The Greek National Opera Pays Tribute To Maria Callas On Her Centennial Anniversary

The upcoming events in November and December include the second installment of the UNBOXING CALLAS exhibition.

By: Nov. 17, 2023
The Greek National Opera Pays Tribute To Maria Callas On Her Centennial Anniversary

The Greek National Opera (GNO)'s tribute to Maria Callas for the the centennial anniversary of her birth, curated by the Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera Giorgos Koumendakis, will be coming to a head this November and December with its major events held at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and premiering online on GNO TV.

 

The upcoming events in November and December include the second installment of the UNBOXING CALLAS exhibition, featuring the donation of avid Callas collector Dimitris Pyromallis' Collection and the GNO archive, comprised of rare photographs, documents, costumes, and other personal items showcasing her life in the National Library of Greece; a documentary entitled Mary, Marianna, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas which explores the lesser-known early years of the Greek diva, featuring rare archival documentation, never-before-released recordings, interviews, and other audio materials; an educational workshop entitled “Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas” which uses digital media for audiences to experience the sound of Maria Callas within an opera house; and a video recital dedicated to her first and formative “Greek” repertoire presented on GNO TV featuring emerging Greek soloists. (Further details below.) 

 

The yearlong tribute, which has focused on Callas' formative early years in Greece, where she made her GNO debut mere months after the company was formed, has previously included a range of offerings including the European premiere of David McVicar's production of Cherubini's Medea–a role Callas famously performed at the GNO in 1961–at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus; a gala recital featuring leading sopranos performing iconic Maria Callas repertoire at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus; and the first installment of the UNBOXING CALLAS exhibition of rare photographs, documents, costumes, and other personal items showcasing her life and work in the GNO opera house foyer at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. 

 

The GNO Maria Callas tribute program is sponsored by the Public Power Corporation (PPC). This program is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the GNO's artistic outreach.

 

Callas signed her first contract with the Greek National Opera in 1940, just a few months after the company was founded as a branch of The National Theatre of Greece by Kostis Bastias, a visionary who had a great impact on the opera house. Under her birth name Maria Kalogeropoulou, Callas gained valuable on-stage experience by performing major roles at the Greek National Opera between 1940 and 1945, alongside her studies at the Athens Conservatoire under the Spanish soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Thanks to this experience, Callas quickly achieved her goal of becoming an international opera star. After 15 years, the diva returned to the Greek National Opera and, with the help of Kostis Bastias, performed in the first-ever opera performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus of Bellini's Norma in 1960 and Cherubini's Medea in 1961. Callas donated her fees from both productions to create a scholarship supporting young opera artists in her name.

 

The Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera, Giorgos Koumendakis, notes:

 

"Maria Callas is an artist that shaped the very history of the Greek National Opera. Just a few years before the phenomenon that was Callas would storm into every corner of the globe, raiding the hearts of opera devotees everywhere, Maria Kalogeropoulou set out on a difficult path in an Athenian wartime setting. It was 1940 when the founding Director of our opera house, the great Kostis Bastias, offered the young artist her first contract while still a student at the Athens Conservatoire. The training Callas received and stage experience she gained during the years she lived in Greece laid solid foundations for the next phase of her career, which began in 1947, in Verona. She would return to Greece in 1957 –by then an international star– to give a recital at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Three years later, Kostis Bastias would invite her to perform the lead role in the first opera production ever staged at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. Productions of Bellini's Norma in 1960 and Cherubini's Medea in 1961 would pen a new chapter in the history of the most perfect and celebrated ancient Greek theatre, where performances of ancient drama have been staged since the 2nd century BCE.

With this program, presented to mark the centennial of Maria Callas, we hope to showcase her connections to our opera house, but also to expose younger generations with the legendary Callas as a shining example of talent and hard work, of dedication and impeccability and brilliance.”

 

The events of the Greek National Opera's tribute will feature rare materials from the GNO Historical Archive, including a collection donated by collector Dimitris Pyromallis, featuring recordings, publications, documents, photographs, and personal effects. Also included are the photographic archives of Kleisthenes, composer and conductor Leonidas Zoras and popular journalist and radio host from the 1950s Achilleas Mamakis. 

 

UNBOXING CALLAS:

An Archival Exploration of the Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive

 

26 November 2023 – January 10 2024

Second floor of the National Library of Greece – SNFCC

Free admission – places must be booked in advance via ticketservices.gr

 

Curator: Vassilis Zidianakis / ATOPOS cvc

Curatorial associate: Steffy Stouri

Consultant: Dimitris Pyromallis

Research associate: 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, Malvina Panagiotidi, Panos Profitis, Marios Stamatis

Appearing in the parallel events program: Yannis Belonis, Alexandros Efklidis, Fatma Fayade, Giorgos Koumendakis, Helena Matheopoulos, Stella Kourmpana, Panaghis Pagoulatos, Tota Pritsa, Zoi Tzamtzi

Year of Callas tribute program curator: Giorgos Koumendakis

 

To mark the centennial of Maria Callas' birth, the Greek National Opera is presenting the second part of the UNBOXING CALLAS arts program, curated by Vassilis Zidianakis in partnership with ATOPOS cvc and the Atopos Unbound program. The exhibition, titled "Unboxing Callas: An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive," opens to the public on 26 November 2023, at 17.00, and runs until January 10, 2024, at the National Library of Greece Second Floor & Greek National Opera Foyer – SNFCC, from 10.00 to 21.00 daily.

 

As part of the second phase of the Greek National Opera's visual arts program marking the centennial of Maria Callas' birth, the exhibition fosters the feel of an open-access archive, inviting artists, conservators, archivists, and researchers to explore its contents. ATOPOS cvc Artistic Director Vassilis Zidianakis, taking the donation of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection to the Greek National Opera Archive as his point of departure, presents an artistic act of unboxing, unveiling stories, memories, and objects related to Callas.

 

Exhibited on the second floor of the National Library of Greece will be the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection in its entirety – discography, bibliography, rich photographic materials, and objects – alongside items from the GNO's historical archive, including the photographic output of Kleisthenes related to Maria Callas' performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in 1960 and 1961. The exhibition also features items from the archives of Leonidas Zoras and Achilleas Mamakis, now belonging to the GNO, as well as parts of the Gagelmann collection in partnership with the NLG. Original works by contemporary artists, inspired by the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection, will be presented.

 

Dimitris Pyromallis, a devoted collector of Maria Callas memorabilia, was born in Zakynthos in 1958. His connection with the legendary soprano began at the age of four, when he met her during her visit to the island. Inspired by this early encounter and fueled by his family's retellings, Pyromallis initiated a quest at the age of twenty to explore Maria Callas' life and art. What started modestly evolved into an extensive collection, recently donated to the Archive of the Greek National Opera.

 

The collection comprises about 4,000 vinyl records, 6,000 CDs, numerous books, and a vast array of photographic material. Pyromallis' assortment vividly captures Maria Callas' presence in the world's top opera houses and provides glimpses into her daily life through numerous snapshots. Beyond audio and visual treasures, the collection includes personal artifacts like letters, autographs, manuscripts, stamps, medals, and select personal items, offering an intimate glimpse into the life of the iconic opera soprano. This remarkable collection is now housed at the Archive of the Greek National Opera.

 

Presented in parallel inside the ground floor Foyer of the Greek National Opera will be an original artwork by Alexis Fidetzis and Malvina Panagiotidi.

 

This exhibition serves as a corrective curatorial practice, showcasing narratives and viewpoints that have been silenced or overlooked by dominant narratives, providing an opportunity for a re-examination of the legend surrounding Callas while ensuring her artistic achievements remain unadulterated. The exhibition design is sustainable, using archival boxes and existing GNO structures suitable for reuse.

 

Running alongside this Unboxing Callas exhibition for its duration will be an intensive, multi-faceted parallel program featuring preservation practices (conservation and archiving), presentations, discussions, performances, and performative lectures, as well as tours led by the artists, curators, and other team members.

 

Organized by the GNO, in partnership with the SNFCC and NLG

Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)

Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

Technical equipment kindly provided by Samsung

The Greek National Opera Pays Tribute To Maria Callas On Her Centennial Anniversary

Mary, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas

 

A documentary by Vasilis Louras

December 2, 2023 at 18:30

Tickets for the documentary are available for 10€ through the GNO Box Office and

 

Concept, research, script: Vasilis Louras

Direction: Michalis Asthenidis, Vasilis Louras

Producer: Stella Angeletou

Production management artistic associate: Io Calochristos

Research consultants: Aris Christofellis, Sophia Kompotiati

 

A GNO and ESCAPE co-production

 

Year of Callas tribute program curator: Giorgos Koumendakis

 

On December 2, 2023, exactly 100 years since Maria Callas' birth, the Greek National Opera, in partnership with Escape Productions, presents a new documentary titled Mary, Marianna, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas. Conceived, researched, and written by Vasilis Louras, co-directed by Michalis Asthenidis and Vasilis Louras, and produced by Stella Angeletou, the documentary will notably include rare archival documentation, never-before-released recordings, interviews, and other audio materials.

 

As part of celebrations marking the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas' birth, this documentary sheds light on the little-known period of Maria Callas' artistic career spent in Greece. The documentary explores the years in which Callas came of age as a woman and an artist in Athens during the Second World War. It also delves into the post-1957 period when the internationally renowned diva reconnected with Greece.

 

While the lingering effects of war left a lasting imprint on Maria Callas, it is unmistakably evident that the seeds of her subsequent artistic triumphs were sown during the challenging years she spent in Athens. Her training under Elvira de Hidalgo in the city was not merely a formative period; it was also a time when she accumulated invaluable on-stage and performance experience through her engagements with the Greek National Opera. On a more personal level, these eight years became a crucible where she drew upon an inner strength, transforming each adversity, challenge, and onslaught into triumphs of resilience and determination that would sustain her throughout her life.

 

The documentary covers Callas's foremost artistic achievements, her little-known debuts, the figures who influenced her, and the major landmarks in her development as an artist. It also examines the social and political circumstances in Greece during World War II, the Greek Civil War milieu of the 1940s and '50s, and the challenges she faced. Rare archival documentation, never-before-released recordings, interviews, and other audio materials are used to tell the story of Callas' early years—a story of triumph achieved through strength of character and talent, hard work, and dedication.

 

On December 8, 2023, the documentary will be broadcasted in France on France TV 5 in a night dedicated to Maria Callas' centenary. Further details are available at: https://www.francetvpro.fr/contenu-de-presse/62763172

 

Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)

Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

The Greek National Opera Pays Tribute To Maria Callas On Her Centennial Anniversary

Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas

 

A GNO partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab) of the Technical University of Crete

December 7-21, 2023

10AM-9PM Daily

Free entry

 

Project Lead: Panagiotis Parthenios

Professor of Digital Media in Architectural Design

Head of the Digital Media Lab – DmLab

School of Architecture | Technical University of Crete

 

Year of Callas tribute program curator: Giorgos Koumendakis

 

The Greek National Opera (GNO) and the Digital Media Lab (DMLab) at the Technical University of Crete have collaborated on an educational workshop titled "Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas." The workshop, part of the MoU between GNO and the Technical University, aims to explore the relationship between architecture, music, space, and sound using new digital media. Participants will experiment with 3D point clouds of the GNO's interior spaces to capture interactions between Maria Callas' voice and the opera house's spaces, creating virtual and hybrid installations. The resulting creations will be exhibited at the GNO Foyer at the SNFCC from December 7-21 and later digitally on GNO TV. In spring 2024, the exhibition will move to Chania in Crete. 

 

This workshop is organized by the Greek National Opera in partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab) of the Technical University of Crete

Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)

Technical equipment kindly provided by NOVA ICT

Lead Donor of the GNO & Workshop Donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

The Greek National Opera Pays Tribute To Maria Callas On Her Centennial Anniversary

GNO TV Video Recital

 

Maria Callas in Greece, 1937-1945

The Repertoire Never Heard…

December 16-31, 2023

www.nationalopera.gr/gnotv

Free Screening

 

Curator: Aris Christofellis

Soloists: Fanie Antonelou, Artemis Bogri, Vassiliki Karayanni, Maria Kostraki, Nina Koufochristou, Violetta Lousta, Chrissa Maliamani, Mary-Ellen Nesi, and Tassos Apostolou

 




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