New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Soprano Katia Paschou’s exuberance when she expressed a conclusive moment in her last song in a performance at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall in May 2008 by running up the aisle–an audience interaction that drew a standing ovation–remains in memory as a signature of youth and beauty…and artistic promise. Ms. Paschou is presently fulfilling that promise in spite of Greece’s difficult economic climate.
“Crisis can become an opportunity”, she wrote from Greece this week, about a new project, “I am very pleased to inform you that when being at your artistic prime, nothing can really stop you…Despite the very hard conditions we are now experiencing in Greece, Greek audiences now turn their interest towards new experiences of good quality, as they seek for quality time and entertainment.”
Ms. Paschou is using the gorgeous voice and dramatic talent which she says her grandmother, Katia “instinctively taught” her by singing to her as a baby, to create a new type of performance she describes as “a ‘special event”, a “surprise opera’”.
She sought–and obtained–corporate support from Lipton and Dior to design a “tailor made” event for these sponsors, an opera event in which three sopranos dressed up as legendary movie actresses are invited to a tea party. “The event met with great success and brought us new fans, mostly young people!” Paschou wrote, “And of course new collaborations are on the way!” A plus: Paschou’s projects are on their way to making opera appealing to Greece’s younger population.
Ms. Paschou followed up her inspirational e-mail announcement of her new project, with an e-mail interview with the GN.
GN: What inspired your new project?
KP: The idea for “Three Tea Soprano” project came to me when I realized that there was a shift in the Greek audience: the tendency of young people in Greece is to attend concerts, events and performances that would give them a sense of life experience.
Audiences are not “just audiences” anymore; they are audience-participators! Especially young people need interaction in their entertainment. Meanwhile, the crisis in Greece has encouraged people to go to the theater, opera and music halls more often for more uplifting and much more economic entertainment– replacing shopping or dance clubs and major pop music scenes. I felt there was a huge opportunity for fresh classical singers to develop a new way of introducing opera and musical theater to audiences that have not visited our National Opera yet. And so I came up with the idea of connecting opera and cinema, to make us artists more familiar with the audience. The three sopranos were transformed into Romy Schneider, Sophia Loren and Fannie Ardant. And we sang in these three different languages as if we came out from their movie scenes.
What made this project really special was that we chose to perform the most famous arias such as “Ach ich fuehl’s”, “La Rondine”, “Adieu notre petite table”, on a cozy music stage surrounded by Viennese chairs and tables, where our audience felt comfortable and enjoyed drinking the Lipton Exclusive Collection, as if we were at a very elegant tea party. The Kochleas Quartet accompanied the serving of the tea, and then we entered the room as special guests, Romy, Sophia, Fannie, took our seats, started drinking tea and then the performance begun when it was least expected. A real surprise opera experience!
GN: What have you enjoyed about doing these projects?
KP: In these kinds of projects I have the opportunity to be as creative as I want and go beyond the limits of a very strict art form as classical music. Therefore, our audiences are people like ourselves, and we feel this closeness when we sing for them.
GN: What are your hopes for future projects?
KP: My hopes are that these kinds of projects will broaden our audience and will make opera appealing to young people. I have so many similar ideas, and I hope I always get the financial support from honorable sponsors such as Lipton and Dior, without their help I would have never made my dreams come true! And I thank them for it!
GN: How did you choose the other singers who perform with you?
KP: The most important thing when one wants to experiment with classical art forms is to engage artists of a very high level in their projects. Myrsini Margariti and Maira Milolidaki, our pianist Zoe Zeniodi and I, all recipients of the Onassis Foundation Scholarship, united our forces into a very demanding program, vocally and artistically. We did not lower our standards just to approach people who do not “understand so much about opera”. On the contrary, we raised our standards really high performing one really hard aria after the other in a very innovative staging by Dimitris Bogdanos.
G: Is there anything else you would like to say?
KP: My only wish to perform this beautiful concert in NYC and my heartfelt thanks to the GN for this wonderful interview!
Ms. Paschou expresses her deep gratitude to the Onassis Foundation for its support and for its continued generous support of all its “alumni”. She also thanks all her teachers and friends in the US who encouraged her to “think ‘out of the box?” “I always keep you all in my heart,” she writes, and I am sending you back a message: No matter what, let’s keep on dreaming!”
The Athens-born Ms. Paschou, who holds a BA in Theatre Studies from the University of Athens School of Philosophy. was “deeply acquainted” with classical music since childhood, when she was a classical ballet dancer, but became seriously involved in classical music in her early 20s,
After moving to the US in 2007 she performed her repertoire of operatic roles: Zerlina, Musetta, Micäela, Donna Elvira, Liù, Manon, as well as art songs and vocal chamber music works at various venues. Since 2008, when she returned to Europe, she sang the roles of Adina and Susanna in Torino, the leading role of the “Cretan Girl” of the Greek composer S. Samaras at the Megaron music hall in Athens, and the role of Valencienne in Lehar’s “Merry Widow” at the National Opera. She have also toured Greece in concerts with the world famous Greek bass Dimitris Kavrakos.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEhKqPT5gtA to see the opera event clip.