The Air of Greece The Air of Greece
Alternative Stage
The Air of Greece
SEASON 2021/22 - George Tsontakis
17, 18 December 2021
Δημιουργική Ομάδα

George Tsontakis

George Tsontakis, Elsa Andrianou

Dramaturgical collaborator
Elsa Andrianou

Nefeli Maistrali

George Tsontakis (17/12), Nikolaos Laaris (18/12)

Set & costume supervision
Daphne Aidoni

Lighting designer
Christos Tziogkas

Music director 
Nikolaos Laaris

Πρωταγωνιστές Παράστασης

Lord Byron (Messolonghi) Robin Beer

Lord Byron (poet) Christos Kechris tenor


Christine Assimacopoulou soprano

Diamanti Kritsotaki, Margarita Syngeniotou mezzo-sopranos

Dionisios Melogiannidis, Nicolas Maraziotis tenors

Vangelis Maniatis baritone


Tita Panos Gogos
Loukas Yannis Zafeiratos student of the GNO Professional Dance School


With the participation of a 9-member instrumental ensemble


Ticket prices:: 12€, 15€
Students, children: 10€

In line with the restrictive measures for the protection of public health against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is noted that according to the instructions of the Greek State, GNO’s venues at the SNFCC will operate at a 100% capacity and only for persons who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 (audience members need to present a respective valid certificate). Children from 4 to 17 years of age may present a certificate of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 or a negative self-test result declaration, provided that the test has been taken within the last 24h.

The Greek National Opera does not collect or process any personal data during the certificate verification process.

– All measures to prevent overcrowding when entering and exiting the venue will apply, and mask-wearing is mandatory upon entering and exiting the venue and throughout the duration of the performance.

– You can find more detailed information at

Alternative Stage

The Air of Greece

George Tsontakis

Greek National Opera Alternative Stage
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

World premiere / Commissioned by the GNO Alternative Stage

An opera-drama in three scenes

Cycle “Odes to Byron”

Curator Alexandros Mouzas

Starts at 20.30 (Saturday: 21.30)  |   

As part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution

In collaboration with The Messolonghi Byron Society


The GNO Alternative Stage’s tribute to Lord Byron comes complete with the presentation of the new music-theatre work The Air of Greece by multi-awarded Greek-American composer George Tsontakis, who has been recently described by the journal Gramophone as “a giant of the American contemporary music scene”. The work, a complex poetical portrait of the 19th-century poetry star and hero of the Greek War of Independence,  Lord Byron, will be given its world premiere on the GNO Alternative Stage at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on 17 and 18 December 2021, as part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.

Well-known for the rhetorical and communicative power of his music, George Tsontakis presents on stage Lord Byron’s last days in Greece. He sets the “scene” at Byron’s deathbed and undertakes to render the dying poet’s consciousness through a musical and textual synthesis of authentic historical documents and fragments from his poetical work.

The dual role of Byron (portrayed by an actor and a tenor) is accompanied by a six-member vocal ensemble that combines the functions of English Madrigalists and Greek Chorus,  juxtaposing the memory of the poet’s passionate and aristocratic youth to the chaotic war conditions he came up against in revolutionary Greece, and highlighting the transcendent dimension of his ultimate, sublimely Romantic self-sacrifice on the altar of the ideal.

This production, part of a tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [].

The music-theatre work The Air of Greece, commissioned by the GNO, aspires to nothing less than a reconstruction of the poet’s Greek adventure: Byron arrived at Missolonghi in January 1824 and died there three months later at the age of thirty-six, after an intense period of brave, though confused, involvement with the Greek War of Independence, of meditation on the onset of middle age and his awareness of the oncoming end, of visionary desire for heroic action as well as of impetuous passion for the sixteen-year-old warrior Lukas Chalandritsanos.

George Tsontakis, who co-authors the text along with dramaturg Elsa Andrianou, portrays in The Air of Greece the immediacy of all the feelings Lord Byron may have experienced and was probably preoccupied with  those last weeks and days, beyond, of course, his lost battle with the illness that killed him. In the “play”, there are two incarnations of Byron: the contemporary Byron, who is wasting away in Missolonghi from a wholly unidentified affliction; and the poet Byron, who is represented by a solo tenor in songful recitation.

As far as the musical forces are concerned, in terms of voices, the composer attempted to mix the East with the West, English poetry with the ancient Greek poetical tradition of chorality. “With this goal  in mind and for reasons of economy, I decided to task a sextet of singers with a dual function: they are alternately transformed into an English ensemble of Madrigalists and a kind of ancient Greek tragic chorus; in the first case, obviously, so as to sing Byron’s Romantic English poetry, and in the second, so as to express the very first statements and comments of the Greeks about the great Lord Byron”, notes George Tsontakis.

The nine-member musical ensemble is conducted by George Tsontakis (17/12) and Nikolaos Laaris (18/12). Actor Robin Beer and tenor Christos Kechris perform the double role of Lord Byron. The vocal ensemble consists of the celebrated soloists of the GNO: Christine Assimacopoulou, Diamanti Kritsotaki, Marganita Syngeniotou, Nikolas Maraziotis, Dionysis Melogiannidis and Vangelis Maniatis.

The Air of Greece will travel to Thessaloniki for one and only performance at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall (Megaron) on Wednesday 29 December 2021, at 21.00, with the support of a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.



Workshop for young composers with George Tsontakis
20, 21, 22 December 2021 • Sessions start at 13.00
Duration ca. 240 min. per day
Greek National Opera Alternative Stage
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
As part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution

With the participation of composers Lina ZachariMaria PapadopoulouErrikos Sidiropoulos VelidisAlexandra TsoukalaKostas ChaliasasStathis Chomatsas

With the participation of a 5-member instrumental ensemble

Concurrently with the production of his new music theatre work The Air of Greece at the Alternative Stage, award-winning composer George Tsontakis will host a three-day composition workshop, addressed to composers until the age of 35.
Applicants may send the following material to the e-mail address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. until Monday, 1 November:
- Two (2) representative works of theirs as pdf scores. Scores may be accompanied by sound files (midi renderings acceptable)
- One (1) or two (2) works or extracts of works to be read/rehearsed by a live instrumental ensemble during the masterclass. Works to be rehearsed must be written for one (1) up to five (5) musicians from the following configuration: flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, percussion, harp, piano, violin, cello. The total duration of works to be rehearsed must not exceed six (6) minutes. It is understood that “representative” works and works “to be read” may be the same
- CV, including proof of birth date.
Composers whose works are selected will be notified by the GNO Alternative Stage by the end of November.
For further enquiries, please send any questions to the address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Free admission upon priority vouchers




Metaxata, Cephalonia, December 1823. Lord Byron is enjoying the serene landscape of the Greek island while writing in his journal. He has come to assist the Greek War of Independence, though his thoughts turn to his beloved half-sister Augusta as well as his daughter Ada, both of which he has not seen since leaving England seven years earlier. Soon, we find Byron on his sickbed in Messolonghi in April 1824, attended by his Italian servant, Tita. At his side also is his 15-year-old Greek page, named Loukas, with whom Byron has fallen hopelessly in love. The poet is dismayed at the dissension in the ranks of the Greek rebels, which is weighing the struggle down. He dreams of uniting the Greek factions; they, however, seem to be attracted mainly by his money. Despite his disappointment and a strong convulsive episode which leaves him weakened, Byron’s resolution to help the Greek fight remains unwavering. Inspired by his unrequited passion for Loukas, he narrates to the boy the story of Teresa, the “maid of Athens” he fell in love with during his first journey to Greece, years ago. The poet, exhausted by illness and emotion, falls asleep.

Scene 2

During his uneasy sleep, this superstar poet of the 19th century preemptively dreams of the “afterlife” of his body and the peregrination of his bier. Soon after his last breath, his place of burial becomes an object of dispute: Is the body going to be kept in Messolonghi, taken to Athens or sent to England? Despite his final wishes, Byron’s bier is sent back to his home country, via Zante. The poet is denied burial in the Westminster Abbey, because of his “questionable morality”. He is instead buried in the Byron family vault, close to Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, where the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, would recite a panegyric speech about the poet in 1931. Only in 1969 would he be given a memorial stone Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Scene 3

Byron awakens from his dream and recites, relieved, one of his old poems. He writes again to Augusta to enquire about Ada. Bloodletting aggravates his health. He becomes delirious, threatens suicide and hallucinates a scene of praise, based on Greek poet’s Andreas Kalvos’ “Ode to the Brittanic Muse”. He then has another dream about a Suliote war dance, and his agitation scares Loukas. Byron becomes calm again; a lock of Augusta’s hair keeps him company. Feverish, he almost confuses the boy with his sister. Enfolded in tender thoughts about Ada, Loukas and especially Augusta, the poet dies. The Greeks offer their gratitude to the great man.




George Tsontakis Music, script, conductor

Recently called “a giant of the American music scene” by Gramophone magazine, Tsontakis has been the recipient of two of the richest prizes awarded in all of classical music; the International Grawemeyer Award, and the Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He studied with Roger Sessions at Juilliard School, New York, and with Franco Donatoni in Rome. Born in Astoria, into Cretan heritage, he has become a recognised figure in Greece with performances worldwide each season. His music has been recorded by Hyperion, Koch, Innova and Naxos, including fifteen works for orchestra, over five hours of orchestral music, leading to two Grammy Awards Nominations. He was composer-in-residence with the Aspen Music Festival for 40 years, where he was director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, with the Oxford Philomusica (England), the Albany Symphony and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, among others. He is Distinguished Composer-in-Residence at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.


Elsa Andrianou Script, dramaturgical collaborator

Born in Athens, Greece. She is a graduate of the Departments of History and Archaeology and Theatre Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She has worked as a theatre researcher and critic. Her theatre reviews have been widely published (Acropolis and I lexi). She has also been writer or editor in several editions. Since 1997, she has taught dramaturgy and theatre history at several drama schools and also served as Deputy Director (2015-2016) and Director of Studies (2016-2019) of the Drama School of the National Theatre of Greece. As a dramaturg, she has collaborated with numerous important institutions and theatre organisations (National Theatre of Greece, Onassis Stegi, Athens Concert Hall, Athens Epidaurus Festival, ΟΠΕRA Theatre Group, etc) and stage directors (Stathis Livathinos, Theo Abazis, Vangelis Theodoropoulos, Cezaris Graužinis, Aris Troupakis, etc). She has made several adaptations and translations for the theatre, such as The Merchants of Nations, Erotokritos, The Iliad, The Happy Prince, Demons, The Trojan Women, The Marriage of Figaro, Oedipus Rex, The Maids, Hera, The Man Who Laughs, Woe from Wit, etc.


Nikolaos Laaris Conductor

Stephen Pettit of The Times called him “a fine artist, one incapable of making an ugly sound.” He studied piano at the Royal College of Music in London and conducting at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He was awarded a doctorate by the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he also taught. He has performed in Europe (South Bank Centre, London), the US (Carnegie Hall, New York) and Greece (Onassis Stegi, Athens, Athens Concert Hall). He has collaborated as a soloist with the Athens State Orchestra and the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra. For his collaboration with the Munich Ballet Theater in the Goldberg Variations, Dance Europe magazine called him “the star of the evening.” He has conducted the Armonia Atenea orchestra in works such as In the Penal Colony by Philip Glass, West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, Kiss me Kate by Cole Porter, The Godson by Theophrastos Sakellaridis. Recently, he performed Philip Glass’ Études for Piano, Book I at the SNF Nostos Festival and, in the near future, he is to appear in the play 33 Variations by Moises Kaufman, based on Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and postponed due to the pandemic.


Daphne Aidoni Set & costume designer

Born in Athens in 1985. She holds a degree in Architecture from the Polytechnical University of Patras and a MA in Theatre Stage Design from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). Since 2012, she has collaborated with artists in Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina and Greece. She has taught seminars on stage and costume design, claiming the active, functional and transformative role of scenography in the performing arts. Since 2015, she lives and works in Athens, forming part of the creative team of APARÄMILLON. Among others, she has collaborated with the Municipal Theatre of Santa Fe (Argentina), the Experimental Stage of the National Theatre of Greece, Choros Theatre, KET, Rabbithole Theatre, Bios, Romantso, Onassis Stegi, the 56th Dimitria Festival, etc.


Christos Tziogkas Lighting designer

He was born in Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, where he started working professionally as a photographer and lighting designer in theatre for dance and music performances. He has collaborated with numerous artists.


Robin Beer Lord Byron (Messolonghi)

He is a graduate of the Queen Mary University of London and the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA). As an actor and puppeteer, he has worked with many established companies in the UK such as Complicité, Blind Summit and Theatre Rites. With Complicité he has performed in the operas Die Zauberflöte and A Dog’s Heart at Opéra National de Lyon, Teatro alla Scala, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, English National Opera and five times at the De Nederlandse Opera. He is now based in Athens and makes his own work with his partner in art and life, Katerina Damvoglou, under their company name Fly Theatre. Their most recent shows Angeliki, Frida ki allo and Toku have toured all over Greece and Cyprus as well as further afield; to the Théâtre Marigny in Paris, the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Romania, the Modern Drama Valley Festival in Shanghai and the Göteborg Dance and Theatre Festival.


Christos Kechris Lord Byron (poet)

Greek tenor, born in Athens. His repertoire includes a wide range of roles and works from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, music of the 20th century as well as contemporary experimental musical creation. He collaborates regularly as a soloist with Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage of the Greek National Opera, Athens State Orchestra, Armonia Atenea, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra, Athens Philharmonia Orchestra, Ergon Ensemble, Latinitas Nostra, Athens Municipality Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre of Greece, Greek Art Theatre Karolos Koun, Athens Epidaurus Festival, Athens and Thessaloniki Concert Halls, Onassis Stegi. He has collaborated with orchestras and theatres in Switzerland (Opéra de Lausanne, Opéra de Fribourg), Germany (Passau State Opera, Schlosstheater Celle, Amberg Symphony Orchestra, Stadttheater Landshut), Austria (Orchester Purpur Wien), Italy (Teatro Verdi Gorizia), Malta (Teatru Manoel), Lithuania (Banchetto Musicale Vilnius), Slovenia (Seviqc Brežice Festival), Turkey (Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic Orchestra), France (Opéra national de Lorraine), Croatia (Festival Kvarner) and the recording company Deutsche Grammophon.


Christine Assimacopoulou Soprano

She has been collaborating with the GNO since 2012. She has collaborated with Armonia Atenea, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra, Athens Municipality Symphony Orchestra and Athens Youth Symphony Orchestra. She has also been regularly appearing with internationally renowned pianist Cristina Ortiz (voice – piano) in Bordeaux (France). In the theatre, she has appeared in plays by Frank Wedekind, Tennessee Williams, Tsimaras Tzanatos, Dimitris Dimitriadis and Yannis Ritsos. She has attended ancient drama seminars (ΧIV Meeting of Ancient Drama / European Cultural Centre of Delphi), as well as musical theatre (Guildford School of Acting, UK) and mime seminars (International School of Dramatic Corporeal Mime, Paris). She began and completed her studies in classical voice with soprano Mata Katsouli, obtaining her diploma with first prize magna cum laude and special distinction. She holds a diploma in musicology by the Department of Music Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, with a specialisation in historical and systematic musicology.


Diamanti Kritsotaki Mezzo-soprano

Greek mezzo-soprano, she was born in Heraklion, Crete, into a family of musicians. She obtained her singing diploma under Sonia Theodoridou and continued with postgraduate studies at the Leopold Mozart Centre for Music and Music Education at the University of Augsburg, Germany. She attended lessons and seminars with Agnes Habereder Kottler, Rudi Spring, Frieder Bernius, Karl Peter Kammerlander, Graham Johnson, Robert White, Anne Murray, Loh Siew Tuan, Christina Giannakopoulou and Christophoros Stamboglis. She has starred in such productions of the Theater of Augsburg as Mike Svoboda’s Erwin, das Naturtalent, Meeting Dido and Divertimento4amadeus. She has been collaborating with the GNO since 2013 in such productions as Macbeth, Il barbiere di Siviglia (“Interactive Opera for Primary Schools”), Carmen (“The Suitcase Opera”), Carmencitas, Madama Butterfly, The Godson, Carmen, Manon, Ζ, The Bacchae and ORFEAS 2021. During 2019/20 she sang in Oedipus: Sex With Mum Was Blinding (Sfendoni Theatre) and The Shell Game (Apo Michanis Theatre). She has worked with leading directors and conductors. Moreover, she teaches singing in her hometown.


Margarita Syngeniotou Mezzo-soprano

Greek mezzo-soprano, she was born in Athens. She studied piano, advanced music theory (fugue diploma) and voice under Katy Papalexopoulou. She has performed as a soloist with the Greek National Opera in numerous productions of a wide range of repertoire, from the Baroque to the 20th century. She was a permanent member of the Experimental Stage of the Greek National Opera since its founding. She was also a permanent member of the Hellenic Ensemble of Contemporary Music, performing Greek and foreign composers’ works, many of which were presented for the first time or written especially for her. She has collaborated with the Athens Concert Hall, Αrmonia Atenea, Orchestra of Colours, Symphony Orchestra of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, Ergon Ensemble, Cyprus State Orchestra, as well as with Delphi and Aix-en-Provence Festivals. She has performed in many cities in Greece and abroad (USA, Germany, France, Italy, England, Cyprus, etc) in such concert halls as Carnegie Hall, Munich Academy of Arts, etc. She has recorded for the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation.


Nicolas Maraziotis Tenor

He is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Master of Music in Vocal Performance) and of Keele University (Bachelor of Music Dual Hons in Music & Music Technology). He studied classical singing in the Patras Conservatory and has been a member of the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras Music Theatre Workshop. He has collaborated with ensembles such as Les Talens Lyriques, Armonia Atenea, Ergon Ensemble, Plucked Strings Orchestra of Patras, Athens Academica Orchestra and The Beggars’ Operas. His repertoire includes roles such as Claudio Monteverdi’s Testo (Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda) and Anfinomo (Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria), W. A. Mozart’s Arbace (Idomeneo) and Pedrillo (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Frederick Loewe’s Freddy Eynsford-Hill (My Fair Lady), George Dousis’ Antonis the Teacher (The Magic Pillows), Terence McNally’s Antony Candolino (Master Class), Theophrastos Sakellaridis’ Pamikos (Sataneries), Theo Abazis’ Dimitri (Prince Ivan & the Firebird) and, as part of the vocal ensemble, Minas Borboudakis’ Z.


Dionisios Melogiannidis Tenor

Born in Thessaloniki. He started studying the piano at a very young age. He studied singing at the Athens Conservatory with Hara Savino and graduated with honours in 2017. Moreover, he has studied logistics. He has studied repertoire under prestigious Greek soloists such as Dimitri Kavrakos, Tassis Christoyannis, Christophoros Stamboglis. Currently, he continues with Aris Christofellis. During 2012-2016 he cooperated with the Greek National Opera as an additional chorister and since 2017 he has been singing as a soloist in such productions as La bohème, Romeo and Juliette, The Princess and the Pea, Le nozze di Figaro, Simon Boccanegra, etc. Moreover, he has performed Belmonte (Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Patras), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi, Aegean Festival) and Sacco in Anton Coppola’s contemporary opera Sacco and Vanzetti (world premiere, Municipal Theatre, Città della Pieve, Italy).


Vangelis Maniatis Baritone

Born in Piraeus. He performs with exceptional ability a wide repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to contemporary music. He had his first contact with European classical music as a member of the Saint Efthymios Chorus, Athens. While studying at the Physics Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, he began studying voice under leading baritone Wassili Janulako. He continued under soprano Despina Kalafatis, while in recent years he improves his technique with baritone Aris Argyris. He often works with the Greek National Opera, Athens State Orchestra, as well as with the Ensembles of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation and the Athens Municipality. He has performed roles in such productions as Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, La traviata, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Die lustige Witwe, Don Giovanni, Fidelio, The Murderess, La belle Hélène, Z, Věc Makropulos, Jenůfa, Manon, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Wozzeck, Andrea Chénier and The Magic Pillows.