The Greek National Opera was established in 1939. From early on, its program included operetta and dance, in addition to the opera. Inaugurating a new period in its long history, the GNO is now settled in its new home at the SNFCC complex. Its new facilities enable it to further develop its wide range of activities as an organization for education and the arts, including opera, ballet, experimental projects, shows for children, educational programs, as well as training the next generation of dancers and developing public benefit projects. With its wonderful acoustics, fine ambiance, and advanced specifications, the Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage – a versatile space for experimentation and research – along with state-of-the-art auxiliary spaces, enable the GNO to play an ever more important role promoting the arts in Greece.
The year 2017 was a landmark for the Greek National Opera, which relocated from the small scale Olympia Theatre in the center of Athens to its new, state-of-the-art premises at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. It did not cease its full artistic operation during the transitional period: people living in the Athens metro area had the opportunity to watch Verdi’s Macbeth, and the dance triptych Landscapes by the GNO Ballet, at the Stavros Niarchos Hall (SNH). The Alternative Stage proved to be the highlight of the year: the first GNO musical commission, Erotokritos by Dimitris Maramis, premiered with great success.
The GNO opened officially at the SNFCC in October 2017 with the production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at the Stavros Niarchos Hall. An ambitious production with international impact, it was the first of several leads the GNO is proud of: it was the first time for the GNO to present this play, and it was the first time for internationally acclaimed Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa to sing at the GNO.
The Greek National Opera’s 2023/24 season programme –conceived by GNO Artistic Director Giorgos Koumendakis– is bringing a fresh line-up to the Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus that features classic works of the repertoire in new productions, the first Wagner work to be staged at the SNFCC, one new opera, major co-productions with international houses, leading conductors, directors, and set designers, famous soloists, new ballet productions, revivals of popular opera and ballet productions, as well as the third work to be commissioned for The Artist on the Composer programme, not to mention an ongoing major tribute marking the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas’ birth. This programme is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.
Of the new opera and ballet productions being presented as part of the 2023/24 season, the Stavros Niarchos Hall will be hosting Les Éclairs by Philippe Hersant, with a libretto by Jean Echenoz; a double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci directed by Nikos Karathanos; Brecht and Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny directed by Yannis Houvardas; Wagner’s Die Walküre directed by John Fulljames; and the ballets Carmen and Coppélia choreographed by Johan Inger and Edward Clug respectively, while Puccini’s Turandot –directed by Andrei Șerban– is to be staged at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to mark the centennial anniversary of Puccini’s death.
The GNO is further expanding its co-production strategy this season, working with the Opéra Comique (Paris) on Les Éclairs, the Royal Danish Opera on Die Walküre, and NEON for the third edition of The Artist on the Composer programme, commissioning Ioanna Pantazopoulou.
Revivals of major past opera and ballet productions will be bringing Verdi’s La traviata, directed by Konstantinos Rigos, to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, while the Stavros Niarchos Hall will be hosting Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk directed by Fanny Ardant, and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker choreographed by Konstantinos Rigos. To honour the memory of the great director Graham Vick, who recently passed away, the GNO is also reviving his production of Puccini’s La bohème, which he staged at the GNO during the 2007/08 season.
For its season 2023/24 performances, the GNO will be welcoming such world-renowned Greek and international artists as the globally acclaimed Greek set and costume designer Chloé Obolensky, British designer Leslie Travers, the leading directors Andrei Șerban, John Fulljames, Yannis Houvardas, and Nikos Karathanos, the choreographers Johan Inger and Edward Clug, and a full roster of famous soloists, including Nadine Sierra, Ekaterina Gubanova, Catherine Foster, Freddie De Tommaso, Dimitri Platanias, Svetlana Sozdateleva, Cellia Costea, Sergey Semishkur, Vassiliki Karayanni, Dionysios Sourbis, Yannis Christopoulos, Tassos Apostolou, Arsen Soghomonyan, Tommi Hakala, Marina Prudenskaya, Stefan Vinke, Allison Oakes, and Petros Magoulas. New season productions are to be conducted by both internationally acclaimed and up-and-coming maestros, including Paolo Carignani, Pier Giorgio Morandi, Philippe Auguin, Ondrej Olos, Fabrizio Ventura, Miltos Logiadis and Yorgos Ziavras.
In June 2024, the GNO will be presenting a concert tribute to Manolis Kalomiris spotlighting the composer’s links to the GNO and showcasing two of his unknown works.
The tribute programme marking the centennial anniversary of Maria Callas’ birth will be reaching its peak from September through December with, among other events, an opera gala at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Unboxing Callas: An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive exhibition at the National Library of Greece, and a documentary on the unsung Greek years of Greece’s great diva.
Across the first three days of Orthodox Easter Holy Week in 2024, the GNO will also be presenting its Second Sacred Music Festival at monuments, museums, and churches set within the Plaka neighbourhood in the very heart of Athens.
For its 2023/24 season, the Greek National Opera is seeking to cast a critical yet compassionate eye over the female figures that appear in works of opera and dance, contemplating pressing issues of women’s empowerment, and envisioning the eradication of social exclusion, inequality, and gendered violence. From the emancipated Katerina Ismailova, the consumptive seamstress Mimì, the betrayed peasant girl Santuzza, the indomitable Carmen, and the fearless warrior Brünnhilde through to the free-spirited sex worker Jenny Hill, the mysterious Coppélia, the solitary Princess Turandot, and the courtesan Violetta Valéry, the heroines of the 2023/24 season grandly loom large within their stories, even though many of their fates have drawn criticism over the years. Retaining a sense of respect for the classical masterpieces of centuries past, and avoiding any simplistic intent to cancel the narrative achievements of their creators while also remaining actively engaged with and involved in the progressive achievements of 21st-century society, the GNO is seeking to spark discussion with regard to traditional portrayals of women in works of the repertoire, thus contributing to efforts fighting for equity and social fairness.
More information www.nationalopera.gr/en/