Don’t underestimate the Athenians

12 Oct

All you read in the news is stories of poverty, shock and horror from Athens. What doesn’t get reported quite as widely is the perseverance and mettle of the Athenians and how the battered artistic institutions are responding to the financial crash.

Every year since 1977, when Maria Callas passed away on 16th September, the anniversary of her death, a unique event in the Greek classical music calendar takes place, a concert at the Herod Atticus Amphitheatre in her memory. This year due to financial pressures this concert didn’t take place. Instead the National Opera of Greece took to the streets  (as they have done many times in the last few years to promote their work) and brought arias that Callas sang in her illustrious career to the streets and squares of Athens. The processional event was attended by at least 5.000 people, starting at the New Acropolis Museum and concluding with a full orchestral and soloist recital on the steps of the National Archaeological Museum (in whose rooms and garden I spent many of my childhood summers) A venue suitably a stone’s throw away from the flat that the Greek-American diva rented during her stay.

Every time you think of Greece as the pariah of the European family do also spare a thought for the indomitable spirit of us Greeks. We didn’t give up during four centuries of Ottoman occupation and whatever the difficulties thrown at us we always find a way to come together and celebrate what makes us unique. So instead of thinking of all the negatives, let’s watch the Athenians assemble to celebrate the life and work of Maria Callas and regain some pride via the power of music and the collective memories of a great artist.

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