The Greek National Opera's Alternative Stage opens the year 2020 with Leporella, the new opera of George Kouroupos, one of the most prestigious contemporary Greek composers. The libretto, based on the great Austrian author Stefan Zweig's novella of the same title, bears the stamp of the distinguished poetess and literary author Ioulita Iliopoulou. Leporella the opera, written on a commission by the Alternative Stage, will run for six performances from 11 to 26 January 2020 on the GNO Alternative Stage in the SNFCC.
Directed as a touching dramatic thriller, in an abstract setting that remains faithful to the spirit of the novella, Leporella is a psychological portrait exploring the dark sides of human sexuality and at the same time a uniquely powerful and moving story about people who haven't been loved.
In early 20th-century Vienna, in a baron's mansion, a parsimonious old maid experiences her unfulfilled love for her master, by serving his wicked desires and eavesdropping behind the wall. The consequences of her actions however will be disastrous.
The work is conducted by Nicolas Vassiliou, and the direction, sets and costumes bear the stamp of Paris Mexis, a versatile creator with an international presence in the world of opera and a very special aesthetic approach.
The performance is realized thanks to the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to the Alternative Stage.
An excellent writing sample of the soul-capturing pen of the master of the short story Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), one of the «ideal suicides» of world literature, Leporella is the tragic «female version» of Leporello, the loyal servant from Mozart's masterly opera Don Giovanni. The novella was first published in 1935 and was included in the volume Amok and other stories (released in Greek in 2014 by Agra Publications), which gathers some of the author's most famous and popular stories. Zweig's famed novellas, resembling to a series of paintings representing the sensibility of the early 20th-century Viennese society, have made him the most-read and most-translated German-speaking literary author.
Leporella tells the story of a rough woman from Tyrol who arrives in Vienna to work in a baron's house. The baroness' strident character, the baron's lightness, and the couple's turbulent relationship form the context in which the maid is going play a catalytic role. At first she is restricted to her duties, but when the baroness temporarily leaves the house, she devotes herself to the baron like a slave, facilitating his love affairs. The awakening of her own sexuality, which becomes increasingly uncontrollable, leads her to the premeditated «suicide» of the baroness, an incident that later on will also bring about her own tragic ending.
The work's story raises personal and social questions that remain topical and unsolved to this day: a failed marriage, an unhappy childless couple, a girl who grew up without love, without any substantial relationship and whom this social isolation has turned so cruel and at the same time so dangerously vulnerable.
Leporella the opera is a milestone in prestigious composer George Kouroupos' career in music theatre - the main axis of his compositional work. The opera's music accentuates and intensifies the often controversial feelings of its leading characters, reaching the revelation of a deeper truth, that neither speech nor the mind dare touch.
As George Kouroupos notes: «When I first read this enthralling novella of Stefan Zweig, Leporella, I immediately thought how much this text was appropriate for music drama. The secret thoughts, the unconfessed desires, the lies, the severe deprivations, the mental traumas, the high tensions, the bleak atmosphere of an undefined yet inevitable catastrophe, all these elements determine the work's complex, intricate and occult environment, which only the music can drastically bring out, by making use of its symbolic and emotional dimension. On the other hand, the multitude of the described scenes, and the revelation of the ones missing, invites us to an even more enrapturing dramatization, which is so suited to melodrama - to opera. My collaboration with Ioulita Iliopoulou, after so many years, is to me the absolute guarantee for this venture's success".
The work follows the psychoanalytical development of its seemingly anti-heroine, who through subconscious transference and projections dreams and lives alone behind the wall, while shedding light upon the rights and wrongs of the other two characters. Writing Leporella's libretto, Ioulita Iliopoulou has faithfully followed the dramaturgical development of Zweig's psychoanalytical novella while also taking liberties with the text regarding expression, accentuation of symbolisms, and the characters' psychology. As she notes, «Discussing about it and exchanging ideas with George Kouroupos, I strived to give voice - linguistic expression - not only to the communication or the outbursts of the characters, but mainly to their silence. The silence, upon which their soul's steps are loudly heard, steps carved in relief by the music. Three main characters, a maid and a couple, are not but the miniature of a world that hurts and gets hurt, fears the truth and uses lies, desperately seeking to hold on to something. Reality, through the eyes of Leporella living behind the wall, takes a terrible revenge».
Leporella's stifling universe comes alive on the GNO Alternative Stage through the eyes of the experienced director Paris Mexis, who also marks his stamp on the performance's sets and costumes. With disarming precision Paris Mexis offers us an elaborate and full of intense eroticism psychological thriller of unrivalled elegance, while maintaining in full the novella's spirit. «Crescentia, a parsimonious, old maid in the early 20th-century Vienna, lives her life with the unique goal of saving for old age. On the occasion of a seemingly trivial incident, she triggers for the first time in her life another person's interest, and in particular a man's interest. The incident overpowers her. She is transformed from Crescentia to «Leporella» and her life starts revolving around this man's «happiness» in exchange for the feeling of contributing to it. In an almost Eichmannian logic, Leporella is led by her unprecedented passion and the inability to manage her emotional awakening to mad actions with uncontrollable consequences. Like a dry plant that withers when it gets abruptly watered. With this seemingly trivial but subjectively defining duality, Leporella emerges as a special modern opera attempting to illuminate man's eternal need for attention, tenderness and in the end, love. Even if they cannot handle it.», notes the director.
The performance's scenography respects the work's «original» era, which is captured in the aesthetics and the style of the set, the costumes and props. «We use the material that is scenically necessary and indirectly or directly serves the narration. Watching the etiquette and the habits of an age older than ours, the viewer will recognise familiar faces and known emotional states. Through a theatrically idealized past, Leporella is here to tell a moving story about the people who have never been loved.»
George Kouroupos Music
He studied piano at the Athens Conservatory and composition at the Conservatoire de Paris under Olivier Messiaen. During his ten-year stay in Paris, he wrote The Greek Song and the lyric dramas Dieu le veut and Gris?lidis (Festival d'Avignon). His most important works after his return to Greece (1977) are The Animal Assembly (text by Pericles Korovessis), Sonata for cello and piano, Little Nautilus (poetry: Odysseas Elytis), The Odyssey (symphonic ballet in John Neumeier's choreography, Benois de la danse music award), Concertino for piano and orchestra, The Monogram (poetry: Odysseas Elytis), Voice of Oak, The Seven Immortal Virtues. Moreover, he has written such operas as Pylades (libretto: George Himonas), Iokasti (libretto: Ioulita Iliopoulou), The Chessboard Runaways (libretto: Eugene Trivizas), The Scene of Miracles (based on Miguel de Cervantes), as well as many vocal and piano songs. He served as Director and later President of the Board of Directors of the Greek National Opera, artistic director of the Orchestra of Colours and of the Athens Concert Hall. Leporella is his thirteenth lyric drama.
Ioulita Iliopoulou Libretto
She studied Byzantine and modern Greek philology (University of Athens), as well as theatre at the Drama School of the Athens Conservatory. Eight of her poetic books have been published: Happy years Marc, Digamma, Wishing to Odysseus, From One to Two, Eleven Places for One Summer, The House, Jocasta, The Mosaic of the Night; moreover, the fairy tales: What is Zeno asking for? (State Prize 2005), Little Green Riding Hood, Another and This!, Timos of Athens and the Christmas music tale When Will This Magician Finally Arrive? (music: George Kouroupos). She has also published the essays: The Doll, Seeking the Fourteenth Beauty, essays for Odysseas Elytis and the translation of the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley Defending Poetry. She has written the libretti for numerous works of George Kouroupos (The Fir Boat, Jocasta), as well as lyrics for songs of the same composer and Petros Perakis, Stathis Gyftakis and Tatiana Zografou.
Nicolas Vassiliou Conductor
Pianist, conductor and composer, he was born in Athens. He studied piano and theory in Athens and New York, as well as conducting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) (Athens Academy scholarship). He taught music in schools, piano and chorus direction at the National Conservatory of Athens. Director of the «Manolis Kalomiris» Children's Chorus (1992-2000), he has collaborated, among others, with the Greek National Opera, Athens Festival, Athens Concert Hall (Megaron). Since 1994, as a vocal coach (correpetition) he participated in the music preparation of more than sixty GNO productions. He has served as GNO Chorus master (2005/11), head of the GNO Studio Opera (2012/15) and conductor of the contemporary operas since 2010, including plenty of Greek premieres. He has been music consultant of the Athens Festival (2017/18). He has conducted, among others, the GNO Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra, Athens Municipality Symphony Orchestra.
Paris Mexis Director, sets, costumes
Born in Athens, he studied scenography and design for performance in London (St Martin’s College of Art and Decoration, MA in scenography, BA Theatre: design for performance) and in Prague (Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, opera design). He also studied interior architecture and decoration at AKTO (Athens) and at the University of Middlesex (BA interior design with excellent performance praise, 1998 & 1999), as well as music at the Experimental Conservatory, Athens. Of manifold interests, he has worked as a director, scenographer and creative director in opera, theatre, video, television, communication and advertising. As a director or/and a scenographer, he participated in opera productions, music theatre and music for various cultural organizations, festivals and production companies both in Greece and abroad such as the Athens Festival, Greek National Opera, Onassis Stegi, Athens Concert Hall, Kiev Opera House, Wiesbaden State Theatre, Royal Opera of Versailles (productions on tour), Linbury Theatre (ROH), Narodowe Forum Muzyki, Poland, and English Chamber Orchestra.
Georgios Tellos Lighting
Born and raised in Frankfurt, he studied at the Department of Theatrical Studies at the Saarland University (Germany) and at the University of Athens. In Greece, he started his career as an associate of photography director Andreas Bellis, gaining extensive experience in the field of stage lighting. In 2014 he designed lighting for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Currently, he works as a lighting designer, having three offices in Athens, Frankfurt and Riyadh. He has lit a large number of performances in Europe, America, China and the Arabic countries.
Konstantina Pitsiakou Childrens' Chorus mistress
After graduating from the Music Department of the University of Cardiff (Wales), she received a scholarship from the International Kod?ly Society and studied methodology of teaching, chorus direction, classical singing and piano at the International Pedagogical Institute Zoltan Kod?ly of the Franz List Academy (Kecskem?t, Hungary). Moreover, she studied singing (diploma) with Christina Giannakopoulou. She sang with the Patras Contemporary Music Ensemble and the String Quartet of the Municipal Conservatory of Patras, while she gave concerts of Early music with the ensembles Ex-Silentio and Os Orphicum. She also collaborated with the GNO Chorus, the Chorus of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, as well as with the Chamber Chorus of the Municipal Conservatory of Patras. She gave lectures in Cyprus about the Kod?ly system. For several years she taught at the Municipal Conservatory of Patras, where she created and conducted the Children's Chorus and the student vocal ensembles, at the Drama School of the National Theatre of Greece, as well as at the Drama School of the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras. Since September 2017 she is the mistress of the GNO Children's Chorus.
Irini Karaianni Leporella
Greek mezzo-soprano, she studied voice in Rome, London and Milan (Maria Callas scholarship, Alexander S. Onassis scholarship). She received the first prize at the Giuseppe di Stefano International Competition in Trapani, Sicily, where she made her debut as Carmen. She sang in productions of the Greek National Opera, Athens Festival, Athens and Thessaloniki Concert Halls, Rome Opera House, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Regio (Turin), Terme di Caracalla, La Scala (Milan), Frankfurt Opera, Linbury Studio (Royal Opera House, London), Teatro Massimo (Palermo), Teatro Comunale of Bologna, in such roles as Carmen, Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro), Angelina (La Cenerentola), Giulietta and Nicklausse (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier), Adalgisa (Norma), Isabella (L'italiana in Algeri). She performed, among others, with the Athens and Thessaloniki State Orchestras, Armonia Atenea, Symphonic Orchestra of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation. She sang in world premieres of contemporary Greek composers' works and recorded for such labels as ΕΜΙ and MDG.
Artemis Bogri Leporella
Greek mezzo-soprano, she studied piano and singing (diploma under Marina Κrilovici). She was a member of the GNO Opera Studio (2009/11) and currently continues her studies with Aris Christofellis. She has given concerts with the Athens State Orchestra, Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, Armonia Atenea, Ergon Ensemble and Hellenic Group of Contemporary Music. In recent years she has been collaborating with the composer George Kouroupos, performing works of him in world premiere (The Scene of Miracles, Voice of Oak). At the Greek National Opera she sung the roles of Composer (Ariadne auf Naxos), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Dorabella (Cos? fan tutte), Angelina (La Cenerentola), St?phano (Rom?o et Juliette) and Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro). She also sung Hanna Glawari (Die lustige Witwe) at the Athens Concert Hall. She participated in the first world revival of Gluck's Il trionfo di Clelia (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), in the tribute Icones for the 80th birthday of Peter Maxwell Davies, as well as at the circle Madness (Athens Festival). She recently sung in first presentation Nikos Skalkottas' 16 Songs (Athens Concert Hall). She is a graduate of the Department of Economics of the University of Piraeus.
Tassos Apostoloυ Baron
Greek bass, he studied voice in Athens under Frangiskos Voutsinos and in Milan under Maria-Luisa Cioni and Roberto Negri (Alexander S. Onassis Foundation scholarship). He graduated from the Department of Political Sciences of the Athens Law School (University of Athens) and from the Veaki Drama School. He attended courses in acting and stage direction with Luca Ronconi at the Piccolo Teatro, Milan. Among others, he has sung at the Greek National Opera, Opera of Thessaloniki, Athens Concert Hall, Thessaloniki Concert Hall, Οdeon of Herodes Atticus, Epidaurus, at the United Nations and Lincoln Center of New York, as well as in Alexandria, Milan, Basel, Qatar, Germany, Cyprus, Boston, etc with the Orchestra of Colours (Athens), Thessaloniki State Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Athens Chamber Orchestra, Cyprus State Orchestra, Athens Municipality Symphony Orchestra, etc. He has performed in concerts, as well as in world premieres and recordings of Greek composers' works. His theatre credits include leading roles in ancient Greek and contemporary plays (National Theatre, Art Theatre, Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, etc), while his cinema credits include films by Theo Angelopoulos, Lefteris Xanthopoulos, etc.
Myrsini Margariti Baroness
Greek soprano, she studied violin, singing and musicology in Athens. With scholarship from Alexandros Onassis Foundation and J?rgen Ponto Foundation she continued her postgraduate studies in Lied, oratorio and opera at the Salzburg Mozarteum. She was a resident soloist of the Halle Opera (Germany). Moreover, she performed in London (BBC Proms), Belgium (Bozar, Greek presidency of EU), Germany (Erfurt, Darmstadt, Coburg, Oldenburg, F?rth, Gotha, Bad Lauchst?dt, Munich, Berlin, Kassel, Frankfurt, etc), Austria (Salzburg State Theatre), Switzerland (Theater Winterthur), Holland (tour with Nationale Reisopera, Festival Embassy), Malta (Valletta International Baroque Festival), Indonesia, Hungary (Bart?k Festival), Turkey, Mexico (Caribbean Festival of Arts), GNO, Athens and Thessaloniki Concert Halls, Athens Festival, Onassis Foundation, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, etc. Her repertoire covers a wide range of styles and seasons. She recorded Handel's Apollo e Dafne with the Orchestra of Handel Festival (Halle), Grand Tour - Baroque Road Trip (New Dutch Academy), as well as works of Debussy (UTOPIA) and Dimitris Papadimitriou.
Vassia Zacharopoulou Hilda
Greek soprano, she studied solo singing at the Greek National Conservatory, as well as piano and classical dance. She also studied opera with Kostas Paskalis. She has been collaborating with the GNO since 2008. During the years 2011/13 she has been a member of the GNO Studio Opera. In November 2014 she was awarded the Singing Award in the 14th Marie Kraja International Opera Competition. She sung the roles of Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Clarice (L'amante di tutte), Vespetta (Pimpinone), Rosalia (West Side Story), Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Riding Hood), Gretel (H?nsel und Gretel), Lola (Pic-nic), Rika (Daughter of the Thunderstorm), Princess (Beware! The Prince is Messy), Firebird (Prince Ivan and the Firebird), Toula (The Murderess), Tsarevna (The Tale of the Tsar Saltan). She has collaborated with Armonia Atenea, Orchestra Purpur Wien, Tirana State Opera Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation and the Municipality of Athens Music Ensembles. In theatre she has performed in Aristophanes' Peace, The Slave's Child and Masterclass. She works in dubbing as a singer and a narrator.
Niki Ηaziraki Hannah
Greek soprano, she graduated with honours from the Soloist and Education Department of the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna (postgraduate studies in opera), as well as valedictorian of the Department of German Language and Literature at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She performed abroad such roles as Olympia (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), Fortune and Lady (L'incoronazione di Poppea), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Ciboletta (Eine Nacht in Venedig), Violetta (Der lustige Krieg), Pepi Pleininger (Wiener Blut) etc. She has been cooperating steadily with the Greek National Opera since 2009 in various roles, such as Dolcina (Suor Angelica), Page (Rigoletto), First child (Die Zauberfl?te), Krini? (The Murderess), Fox (The Cunning Little Vixen), A friend of the Nightingale (Τhe Emperor's Nightingale), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia, a production for children), Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Riding Hood) etc. She performed at the Athens Concert Hall and in numerous concerts in Austria, Germany and Greece. She also sung Coraline (Le tor?ador), Gretel (H?nsel und Gretel) and Vera (The Apaches of Athens).
Evita Hioti Opera singer
Greek soprano, she studied voice under Nina Kaloutsa (diploma with honours and first prize), while she studied next to Martha Arapi, Christina Giannakopoulou and Christophoros Stamboglis. She appeared in numerous concerts and opera galas in Athens, Syros (Aegean Festival) and Bratislava (festival Viva Musica Viva Europa). During 2012/16 she took part in Participating Οpera, a programme for young opera singers at the Theocharakis Foundation, Athens. She was awarded the second prize in the 2nd Panhellenic UNESCO Competition. Her collaboration with the Greek National Opera began in 2016 with The Murderess by Giorgos Koumendakis. Later she became a member of the GNO Opera Studio under the guidance of tenor Zachos Terzakis. Finally, she graduated from the Department of Primary Education of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Petros Magoulas Αnton
Greek bass, he was born in Athens. He studied under Frangiskos Voutsinos, Kostas Paskalis and Aris Christofellis. He has sung at the Greek National Opera, Kiel Opera House, Welsh National Opera, Bilbao Opera, Athens and Thessaloniki Concert Halls, Athens Festival, etc such roles as Sarastro (Die Zauberfl?te), Osmin (Die Entf?hrung aus dem Serail), Don Giovanni, Heinrich der Vogler (Lohengrin), Daland (Der fliegende Holl?nder), Banco (Macbeth), Sparafucile (Rigoletto), Pagano (I Lombardi alla prima crociata), Don Basilio (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Vodn?k (Rusalka), Count des Grieux (Manon), Colline (La bohème), Alidoro (La Cenerentola), as well the bass parts in Verdi's and Mozart's Requiem, J. S. Bach's Johannes-Passion, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Handel's Messiah, etc. He has taken part in internationally awarded recordings such as Handel's Oreste, Arianna in Creta, Tamerlano, Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Alessandro Severo (MDG) and Arminio (Decca Classics) under George Petrou. Recently he sang the role of the Commendatore (Don Giovanni) at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden, London).