Offenbach’s La belle Hélène


Hélène, the Beautiful Helen, the figure we have encountered so many times in school books, in a story that changes, shapes and becomes shaped differently over the years, is our production’s central character. This time, we meet her in Kornilios Selamsis’ opera Offenbach’s La belle Hélène to a libretto by Alexandra K*, in a new fresh and contemporary version presenting us with the known myth in a colourfoul, melodious and – most of all – funny way. As the title shows, the work is based on Jacques Offenbach’s famous operetta La belle Hélène.

The new work is based on the much-loved operetta of the father of French operetta, Jacques Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, although it is a new opera. As the composer notes, it is “a blend of two musical ventures: on the one hand of Offenbach’s old and popular comic operetta and on the other hand of a new opera – or perhaps of a music theatre work with fragments of the past trapped inside it”. The libretto – based on the original text of Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy – has been penned by Alexandra K* and the production is staged by distinguished composer Yannis Kalavrianos. Τhe set, costumes and the video animation have been designed by Petros Touloudis, the movement by Marianna Kavallieratou and the lighting by Nikos Vlasopoulos. The musical direction is shared by Stathis Soulis and Kyriaki Kountouri, while the cast and the instrumental ensemble consist of a plethora of talented Greek soloists and musicians.  

The story is based on the known Greek myth and is set in Sparta and Nafplion. It introduces us to the myth of the Beautiful Helen of Troy through a modern and hilarious approach that treats issues of gender stereotypes, roles and identities. As noted by the director: “We have tried to grasp the concerns of modern-day teenagers with the utmost sincerity.”


Synopsis of the work

28 July 1194 B.C. A party in Sparta. Behind us stands Jupiter’s temple and in front of us, ladies and gentlemen, behold…. The Trojan War. Do not be alarmed though, we are not going to miss our holiday at the beach. The Trojan War hasn’t started yet because Hélène … has not yet been abducted. Whoopsie! Spoiler alert! 


The story begins at the Spartan agora, where all heroes are gathered to discuss. Pâris disguised as a shepherd meets the seer Calchas. He gives him a letter from goddess Aphrodite that makes Calchas realise who the shepherd really is. Pâris tells the story of the apple of discord, explaining why he is in Sparta. Hélène is peeking at Pâris and the two of them are soon introduced to each other. The action is moved to the intelligence tournament in Sparta, in which Achille, Ajax and Bacchis are taking part. The competition begins, but contestants cannot find the correct answer to the first test. Hélène, wanting to help Pâris, sends him the answer through a young maid. Paris answers correctly and the crowd cheers for the winner. The tests continue and Paris turns out to be the big winner of the games. After the end of the games, Calchas tells Ménélas that by Zeus’ order he must immediately go to Crete.


A month later and while Ménélas is on Crete, Hélène spends her time knitting in her room. At night Pâris stands outside her door. One evening he decides to knock on her door, but Hélène refuses to let him in. They just stay there talking to each other behind the closed door. Pâris, angry, is ready to leave, but Hélène eventually decides to open the door. Between dream and reality, she converses with Pâris and comes closer to him. Yet all this stops with Ménélas’ unexpected arrival in Sparta. Ménélas accuses Hélène of infidelity, the situation becomes complicated, and Hélène asks Pâris to leave Sparta.


A week later all the heroes are in Nafplion. In the summer resort of Sparta the heroes are swimming, dancing and drinking. While they are endlessly partying, goddess Aphrodite, enraged with the Spartans who stood in the way of Pâris and Hélène’s affair, takes revenge on them by making Spartan women roam wildly, freely celebrating love and forgetting all social conventions. Hélène and Ménélas continue fighting over her infidelity, while Agamemnon and Calchas are trying to convince Ménélas to let her go. A ship arrives in Nafplion. It enters the port and Pâris appears disguised as the Great Seer of Aphrodite. Everyone welcomes him joyously and respectfully. Pâris, as the Seer, asks for Hélène to be transferred to Kythera, saying that this is a request from goddess Aphrodite. While Hélène recognises Pâris, Ménélas and the rest of the heroes accept the goddess’ will and hand Hélène over to the Great Seer.

The story ends with Hélène leaving together with Pâris while warning Ménélas and Agamemnon that her flight to Troy should not become the cause of a war, as Pâris did not violently seize her; she decided to follow him at her own will instead.

— Alexandra K*


Offenbach’s La belle Hélène

Opera for young audiences in three acts

Music Kornilios Selamsis

Libretto Alexandra K*


Creative team

Conductor Kornilios SelamsisStathis Soulis / Kyriaki Kountouri

Director Yannis Kalavrianos

Sets, costumes, video animation Petros Touloudis

Choreography, movement training Marianna Kavallieratou

Lighting designer Nikos Vlasopoulos


Assistant to the director Giorgos Papadakis

Assistant to the set and costume designer Giouli Stylianidou

Chorister musical training Christos Sakellaridis, Spyros Souladakis



Hélène Maria Tsironi / Smaragda Vangeli

Bacchis Marialena Politi /Marietta Sarri

Pâris Katerina Alexiou / Katerina Fountoukidou

Achille Katerina Botoni / Angelos Kidoniefs

Ajax Antonis Antoniadis / Antonis Kordopatis

Ménélas Nikos Ziaziaris / Dimosthenis Vlachos

Agamemnon Christos Rammopoulos / Zannis Kanterakis

Calchas Nikolas Karagiaouris / Nikos Masourakis


Instrumental ensemble

Flute Konstantinos Margaris /Vasilina Yfanti / Tonia Tombrou

Clarinet Ilias Skordilis / Ilias Papadopoulos / Odysseas Siozopoulos

Saxophone Guido de Flaviis / Thanos Tsakiltzidis

Trombone Ioannis Kokkoris /Stelios Michas-Englezos / Neoklis Aravantinos

Percussion Panagiotis Koliavasilis / Chrystostomos Sakellaropoulos / Artemis Ntaliape

Piano Tzeni Soulkouki /Eva Tsagkla-Manolaraki

Violin Zisimos Soulkoukis / Kleodoros Agoras

Viola Eleni Fourlanou / Vasilis Papapanagiotou

Violoncello Maria Skandali / Elli Ketetzian

Contrabass Konstantinos Sifakis / Dimitris Tsekouras / Ilya Algaer / Alexandros Kokkinopoulos

With the participation of groups of students from each collaborating school