New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
The generous support of Mrs. Katerina Nafplioti-Panagopoulos, given in memory of her late husband, Pericles S. Panagopoulos, made possible the highly successful October 10 Carnegie Hall debut of Yiannis Hadjiloizou and the newly-formed Athens Philharmonic. All proceeds of this concert go to the new Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Shrine at Ground Zero, the small historic and beloved St. Nicholas church having been destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros thanked Mrs. Panagopoulos for her generous support for this project at the “Meet the Maestro” reception she hosted at the Four Seasons on October 8, referring to Mrs. Panagopoulos as “Ambassador of Greece to the world.”
And she is. Recognized as Ambassador by the Greek State, Mrs. Panagopoulos was the first Greek woman to receive the 2012 “Women and Sport” European Award from the International Olympic Committee and received the 2017 “European Citizen” Award.
Continuing here is the interview begun with Mrs. Panagopoulos at the “Meet the Maestro” reception, where she told us she was “very happy to be in New York City again and hoped to be here again soon.” We do, too.
GN: What propelled your initiative to support a concert to benefit St. Nicholas Shrine—another of your great services to the community?
KP: The enthronement of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America brings a new hope, new possibilities, and a new phase in the role of the Greek American community in the United States. I consider it my responsibility to help resurrect St. Nicholas from the ashes of 9/11, even more so since St. Nicholas is a home for all peoples, and His Eminence has announced it as his top priority.
GN: What do you see as the importance of the St. Nicholas project to the Greek community, to New York City, to the world?
KP: St. Nicholas is the only sacred entity at Ground Zero, and the last piece of the puzzle of 9/11 awaiting to be restored. The Calatrava design helps the church blend harmoniously with its surroundings, while at the same time it stands out because it induces awe. This has always been the role of the Greek civilization to the world, of Greek Americans to the United States, of New York City to our lives. I believe and have faith that the timely completion of St. Nicholas in the heart of the World Trade Center will turn a new page for world peace.
GN: Many awards have marked your service to Hellenism. Your heart must lie in Greece’s importance to the world throughout the ages and today.
KP: The world’s principles as we know them are rooted in Hellenic civilization. Respecting, loving and promoting Hellenic values is mandatory for the continued evolution of humankind. I have dedicated myself to spreading the message of our great ancestors as well as that of great men and women of today.
My presence in New York City this time is tied to the message of my late husband’s legacy throughout the seas. Pericles Panagopoulos was a man of ethos, vision, and endless hard and smart work. My visit
is also closely related with the restoration of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero. Especially in Santiago Calatrava new architectural design, our Greek Orthodox Church arrives anew to serve as a universal home of unity at a place that has marked the hearts of people of all nations, and in this city, which manifests global values.
GN: As an Athenian you would be warranted in taking pride in the Athens Philharmonic.
KP: As in all great things in life, the Athens Philharmonic was conceived by a great visionary, this unparalleled personality and musician among us who is already writing his own page in the book of history: Maestro Yiannis Hadjiloizou.
I feel honored to be associated with him and his Athens Philharmonic, who have proved to be the ultimate representatives of modern Greek culture to the world. Maestro Hadjiloizou’s extremely ambitious and frighteningly daring project, presenting Mahler’s monumental Resurrection symphony specifically for his debut at Carnegie Hall, has elevated the image and conception of our modern culture to levels that only he can maintain and evolve. His performance at Stern Auditorium has been hailed “a triumph”, with a full house standing ovation, while he has been compared to the legendary Sir Georg Solti…only to be complimented as “more fluid and contained” than the late Hungarian maestro.
Maestro Yiannis Hadjiloizou is the first Greek Pianist/Conductor/Composer since Dimitris Mitropoulos to step onto the podium at Carnegie’s large Hall to conduct Mahler 2, and the greatest artist today to continue in the footsteps of Leonard Bernstein.
Performing the U.S. premieres of his father, Michael Hadjiloizou’s composition along with his own prior to Mahler’s Resurrection has marked a significant page in history. His work with the Athens Philharmonic is of national and international pride and importance, and I am thrilled that I could be part of this historic moment.
GN: What do you feel is most important for Greek Americans to do for Greece now?
KP: Greek Americans have always been an example to the rest of us. Your love for home, your striving for excellence, and your ability to reinvent yourselves by adding the best of what is to be an American, have made all of us proud. Through business and politics, medicine and sport, culture and the arts. Continue to be yourselves, and always evolve, keeping your language and customs alive, simultaneously blending with American society. Still, it is important to embrace men and women of intellect who can represent Greece at the top level internationally.