazz, the Blues, and American Standards. She is that versatile – and captivating. All performers do their best to both capture the power of the hits they cover and to individualize them – but Chatzopoulou truly makes them her own. You walk away remembering her stylings, not the originals.

Adroitly accompanying herself on piano, she delights with her kazoo too – it takes a unique charm and energy to pull that off in 2022! Chatzopulou has excellent taste in the musicians she selects to join her – and they seem to love performing with her. That evening she was joined by Christos Kechris on bass and Alexis Papalexiou on drums.

Rigas is the classic everyman comedian with common sense and education. Was the class clown? Maybe he was the quiet kid in the room who surprised his classmates with outrageous comments after the teacher left. His acting credits include God Loves Caviar (2012) and Stand Up for U (2014) – and as a comedian he is quick with one-liners, jokes, stories, keen observations about life.

Diaspora Hellenes will enjoy his word play – the sophisticated juxtapositions as well as the silly kind many of them perfected in afternoon Greek School.

Rigas warmed to his audience immediately – and they reciprocated. Not all comedians can get away with saying: “OK we have one rule here: if one guy claps, everybody claps” – and it was rarely necessary to invoke it.

Much of the routine presented his current experience of becoming a father a second time, noting that it pains him to know that “my son will never see me with hair.”

The audience wondered what he planned to do with the guitar that sat next to him most of the night – and they were delighted with both his musicianship and the satirical games he played with popular songs – including Christmas carols in Greek and English. His riff of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was both a commentary on bullying – and a commentary on commentaries on bullying.

Chatzopoulou followed the comedy – but her presentation did not lack for humor, her infectious smile punctuating the passion, intelligence – and mystery. Who is she? people may wonder – her fine English has a Greek accent but not her singing. Walking in in the middle of a song, one might ask,  “where is she from – Los Angeles, New Orleans, Harlem?” A time machine might be part of the answer as the temporal range of her music extends from 1914 (After You’ve Gone) to George Michael in the 1980s to today. By the way, she was born in Regensburg and raised in Dusseldorf, Germany – with roots in Alexandroupolis and Constantinople.

There is so much talent in Greece – visitors would do well to check out what is available in Athens before going to their islands and villages.

 

 

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