It’s not all Greek to her

Singer Katerina Papadopoulu opens this year’s Oud Festival in Jerusalem.

Greek singer Katerina Papadopoulu 370 (photo credit: Kasandros Butanakis)
Greek singer Katerina Papadopoulu 370
(photo credit: Kasandros Butanakis)
Katerina Papadopoulu is a woman of the world. Several worlds, in fact.
Although the 30-something Greek singer initially made her mark in the various strands that make up her country’s traditional music, over the years she has branched out to all kinds of other ethnic areas and continues to do so. She will offer some of the culturally expansive sounds and rhythms she has picked up over the last 20 or so years to her Jerusalem audience on October 31 when she performs in the opening act of this year’s Oud Festival.
The 14th edition of the annual event, which is overseen by Confederation House and its director Effie Benaya, will take place between October 31 and November 9, with concerts hosted at various Jerusalem venues, including the Jerusalem Theater, Beit Shmuel and Confederation House, with one free show taking place at The First Station.
This year’s festival will take place under the name “Center Stage Women Artists and Performers.” As such, most of the major players in the lineup are women. Besides Papadopoulu, the frontline musicians include powerhouse vocalist-percussionist Haya Samir; the Quartetoukan foursome, arts&entertainment Tuesday, 24 octobe r 2 2 , 2 013 the jerusa l em post ‘Burton and Taylor’ glimpses Hollywood icons’ private lives • By Mary McNamara It will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that the BBC’s Elizabeth Taylor/ Richard Burton biopic, Burton and Taylor, is much better than Lifetime’s Liz & Dick, which aired last year.
Starring the perpetually court-ordered Lindsay Lohan, Liz & Dick was a celebrity stunt, Lifetime’s wild-eyed attempt to launch what many hoped would be Lohan’s comeback. The film recounted the famous couple’s decades-long relationship, from fatal first moment to final graveyard farewell. General hilarity ensued.
There is nothing even vaguely hilarious about Burton and Taylor.
It is less a portrait of two combustible stars, played with empathy and breathtaking control by Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter, as it is a surprisingly thoughtful excavation of a love that is both undeniable and untenable.
Though not a marketing ploy in itself, Burton and Taylor has a celebrity stunt at its center– the 1983 Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, which reunited the pair years after their second divorce and months before Burton’s death. Critically mauled, it was a huge hit. The besotted masses swarmed to see the two stars play what many imagined was a semi-autobiographical tale of old lovers reunited.
This circus-like atmosphere drove Burton crazy. He had quit drinking, was involved with a woman who would become his wife and was preparing to play King Lear. Taylor, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less.
In full pill-popping, Studio 54-visiting, fluffy-dog-walking diva mode, she had hoped – if William Ivory’s script is to be believed – for a rekindling of the famous romance. The audience’s loving reaction helped overcome her insecurity about performing live, and she courted it. (The tack also made Burton furious.) This is not, however the tale of two thespians and their differing approaches to craft. As with Private Lives, Burton and Taylor attempts to measure the magnitude of epic love by the dimensions of its aftermath. Five years may have passed since they last saw each other, but when Liz and Dick meet at a party, time falls away (along with Burton’s attempt at sobriety) and they are soon working together again.
Taylor believes their love is unquenchable, uncontrollable.
Burton too loves beyond bounds, but for him, the only way to slake an unquenchable desire is to control it. While he conspicuously orders Tab and ignores her attempts to reignite “my Antony,” she swills cocktails and pain pills, slurs her lines and becomes increasingly despondent.
Even so, this is perhaps the least dramatic period of their lives together. They are middle-aged, with grown children, and the days of defying propriety and the Vatican are long behind them.
They have become, as symbolized in Private Lives, the punch line of their own joke.
As played by Carter and West, Taylor and Burton are each brilliant, charismatic narcissists who love each other as only narcissists can – unsustainably. “We’re addicts,” Burton tells Taylor, and that is true too. A universe cannot have two suns; someone has to be the moon and that role suited neither of them.
It’s difficult to gauge how much fascination viewers still have for the couple, but Burton and Taylor is as good as it gets. West lends Burton an emotional weariness that is by turns regal and self-important.
Carter does not occupy enough space to capture Taylor’s blend of sexual bombast and beauty, but she captures the warmth, generosity, loyalty and frankness that made the star beloved despite her many shortcomings.
In one lovely scene, Taylor chastises Burton for being rude to her assistant, forcing him to apologize.
It isn’t just a power play, although there is some of that; Taylor really does believe in gratitude, just as she believes in forgiveness.
She gave as good as she required, and she required a lot.
– LA Times/MCT • By URY EPPSTEIN Mendelssohn: Elijah Jerusalem Theater, October 16 The season opening of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s Liturgical Series was Mendelssohn’s Elijah, conducted by Klaus Knubben.
In this oratorio Mendelssohn portrays not only the furious idealist-prophet, but focuses pointedly on the human tragedy of the un-understood and mistreated fighter for moral justice. As such, the work represents what Thomas Mann later called the “Humanization of the Mythos”. Mendelssohn’s notable emotional empathy with the Biblical subject seems, perhaps, to reveal his Jewish roots, more than his rather formal and detached Christian oratorio St. Paul.
The performance’s astonishing surprise was Christoph Pregardien in the title role. World-famous as one of today’s celebrated tenors, he performed Elijah with a dark-timbred, sonorous, superbly expressive baritone, just as the role demands – or even more so. He did not act his part, but actually was Elijah. His complete identification with the prophet conveyed his rage intensely and convincingly, yet also his profound despair and humility, movingly expressed in his aria “It is enough, I am not better than my fathers” – one of Mendelssohn’s unrivaled masterpieces.
Mechthild Bach’s clear soprano soared radiantly over choir and orchestra, but was theatrical more than oratoria- like. Her “Hear ye, Israel” sounded like an opera aria, not a prayer. Alison Browner’s warm alto caressed the melodies softly and unostentatiously.
Markus Schafer displayed an appealing lyrical tenor.
The Limburg Dom Boys Choir was a main hero of the performance. It produced a rich, full sound, perfect balance, abundant nuances of dynamics, exciting involvement, exact enunciation, and forceful as well as delicate expression. Its fierce “Give us answer” sounded demanding, especially when followed by the eloquent silence of the non-answer. The sopranos and altos’ “Lift thine eyes” sounded as angelic as one always hopes but only seldom hears. The choir’s majestic rendition of Fiery chariot and fiery horses left no doubt as to what was happening when Elijah ascended to heaven.
The orchestra poignantly emphasized the dramatic events and contrasting emotions.
DOMINIC WEST as Richard Burton, with Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor, in ‘Burton and Taylor,’ set in 1983, when they appeared on Broadway. ( three of whose member are women; and celebrated singer Lubna Salameh, who fronts a five-piece instrumental ensemble led by veteran tar player Peretz Elyahu.
Award-winning Turkish vocalist and member of Parliament Sabahat Akkiraz will close the festival proceedings at the Jerusalem Theater on November 9.
Critics and audiences alike have lauded her mastery of the works of her country’s iconic composers, both in the popular and rebetiko urban folk music style that evolved in the 1960s. But the singer has constantly looked farther afield for inspiring material and energies. Today, her oeuvre embraces musical traditions from Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as strains from all over the Greek mainland and islands. Papadopoulu says she is always on the look-out for new artistic adventures and that, in the final analysis, it is simply about the music.
“I love music, and music is the same everywhere,” she observes. “So I don’t see any reason to place borders on what I do.
John Lennon said something like that many years ago. When I was a kid, I listened to rock music and heavy metal, and I still enjoy rock music today.”
Even so, her core source of inspiration comes from home.
“The first music I learned was Greek,” notes Papadopoulu. “I think I started getting into Greek music before I was born,” she laughs. “This music is in my blood, and it was just natural for me to start singing and playing music.”
Papadopoulu’s cultural swath also extends to this part of the world.
“We will perform a song that is originally in Hebrew, in Jerusalem,” she says. “In Greek we call it ‘A Papokshenu Popo,’ but I don’t know what it is called in Hebrew. We will do the song in Greek. The Turks also do this song and give it a title of their own.”
Among her multi-pronged cultural musical hinterland, Papadopoulu confesses to a fondness for material from Turkey, and she addresses the rural and urban musical traditions of Asia Minor and the Black Sea region, including several Turkish locations that have a rich historical heritage, such as Istanbul, Smyrna, Cappadocia and Pontus.
Ever the professional, Papadopoulu threw herself into Turkish culture on more than one level.
“I am studying the Turkish language,” she says. “It helps to understand the songs I sing and something about the culture they come from.”
While Papadopoulu has been garnering good reviews and enthusiastic response from audiences all over the world for some years, there are, of course, those who prefer to know where their entertainment is coming from and prefer Greek musicians, for example, to stick to the sounds, rhythms and textures that hail from their own country. The singer is aware of that mindset but believes the laissez-passer approach is the way to go.
“I have fans who are like that. Some like my singing when I do pure Greek traditional music, and others like me to sing other things. So even my fans, and even friends, are divided,” she notes, but says she is not judgmental on that score.
“That is fine, but I believe a musician has to be free to do what he or she needs to do, what they like, and be genuine.”
As far as the Greek is concerned, that goes for any material, regardless of how it is performed, as long as the intent is true.
“A good traditional song can be genuine, even if I sing with some other kind of instrument, say an electric guitar. This year, I sang on the CD of a group from Paris, with about 14 musicians, and they play medieval music. They like Greek songs and asked me and [lyra player] Sokratis [Sinopoulos] and [lauta player] Nikos [Mermigas], who will play with me in Jerusalem, to participate in the CD. But I sang the Greek songs the way I always sing them, while they played medieval music, and I think it worked very well.”
Papadopoulu says she is looking forward to performing here for the first time, although she is a little apprehensive, too.
“I have heard from other musicians, here in Greece, who have played in Israel before, that the audience in Israel is the best audience ever. So I am a bit anxious about that,” she says with a chuckle.
For more information about the Oud Festival: (02) 623-7000; *6226; and