Hercules, Prometheus and the Olympic Games ignite a flame in NYC’s Lincoln Center
By Billy Chrissochos
The Olympic Flame by internationally, acclaimed composer Panagiotis Karousos saw its American premiere on Saturday, March 26th, 2016. This was a groundbreaking, historic production marking it as the first time a Greek Opera sung in the Hellenic language was presented at Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts’ Bruno Walter Auditorium. The opera was a tribute to the summer Olympic Games that will take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. It was also an official event of the Greek Independence Parade that just took place in NYC on Sunday, April 10th.
The Opera which debuted in Montreal in 2005 is an opera in two acts related to the legend of Heracles and the founding of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Flame is the second operatic work by Panagiotis Karousos. Along with “Prometheus” (first performed in Greek at the Place des Arts, in June of 1994 and subsequently in its French version in June of 1996) and “Alexander the Great” (Canada 2007) is part of a trilogy depicting the greatness of the human spirit and the humanism of the “Hellenes.” This is stated in the philosophical works of Greek antiquity and clearly indicates that we are all descendants of the culture and civilization of that era.
The opera in its entirety is based on the Olympic flame and as it unfolds gives us the fundamental meaning behind the ancient Greek religious ritual, “for that is what it is”. The flame as we know it fueling the Olympics is basically a simple commemoration/re-enactment of the flame as was stolen from the Gods by Prometheus and brought to the people; The flame of knowledge, from which civilizations were born. In Greek antiquity it was a religious ritual, with the purpose of bringing of the people closer to the Gods.
Its second act is based on the tragedy “THE TRACHINIAE” (The Women of Trachis) by Sophocles. In the Trachiniae, the sufferings of Heracles are described and the levity of Deianeira, atoned for by her death; “The Olympic Flame” is a presentation of a major work of Greek mythology and philosophy, and in turn its contribution to world civilization.
The composition and orchestration of the opera is influenced by the post-romantic era in music and by other classical elements in Greek antiquity thus making it an avant-garde opera of the new millennium. Dominant in this work as in others by Panagiotis Karousos is the exaltation of lyricism, which relates well to ancient Greek tragedy due to the fact that they are both lyrical works and Greek tragic poetry is lyrical.
The opera World Premiered in Montreal’s Cathedral at Notre-Dame Basilica with soloists, choir and large Symphony Orchestra conducted by maestro Andre Gauthier. In Greece the opera was presented at the Old Parliament House of Greece with costumes. The bel-canto style of the arias and melancholic romanticism raise the work as a major operatic masterpiece of the new era in opera, “an exaltation of lyricism never heard before.” Among with Prometheus and Alexander the Great, they contribute as the most important operatic works in the Greek history of classical music.
The stars of the show were the singers of course who with operatic fervor enthralled the packed theatre. The part of Heracles was sung by tenor Demetrios John Tsinopoulos who starred in “Porphyra, A Grecian Rock Opera’s” Carnegie Hall debut last May. The dynamic and tragic role of Deianeira was sung by the brilliant soprano Elisabeth Shoup. The roles of Hyllos & Prometheus by bass Kofi Hayford, the roles of Macaria and Iole by soprano Stella Papatheodorou, and the role of Alcmene by mezzo-soprano Viktoriya Koreneva.
The brand new Hellenic American Orchestra that was created for the Hellenic American Center of the Arts American branch was conducted by a rising star, conductor Jestin Pieper, who was instrumental along with tenor Demetrios John Tsinopoulos, production manager Billy Chrissochos, and stage director Elias Markos in bringing all these talented musicians together.
About the Composer:
Panagiotis Karousos is a renowned Greek-Canadian composer who brings to his music the philosophy and spiritualism of the Greek classics. He has done numerous concerts in Canada and the US with his Symphony No.1 “Liberty,” and Symphony No.2 “Olympic” with the Astoria Symphony, the FACE Symphony Orchestra, the OSJL-L Symphony Orchestra and the Monteregie Symphony Orchestra; under the direction of maestros Silas Nathaniel Huff, Andre Gauthier, Theodora Stathopoulos and Luc Chaput.
The Piano Concerto was presented with pianist Nathalie Joncas under UNESCO auspices in the Montreal Popular Concerts series in Montreal’s Maurice Richard Arena to an audience of 5000 people. The Olympic Flame choir was presented with the Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of Gunst wat’n Kunst at Hague, Holland, with maestro R. Pylarinos. The opera Alexander the Great was presented in Montreal at the Montreal Notre Dame Basilica and in Chicago, Illinois and conducted by David Stech. It was also presented in North Carolina Theatre under the direction of Grant Gilman, and in Toronto at P.C. Ho Theater Cultural Center of Toronto with the Sneak Peak Symphony Orchestra of Toronto University and soloists under the direction of maestro Victor Cheng.
The opera Prometheus performed in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC. From 2013, Mr. Karousos held major presentations of Prometheus in Ancient Greek Theaters like Epidaurus, Messina, and the Ancient Agora, and the National Archeological Museum of Greece. In 2014 Prometheus presented with bass Vasilis Asimakopoulos at United Nations in New York under the auspices of UNESCO. In Berlin he did a chamber music concert and Liederabend. His Symphony No.4 “Earth” premiered with City of Athens Symphony Orchestra under maestro Eleftherios Kalkanis. His concerts broadcasted live from National Greek Radio and Attica TV.
The Olympic Flame was sponsored by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater NY. The production team would like to thank Mr. Petros Galatoulas and the board as well as our co-sponsors Yeoryia Studios and Long Island City Academy of Music who granted the production free rehearsal space. This was a co-production of the Hellenic American Center of the Arts, which is the organization of Mr. Karousos and Mr. Chrissochos. You can read all about our future concerts in Europe and the US at the
http://hellenicamericancenterofthearts.blogspot.com. This was also a co-production of Billy Chrissochos’ musical, “Porphyra, A Grecian Rock Opera. Anna and Vladimir: The love that ROCKED the world,” which is debuting OFF Broadway at the Players Theatre May 13th, 14th, &15th. Get your tickets now at www.Porphyrarockopera.com.