Opera in Athens

Ethniki Liriki Zkini, 30 December 2000

This production is a joint venture with the Teatro Comunale G. B. Pergolesi in Jesi. I have never been in this Athens theater, sitting around 1,000 people. It has very nice acoustics and is well suited for opera. The only slight drawback is the relatively small stage. The first surprise, the sets are traditional. This is excellent; we are looking at what Tosca should look like. Second surprise, the costumes are also traditional, another good surprise. Both are by Nikos Petropoulos. Third surprise, the management has not seen below themselves to have curtain calls, a very rare occurrence nowadays in the time of accelerated operatic decadence. The only "modern" thing is unfortunately the use of surtitles. The singing was also on a high level. The Scarpia, Louis Manikas, a Greek baritone living in Germany, was outstanding. I have not heard such a menacing and powerful Scarpia in a long time, probably since René Bianco in Paris in the 60s. His pronunciation was very clear, and the voice matched the meaning of the words. He dominated the Te Deum, a rarity today. He is now over 50, I would guess close to 60. Why he was not more known is another mystery, maybe he has too much voice. He acted and sang Scarpia, as it should be, menacing, hypocritically, in short a real tyrant. Mario Cavaradossi was Dimitris Stefanou, an old fashioned tenor, and another rarity today. He does not have the looks of Alagna, but he delivers the goods and makes all the high points (Recondita armonia, La vita mi costasse, Vittoria, E lucevan le stelle, O dolci mani and the duets with Tosca). The Tosca was Olga Romanko. She was appealing, sang well, acted well (thank God, she did not have the agitated Callas technique of aimlessly running around the stage). The other secondary roles were all taken by Greek singers, and they were all excellent: Nikos Kapetas (Angelotti), Kostas Tzamtzis (Sagrestano), Vasilis Deligiannis (Sciarrone), Leonidas Antipas (Carceriere), Filippos Dellatolas (Spoletta) and Iris Kimonidou (Pastore). The orchestra under Ilias Voudouris provided a good support.

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