One man turns Sy­ros into a mu­sic des­ti­na­tion

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY CHRISTINA SANOUDOU

Ev­ery sum­mer for the past 13 years, the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of the Aegean trans­forms Sy­ros into a des­ti­na­tion for clas­si­cal mu­sic and opera afi­ciona­dos from all over the world, but few know that this in­sti­tu­tion owes its ex­is­tence to one man’s ad­mi­ra­tion for a the­ater.

Greek-Amer­i­can pro­ducer and con­duc­tor Peter Ti­boris, or­ga­nizer of hun­dreds of con­certs at New York’s mag­nif­i­cent Carnegie Hall, vis­ited the Cy­cladic is­land’s re­stored Apollo The­ater in 1991 and in­stantly got a yearn­ing to to plan a fes­ti­val there. Six years later his dream came true and Sy­ros – with which he had no per­sonal con­nec­tion un­til then – be­came a sec­ond home for him­self and his wife, Cana­dian- Finnish so­prano Ei­lana Lap­palainen, founder in 2010 of the Greek Opera Stu­dio.

“Even though most of my work is in New York, the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of the Aegean has be­come very im­por­tant not just for Sy­ros or the global au­di­ence, but also for me per­son­ally,” Ti­boris said ear­lier this month, just hours after ar­riv­ing in the coun­try to pre­pare for this year’s fes­ti­val, run­ning July 16-30.

Even though he was born in the US, where his grand­par­ents had set­tled many decades ear­lier, his mu­si­cal jour­ney was in­trin­si­cally linked to his Greek roots. Pro­fi­cient at the pi­ano by the age of 9 years old, young Ti­boris started tak­ing or­gan lessons at the Greek Ortho­dox Church in She­boy­gan, Wis­con­sin, and a year later was ap­pointed or­gan­ist of the parish. Years later, in 1984, he was asked to or­ga­nize a con­cert in New York in trib­ute to Arch­bishop Iakovos of Amer­ica, an event that even­tu­ally led to MidAmer­ica Pro­duc­tions.

Since then, Ti­boris has con­ducted more than 1,300 con­certs at em­blem­atic the­aters around the world and di­rected con­certs, op­eras and bal­lets. At the same time, he has strength­ened his cul­tural ties to Greece even fur­ther, and not just with Sy­ros fes­ti­val. In July 2020, for ex­am­ple, he will di­rect the world pre­mier of “Eleni” in Athens, an opera based on the novel by his friend and au­thor Ni­cholas Gage, tak­ing the pro- duc­tion to Carnegie Hall at the start of the fol­low­ing year.

Ti­boris has de­scribed the per­for­mance as an or­a­to­rio for a big choir, five soloists and one nar­ra­tor, adding that Gage him­self has been cast as nar­ra­tor.

With state fund­ing pulled be­cause of cut­backs, the fes­ti­val in the past few years has been bankrolled by Ti­boris him­self and by pri­vate spon­sors. “The fes­ti­val costs around 400,000 eu­ros a year and pro­ceeds from the tick­ets barely come to 30,000 eu­ros,” he ad­mits.

The con­duc­tor, how­ever, is not los­ing heart and be­lieves the cri­sis has an ex­pi­ra­tion date. “Greece is a small but an im­por­tant coun­try and this is some­thing that the Euro­pean Union, as well as the United States, are start­ing to re­al­ize. The 2008-2013 cri­sis in the US was hor­rific, but we were ul­ti­mately able to re­cover and the same thing will hap­pen here, even if it takes a lit­tle longer.”

Among the ex­cit­ing events on this year’s pro­gram at the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of the Aegean are the pre­mier of “Madama But­terly” di­rected by Jo­hannes Weigand and con­ducted by Giovanni Pa­cor, a gala with the stars of the Na­tional Bal­let of Bucharest chore­ographed by Re­nato Zanella and a con­cert by 100 choirs from the US and Greece.

Peter Ti­boris, renowned con­duc­tor and founder of the In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of the Aegean.

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