Cultural Olympiad’s “All Around Is Light” Gets Kudos from Met Audience, Media.
NY Times calls archdiocesan youth choir “a pleasure”
NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Archdiocesan Choir and the Pontian Dancers “Argonaftes-Komninoi” were praised for their performance at the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday night, not only by many of the more than 5,000 spectators, but also by the New York Times and the Greek media. Most everyone reacted positively to the performance “All Around Is Light,” a Costa-Gavras production for the Cultural Olympiad, an interesting and multifaceted collage of various artistic disciplines, an experience of Greece as seen through the eyes of a Greek of the diaspora.
Criticism was mostly the result of political differences (i.e., Gavras’ anti-monarchy approach) and also in reaction to singer George Dalaras’ comments earlier this year against U.S. policy on the war in Iraq.
Despite the generally positive reaction, the event had numerous weaknesses, one of which came as a surprise. Costa-Gavras’ short film about man’s devastating effect on the Acropolis was intended to make a powerful statement shedding light on the extraordinary damage man inflicted on the ancient monument through history. The screening found the audience trying to make sense of the letters in the supertitles, which titled and dated significant events in Acropolis history, including the destruction caused by Lord Elgin and his team. Throughout the film, however, the supertitles were seen in mirror-image on the screen. At his curtain call, Gavras attributed the technical error to yet another Brit: the projectionist.
“We conveyed certain fundamental messages, and that is very significant as the performance was seen by contingents of many nations here [in New York] at the UN headquarters,” remarked Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who traveled to New York for the performance, “All Around Is Light.”
Commenting on the mistakes made during the performance, Costa-Gavras, the internationally renowned film director and screenwriter based in France, attributed the mishaps to a shortage of practice time, which he said amounted to a mere eight hours, on the prestigious New York stage, because of its unavailability.
“The comments I’m getting from people about the performance please me,” Costa-Gavras told Greek reporters. “But a director is never content because he or she picks up on things that a member of the audience may not see. And lots of mistakes were made tonight [Tuesday],” he added.
From beginning to end, Greek music was the foundation of the production, in which varying components, such as ancient tragedy, ballet, film, and other visuals, vied to portray various dimensions of Greece as evoked by the Greek immigrant, nostalgic for his homeland, its light, scenery, people, history and art.
A fundamental contributor to the music and, by connection, to the entire production, was Giorgos Dalaras, with support from the evening’s musical director, Loukas Karytinos. Greek soprano Elena Kelessidi was replaced by Savina Yiannatou. They were joined by Melina Aslanidou and the Greek-American children’s choir which proved a highlight wherever Costa-Gavras chose to include it. Lydia Koniordou recited selections from Euripides, Sophocles and Lord Byron.
The music, which included compositions by Vassilis Tsitsanis, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, and Greek folk songs, was often complemented by a collage of images, such as photos, film and splendid scenery, by the artist Alekos Fasianos made especially for the performance, as well as by well-known works by the late Yiannis Tsarouchis. All were wonderfully blended by Costa-Gavras to elicit historic memory, feeling, and aesthetic appeal.
Mixed were the reactions on the new Greek-theme ballet by Lar Lubovitch, performed by the American Ballet Theatre company. The New York Times praised the performance, while Athenian newspapers were negative.
About the children’s chorus, The New York Times wrote, “The chorus of lively children was a particular pleasure, as was the murmur of song that rose up from the audience at times, most movingly in ‘The Crazy Boat’. Set to music by Demetris Lagios with lyrics by the Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis, the song celebrates enduring Greece with the stubborn, wry affection that permeated “All Around is Light””.
The Athens daily “Kathimerini” said, “Fortunately, the Pontian dancers and the children’s choir contributed positively, while other parts of the performance were also constructive and often touching. Better preparation could have led to better results.”
About 80 children from the Greek communities of New York participate in the Metropolitan Archdiocesan Chorus, under the supervision of music teachers, Maria Kolyvas and Athanasia Filiou.
Peter Papanicolaou, chorus board chairman, told Greek News that everyone is proud of the children’s performance, and he thanked the parents for their support.
Almost all foreign delegations at the UN, including numerous UN officials, were present at the event. Archbishop Demetrios of America, who praised the performers and the Metropolitan children’s chorus, also attended.