Lead Donor of the GNO & Maria Callas Tribute Donor
Maria Callas Tribute Sponsor: PPC (Public Power Company)
The Greek National Opera tribute programme marking the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas' birth will be reaching new heights with a major opera gala titled Callas at the Herodium, given at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on 16 September 2023. Four acclaimed sopranos of global standing -Anna Pirozzi, Catherine Foster, Vassiliki Karayanni, and Nina Koufochristou- will be performing arias that Callas herself seared into the consciousness through the renditions she offered up as part of her historic appearances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in 1944 and 1957. The Orchestra of the Greek National Opera is to be conducted by Philippe Auguin. The GNO Maria Callas tribute programme is sponsored by the PPC (Public Power Corporation). This tribute programme is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the GNO's artistic outreach.
Maria Callas' performance career in Greece intersects with the Odeon of Herodes Atticus across two separate eras. In July 1944, one year before she left Athens for New York, Maria Kalogeropoulou would perform the role of Smaragda in the Manolis Kalomiris opera The Masterbuilder at the venue, conducted by the composer himself and directed by Sokratis Karantinos; days later, in August 1944, she would also play Leonora there in Beethoven's Fidelio, conducted by Hans Hörner and directed by Oscar Wallek. A full thirteen years later, in 1957, and having since conquered the world, Maria Meneghini-Callas would return to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to give an historic recital at the Athens Festival, featuring arias from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Giuseppe Verdi's La forza del destino and Il trovatore, Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, conducted by Antonino Votto.
On 16 September 2023, the anniversary of Maria Callas' death, this precise repertoire is to be presented at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus by the Greek National Opera as part of its 2023 tribute gala titled Callas at the Herodium. Four internationally-renowned leading lights of the opera world will pay tribute to Maria Callas, performing arias from operas by Kalomiris, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Donizetti, and Thomas that she herself performed at that very Roman venue, making full use of her remarkable vocal range and singular virtuoso abilities to leave a mark that has never been surpassed. Appearing are the great Italian dramatic soprano Anna Pirozzi, who triumphed in her recent debut in the title role of Cherubini's Medea at the GNO; the dramatic soprano -and Bayreuth Festival darling- Catherine Foster; the internationally acclaimed Greek coloratura soprano Vassiliki Karayanni; and the Greek coloratura soprano of the new generation, Nina Koufochristou. Conducting is the great French maestro Philippe Auguin.
«She rose brilliantly to the challenge, conquering the title role of Medea - and, moreover, with the perfect vocal imperfection so reminiscent of the singular timbre of Maria Callas' voice» is how the prestigious French magazine Diapason reviewed Anna Pirozzi's triumphant debut in the exceptionally challenging role of Medea this last April at the Greek National Opera, in the production that launched the house's major tribute to Maria Callas. Pirozzi has carved out a singular career path over the last ten years after her 2012 debut in Torino and the massive success she enjoyed at the Salzburg Festival in the role of Abigaille, conducted by Riccardo Muti. She immediately became highly sought-after by the world's most major opera houses and, to date, has sung at such venues as the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, La Scala in Milan, Opéra national de Paris, the Vienna Staatsoper, Teatro Real in Madrid, El Liceu in Barcelona, Arena di Verona, the San Francisco Opera, and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
The great dramatic soprano Catherine Foster -who has set herself apart internationally through her work within the Wagnerian repertoire, to a degree few other singers have achieved- will be making her Greek debut as part of the Callas at the Herodium opera gala, just months before her appearance in the upcoming GNO production of Die Walküre. She is considered one of the most important soloists to have appeared over the last decade at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival - the most important opera festival in the world. At this year's edition alone, it is telling that Foster will be performing not just Isolde, but also Brünnhilde in both Götterd?mmerung and Die Walküre. This internationally renowned soprano has enjoyed an exceptional 2022/23 season, with debut appearances at the Victorian Opera in Melbourne as Elektra, and at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples as Isolde, not to mention her highly anticipated debut at the Royal Opera House in London (March/April 2023) performing the title role in Andrei Serban's staging of Turandot. Foster is recognised around the world as one of the great Brünnhildes of our times but has also drawn acclaim in other dramatic roles, such as Elektra, Turandot, and Isolde, making celebrated appearances at the world's most major opera houses, including those in Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna, Amsterdam, Washington, Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Helsinki, Tokyo, and Shanghai, to name but a few.
The great GNO soprano Vassiliki Karayanni -who impressed this season performing the three female lead roles in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, as well as the role of Glauce in Medea (the production which launched the GNO tribute marking the centennial of Callas' birth)- has starred in lead roles over and again at the Greek National Opera, as well as at Megaron - the Athens Concert Hall and the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. She has appeared at the world's most major opera houses, festivals, and concert halls, including the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), La Scala in Milan, Komische Oper Berlin, Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf), Teatro Nacional de S?o Carlos, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Cadogan Hall, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, and the Royal Danish Opera, as well as the New National Theatre and Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo, and Biwako Hall in Shiga, Japan. Karayanni has performed a long series of exceptionally demanding roles, including the Queen of the Night, Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta, Amina, Rosina, Norina, Olympia, Gilda, Zerbinetta, and Zerlina. She won the Union of Greek Critics for Drama and Music's Best New Artist Award in 2001, and has recorded Cimarosa's Il marito disperato and Paisiello's Il barbiere di Siviglia.
The coloratura soprano of the new generation, Nina Koufochristou, was born in Trikala, where she began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. A graduate of the Department of Music Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, she earned diplomas in solo singing (under Katerina Karatza) and opera singing (from the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki), completed her postgraduate opera studies in Cologne on an Onassis Foundation scholarship, and has specialised in baroque singing since 2013. She has performed numerous roles, including the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Konstanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Sandrina (La finta giardiniera), Mica?la and Frasquita (Carmen), Olympia (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), Violetta (La traviata), Adina (L'elisir d'amore), and Monica (The Medium). She has also performed contemporary works, appeared in world premieres and recitals, and made recordings. She has garnered major awards at Greek and international competitions (including the 2015 Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition and the 2014 Maria Callas International Grand Prix). She was a member of the Opera Studio at the Greek National Opera (2009/10) and performed the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte) at the Olympia Theatre in 2015.
The gala is to be conducted by the internationally acclaimed French maestro Philippe Auguin, formerly the Music Director of the Washington National Opera. Auguin, who studied in Vienna and Florence, has made a great many appearances at some of the most major opera houses in Europe and America, including the Vienna Staatsoper, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Royal Opera House in London, and Deutsche Oper Berlin, the opera houses in Zurich, Bologna, and Barcelona, as well as opera houses in Australia, Japan, and China, not to mention his appearances at such major events as the Salzburg Festival and the Savonlinna Opera Festival.
A few words on the GNO tribute to Maria Callas
2023 is the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas' birth and, to mark the occasion, the Greek National Opera has programmed and is presenting a series of events in honour of the greatest soprano of the 20th century, curated by Giorgos Koumendakis. This tribute launched in April 2023 with a new production of Cherubini's Medea, and continued in May 2023 with the presentation of the first part -titled From Callas to Medea - An Installation in Three Acts- of the Unboxing Callas arts programme, installed inside the GNO Foyer. To be presented from September through until December 2023 are the Callas at the Herodium opera gala, the Unboxing Callas: An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive exhibition at the National Library of Greece, the Mary, Mariana, Maria - The Unsung Greek Years of Callas documentary, the Maria Callas in Greece, 1937-1945 - The Repertoire Never Heard... video recital, and the Visualising the Voice of Maria Callas educational workshop organised in partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DMLab) of the Technical University of Crete.
The Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera, Giorgos Koumendakis, notes: «With this GNO programme, presented to mark the centennial of Maria Callas, we hope to showcase her connections to our opera house, but also to connect younger generations with the legendary Callas as a shining example of talent and hard work, of dedication and impeccability and brilliance.»
The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has inducted celebrations marking 100 years since the birth of Maria Callas into the official list of anniversaries to be commemorated by UNESCO in 2023. This annual list includes eminent personalities honoured by UNESCO for their contributions to the development of the sciences, education, culture, and communications, with a view to recognising and promoting their universality and importance.
Manolis Kalomiris, The Masterbuilder
- «The sun, the sun»
Smaragda's aria from Part II - Vassiliki Karayanni
Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio
- «Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? ... Komm, Hoffnung» / «Monster! Where are you hurrying? ... Come, hope»
Leonore's recitative and aria from Act I - Catherine Foster
Ambroise Thomas, Hamlet
- «? vos jeux, mes amis» / «To your games, my friends»
Ophélie's «mad scene» from Act IV - Nina Koufochristou
Giuseppe Verdi, La forza del destino
- «Pace, pace, mio Dio» / «Peace, peace, my God»
Leonora's aria from Act IV - Anna Pirozzi
Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor
- «Regnava nel silenzio» / «Reigning in the silence»
Lucia's aria from Act I - Vassiliki Karayanni
Giuseppe Verdi, Il trovatore
- «D'amor sull'ali rosee» / «On the rosy wings of love»
Leonora's aria from Part IV - Anna Pirozzi
Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde
- Prelude and Isolde's «Liebestod» - Catherine Foster
Maria Callas at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus 1957 - photo Dimitris Charisiadis_photographic archive, Benaki Museum