The ancient Atticus Theatre opened its doors to 1,500 unemployed Greek citizens this week, for a one-off free performance of Richard Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’.
As the drama of Greece’s bailout row continued offstage, Myron Michaildis,
the National Opera’s Artistic Director, explained how the offering came about: “We decided that during these hard times, we cannot shy away from the real problems our society is facing. So through a series of artistic events held in various spaces, we are bringing opera to a wider audience because we believe that it is a type of entertainment people appreciate. And that is why we are holding this event today.”
As unemployment rates in Greece climb to 27%, such ad hoc acts of benevolence are becoming increasingly common, and not without recognition from the beneficiaries. Amongst those queuing for tickets, an unemployed school-teacher was adamant in her praise: “I think this is a great idea not only because so many people wanted to see this production, but also because the economic situation in the country means many would never have been able to. It is a good opportunity for people to forget their troubles.”
Elsewhere, an out-of-work actor stressed the importance of maintaining an artistic programme and the role culture could play in dragging Greece out of their current woes: “In this crisis, at the very least, cultural events must be made available to the people. It is only through culture that the people will be able to rise again.”
The idea of the European continent as a cultural entity dates back to ancient Greece, and to this theatre. Perhaps appropriately then, the cast for this performance of the landmark opera of the German Romantic period, includes a blend of Greek and international stars.