Opera ''Medea'' by Luigi Cherubini
The Greek National Opera is launching its tribute marking the centennial of Maria Callas’ birth with Luigi Cherubini’s Medea. This major international GNO co-production with three leading North American opera houses –the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago– is to be presented on 25, 27, 30 April and 2, 4, 9 May 2023 inside the Stavros Niarchos Hall, conducted by Philippe Auguin, directed and with sets by David McVicar, and with Anna Pirozzi making her debut in the title role. This production is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.
Overlooked for many decades, Italian composer Luigi Cherubini’s Medea –first presented in Paris in 1797, and at La Scala in Milan just over a century later, in 1909– was brought back into the limelight when Maria Callas first performed the title role in 1953 at the Florence May Festival. The revival was a huge success and, thanks to Callas’ extraordinary musical and acting abilities, the music world rediscovered a thrilling work that had so unjustly languished in obscurity. Medea is an opera inextricably linked with Greece: based on the Euripidean tragedy of the same title, and with the performance given by Maria Callas as part of the historic GNO production at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in 1961 –directed by Alexis Minotis and with sets and costumes by Yannis Tsarouchis– leaving an indelible mark on the modern Greek cultural landscape.
Cherubini, who spent most of his adult life in Paris and made decisive contributions to France’s music scene, wrote the opera on the basis of a French libretto by François-Benoît Hoffman, with spoken dialogue (prose) set between the musical segments (arias, duets, choral sections, and so on). The text went on to be translated into Italian by Carlo Zangarini, with the dialogue set to music by the German composer Franz Paul Lachner. This was the version revived by Callas, and is the one being presented here by the GNO.
With this international co-production of Medea, the Greek National Opera is launching its partnership with three leading North American opera houses –the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago– made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The production premiered in New York last September, where it opened the Met’s 2022/23 season, and –after its run of Athens performances– the work is also set to be presented in Montreal and Chicago. Regarding this first collaboration between the GNO and the Metropolitan Opera, the General Manager of the New York Met, Peter Gelb, notes: “It’s been our honour to work with the Greek National Opera on David McVicar’s dramatic and striking staging of Cherubini’s Medea, which opened here at the Metropolitan Opera House, last fall. On behalf of all of us in New York, I wish you the very, very best for what I know will be a spectacular opening night in Athens on April 25th.” The Artistic Director of the GNO, Giorgos Koumendakis, had this to say about the collaboration: “Our first co-production with the Metropolitan Opera in New York opens a new chapter in the history of the Greek National Opera. Cherubini’s Medea, based on the tragedy by Euripides, has been definitively shaped by the iconic performance given by Maria Callas as part of the historic 1961 GNO production of the opera presented at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. Opening on 25 April, Medea will be launching our tribute marking the centennial of Maria Callas’ birth.”
This monumental new production is directed and has sets by the internationally renowned opera director David McVicar. In its review, the New York Times called the production “impressive and enjoyable”, while the Observer noted it “felt both timeless and utterly modern”. Costumes are by Doey Lüthi and lighting is by Paule Constable, with projection design by S. Katy Tucker. The revival director is Jonathon Loy, with Hannah Postlethwaite serving as the associate set designer.
Debuting in the exceptionally demanding title role –one so inextricably linked with Maria Callas– is a leading soloist of our times, the internationally acclaimed dramatic coloratura soprano Anna Pirozzi, in what is her first collaboration with the GNO. Pirozzi has carved out a singular career path over the last ten years after her 2012 debut in Turin and the massive success she enjoyed at the Salzburg Festival in the role of Abigaille (Nabucco), conducted by Riccardo Muti. She immediately became highly sought-after by the world’s most major opera houses and, to date, has sung at such venues as the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, La Scala in Milan, Opéra national de Paris, the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, El Liceu in Barcelona, Arena di Verona, the San Francisco Opera, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Regarding her debut in the role of Medea, Pirozzi notes: “I will have to search deep within myself for the right key to interpret that ancient, hallucinatory, wild madness that as a mother just does not belong to me. But I will give my all for this debut, which –with such an important production and in Athens– is fundamental for me.”
Giorgio Berrugi will be performing the role of Giasone, with Yanni Yannissis as Creonte, Vassiliki Karayanni as Glauce, and Nefeli Kotseli as Neris. Joining them are Nikolas Douros, Despoina Skarlatou, and Martha Sotiriou. With the GNO Orchestra and Chorus. The production is being conducted by the internationally renowned maestro Philippe Auguin. Agathangelos Georgakatos is chorus master of the GNO Chorus.