The Opera cannot be dependant on the State Theater of Northern Greece
"This Greek conducts with her entire being", wrote the German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" in 2000 about Lisa Xanthopoulou , a conductor from Thessaloniki. Nevertheless, in her own words, she put a very promising international career "on hold" in order to assume the position of Artistic Director of Thessaloniki Opera.
She has conducted significant German orchestras such as the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Symphony Orchestra, the Beethovenhalle Orchestra, the State Orchestra of Frankfurt (Oder), the Landeskapelle Eisenach, the New Brandenburg Philharmonic, the Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra, the Baden-Baden Philharmonic, and others.
Nonetheless, she returned to her birthplace and began to climb the 20 steps - one by one - that lead to the establishment of a full-fledged operatic organization. She is now in the third and last year of her contract with Thessaloniki Opera. And she is on "the third step", as she says.
She is the second German-trained artist at the helm of a cultural organization in this city, along with the Artistic Director of Thessaloniki State Orchestra, Myron Michailides, giving proof to the notion that German method, discipline, and austerity bring about good results.
On Friday, Lisa Xanthopoulou presented a series of events on behalf of Thessaloniki Opera, devoted for a second consecutive year to the goal of shaping the audiences and artists of tomorrow: the Opera's Educational Program for 2007-2008. It consists of musical education workshops, the opera Die Kluge of Carl Orff by young performers and the 2nd "Pes Opera" Festival, with performances, competitions, activities, etc.
She also announced the Opera's new production, opening on the 2nd of February, of a little-known opera by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Edipo Re.
"But there will be only seven performances, as these were the only days available for the stage of the Foundation for Macedonian Studies, to be presented between two productions by the State Theater of Northern Greece", says Lisa Xanthopoulou. "Time and space remain our biggest problems," she notes, "inasmuch as, even if we had funds, we cannot prepare a major production in just two months". Accordingly, her main goal remains achieving independence from the State Theater of Northern Greece, which is also the wish of Nikitas Tsakiroglou.
On the road to autonomy
"For Thessaloniki Opera to be established and functioning properly it needs to become an actual entity, to have its own budget, staff and building. At the moment we are renting costumes because we do not have access to the seamstresses of the State Theater of Northern Greece, of which the Opera is a part." But the issue of autonomy seems to be heading in the right direction. "In February, a bill will be introduced in Parliament for the establishment of the State Opera of Macedonia-Thrace," she states. Until it is actually passed and implemented, Lisa Xanthopoulou's proposal to the Ministry of Culture is the separation of the Opera from the State Theater of Northern Greece, as an interim solution.
For the time being, funding has been increased to €850.000 from €760.000 and the balance has been provided by the "Politismos" - Culture and Civilization program of the Ministry of Culture, as well as European programs. "For Thessaloniki Opera to function as an organization it needs proper funding. For the production of Aida at the "Forest Theater", in the summer we had to rent absolutely everything and recruit external staff because we were not allowed to use any of the State Theater's technical crew. We had to hire workers, rent costumes and storage space; we were forced to bring in an orchestra from outside Thessaloniki, as both city orchestras were otherwise committed. This meant extra costs in terms of travel and hotel expenses and hospitality, for many days. An enormous cost for a production performed on only three nights, since the Forest Theater had been booked for other events already."
Despite all this, Lisa Xanthopoulou is optimistic when she sees the response of the public. "It is the people who will bring pressure to bear on our political leadership, so that the city can acquire a bona fide opera. And the people seem to want an Opera House in Thessaloniki." Something which, however, may take some time. "I'm used to delays. A beginning has been made, and there is no turning back."
German-trained Lisa Xanthopoulou gave up a very promising international career to become the artistic director of Thessaloniki Opera
CAPTION No. 2:
The children of Thessaloniki are introduced to opera through the various activities at the "Pes Opera" Festival