Maria Callas (then Maria Kalogeropoulou) at age 19 in her role debut as the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at the Greek National Opera

Athens, Greece (March 21, 2023) – The Greek National Opera today announced its events honoring Maria Callas, the greatest soprano of the 20th century with a series of tributes curated by the Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera Giorgos Koumendakis, taking place from April to December 2023. 

The tribute, which focuses on Callas’s formative early years in Greece, where she made her GNO debut mere months after the company was formed, and includes a range of offerings including the European premiere of David McVicar’s production of Cherubini’s Medea, a role Callas famously performed at the GNO in 1961, at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus; a gala recital featuring leading sopranos performing iconic Maria Callas repertoire at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus; major exhibitions of rare photographs, documents, costumes, and other personal items showcasing her life and work both in the National Library of Greece and in the GNO opera house foyer at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC); a documentary exploring the lesser-known early years of the Greek diva; a video recital dedicated to her first and formative repertoire presented on GNO TV; and an educational workshop in partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab) at the Technical University of Crete. (Further details below.) 

The GNO Maria Callas tribute program is sponsored by the Public Power Corporation (PPC). This program is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [] to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach.

Callas signed her first contract with the Greek National Opera in 1940, just a few months after the company was founded as a branch of the National Theatre of Greece by Kostis Bastias, a visionary who had a great impact on the opera house. Under her birth name Maria Kalogeropoulou, Callas gained valuable on-stage experience by performing major roles at the Greek National Opera between 1940 and 1945, alongside her studies at the Athens Conservatoire under the Spanish soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Thanks to this experience, Callas quickly achieved her goal of becoming an international opera star. After 15 years, the diva returned to the Greek National Opera and, with the help of Kostis Bastias, performed in the first-ever opera performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus of Bellini’s Norma in 1960 and Cherubini’s Medea in 1961. Callas donated her fees from both productions to create a scholarship supporting young opera artists in her name.

Artistic Director of the Greek National Opera, Giorgos Koumendakis notes:

“Maria Callas is an artist that shaped the very history of the Greek National Opera. Just a few years before the phenomenon that was Callas would storm into every corner of the globe, raiding the hearts of opera devotees everywhere, Maria Kalogeropoulou set out on a difficult path in an Athenian wartime setting. It was 1940 when the founding Director of our opera house, the great Kostis Bastias, offered the young artist her first contract while still a student at the Athens Conservatoire. The training Callas received and stage experience she gained during the years she lived in Greece laid solid foundations for the next phase of her career, which began in 1947, in Verona. She would return to Greece in 1957 –by then an international star– to give a recital at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Three years later, Kostis Bastias would invite her to perform the lead role in the first opera production ever staged at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. Productions of Bellini’s Norma in 1960 and Cherubini’s Medea in 1961 would pen a new chapter in the history of the most perfect and celebrated ancient Greek theatre, where performances of ancient drama have been staged since the 2nd century BCE.

With this program, presented to mark the centennial of Maria Callas, we hope to showcase her connections to our opera house, but also to expose younger generations with the legendary Callas as a shining example of talent and hard work, of dedication and impeccability and brilliance.”

The events of the Greek National Opera’s tribute will feature rare materials from the GNO Historical Archive, including a collection donated by collector Dimitris Pyromallis, featuring recordings, publications, documents, photographs, and personal effects. Also included are the photographic archives of Kleisthenes, composer and conductor Leonidas Zoras and popular journalist and radio host from the 1950s Achilleas Mamakis. Additionally, the Hellenic Literacy and Historical Archive (ELIA) of the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET) has granted permission to GNO to use materials from the Katina Paxinou – Alexis Minotis Archive.


Luigi Cherubini

25, 27, 30 April & 2, 4, 9 May 2023
Starts at 19.30 (Sunday at 18.30)
Stavros Niarchos Hall of the GNO – SNFCC

Conductor: Philippe Auguin
Director, sets: David McVicar
Revival director: Jonathon Loy / Associate set designer: Hannah Postlethwaite
Costumes: Doey Lüthi
Movement director: Jo Meredith
Lighting: Paule Constable
Projection design: S. Katy Tucker
Chorus master: Agathangelos Georgakatos

Creonte: Yanni Yannissis
Glauce: Vassiliki Karayanni
Giasone: Giorgio Berrugi
Medea: Anna Pirozzi
Neris: Nefeli Kotseli / Captain of the Guard: Nikolas Douros
First maid: Despoina Skarlatou / Second maid: Martha Sotiriou
With the Orchestra and Chorus of the Greek National Opera

The Greek National Opera is honoring the legendary soprano Maria Callas on the 100th anniversary of her birth with a special production of Luigi Cherubini’s Medea. Callas played the title role in the opera’s revival in 1953, and her performance was a huge success, sparking a renewed interest in the work.

To celebrate Callas’ legacy, the GNO is presenting Medea on April 25, 27, and 30, as well as May 2, 4, and 9, 2023, inside the Stavros Niarchos Hall. This major international co-production with The Metropolitan OperaLyric Opera of Chicago, and Canadian Opera Company was made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Medea is a tragedy based on ancient Greek mythology, and Callas’ performance in the historic GNO production at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is still remembered today as a landmark moment in modern Greek culture. Her extraordinary musical and acting abilities brought the character to life in a way that captured the hearts and imaginations of audiences around the world.

In this new production, Anna Pirozzi, one of the foremost dramatic sopranos of our times, will take on the title role for the first time in her career, following in the footsteps of Callas. The production will be conducted by Philippe Auguin and directed by David McVicar, and will feature a talented cast of soloists and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Greek National Opera.

Tickets, priced from €15, can be booked in advance at the
GNO Box Office (09.00-21.00 daily | +30 2130885700) and via

Production sponsor PIRAEUS BANK
Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

From Callas to Medea – An Installation in Three Acts

4 May – 9 June 2023
Greek National Opera Foyer – SNFCC

Artistic concept and execution: Panos Profitis
Cinematography: Yorgos Athanasiou
Dance: Vera Zouka
Curation: Vassilis Zidianakis / ATOPOS cvc
Curatorial associate: Steffy Stouri
Research consultant: Sophia Kompotiati

To commemorate the centenary of Maria Callas’ birth, the Greek National Opera presents UNBOXING CALLAS, an innovative arts installation that draws inspiration from the popular practice of “unboxing” in online communities. 

The first part of the program, From Callas to Medea – An Installation in Three Acts, is a multi-format art experiment created by visual artist Panos Profitis and curated by Vassilis Zidianakis. The installation will be unveiled inside the foyer spaces of the Greek National Opera at the SNFCC.

The centerpiece of the installation is a striking, high-relief profile of Maria Callas, through which the story of Medea unfolds in a sculptural form. The fifth-floor foyer of the GNO will also feature a presentation of archival materials related to the production of Medea at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, where Callas gave a legendary performance, alongside materials from performances of Medea given in Dallas, London, and Milan. These materials include drawings and costume fragments by Yannis Tsarouchis, director’s notes, and books of Alexis Minotis, as well as select sketches and sculptural elements by Panos Profitis.

The installation is divided into three acts, each of which offers a unique artistic experience. The first act is a sculptural installation set on the ground and fifth floors of the foyer, while the second act is a video installation running simultaneously on all the screens of the foyer across all its floors. Finally, the third act is a performance that brings the installation to life as a cohesive whole.

Through UNBOXING CALLAS, the Greek National Opera pays tribute to the enduring legacy of Maria Callas while exploring the timeless myth of Medea and its artistic interpretations over time.

Free admission
Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
Greek National Opera  would like to thank the Performing Arts Department at the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA) of the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET) for kindly granting the use of their materials.

Opera Gala
Callas at the Herodium

September 2023
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Soloists: To be announced 
Conductor: To be announced
With the GNO Orchestra

Maria Callas’ legacy in Greece is deeply rooted in her performances at the iconic Odeon of Herodes Atticus. In 1944, before she left Athens for New York, she played Smaragda in The Masterbuilder by Manolis Kalomiris, and Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio, both under the baton of acclaimed conductors and directors. Thirteen years later, in 1957, Maria Meneghini-Callas returned to the same venue to give a legendary recital as part of the Athens Festival, showcasing her vocal range and virtuosity in arias from iconic operas such as Tristan und IsoldeLa forza del destinoLucia di Lammermoor, and Hamlet.

The Greek National Opera will present Callas at the Herodium in September 2023. The program will feature the exact same repertoire that Callas performed at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, with four internationally-renowned opera singers paying tribute to her remarkable talent and leaving their own mark on the iconic venue. The audience will be treated to a journey through the works of Kalomiris, Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Donizetti, and Thomas, celebrating the timeless legacy of Maria Callas at the historic venue that she helped make famous.

Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

An Archival Exploration of the Pyromallis Collection
and the GNO Archive

26 November 2023 – January 2024
Second floor of the National Library of Greece – SNFCC

Curator: Vassilis Zidianakis / ATOPOS cvc
Curatorial associate: Steffy Stouri
Consultant: Dimitris Pyromallis
Research associate: Sophia Kompotiati
With the artists: Aggeliki Bozou, Petros Efstathiadis, Panagiotis Evangelidis, Alexis Fidetzis, Eleftheria Kotzaki, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Aristeidis Lappas, Lykourgos Porfyris, Antigoni Tsagkaropoulou, Maria Varela
Appearing in the parallel events program: Yannis Belonis, Alexandros Efklidis, Fatma Fayade, Giorgos Koumendakis, Helena Matheopoulos, Stella Kourmpana, Panaghis Pagoulatos, Tota Pritsa, Zoi Tzamtzi

To mark the centennial of Maria Callas’ birth, the Greek National Opera is presenting the second part of the UNBOXING CALLAS arts program, curated by Vassilis Zidianakis. Inspired by the ritual of unboxing popularized by online communities, the UNBOXING CALLAS: An Archival Exploration of the Dimitris Pyromallis Collection and the GNO Archive exhibition is a performative showcase of the private stories, memories, and archival effects of the legendary opera singer, chronicling her career through collectivist artistic means.

Exhibited objects are drawn from various archives, including the Greek National Opera‘s own collections and those recently acquired from collectors such as Dimitris Pyromallis and the photographic archive of Kleisthenes. Original works by contemporary artists, inspired by this newly-assembled archive, will also be presented. All content will be presented on large worktops, as if in a lab, where researchers and artists will be classifying, conserving, recording, cataloging, and reinterpreting artifacts.

This exhibition is a corrective curatorial practice, showcasing narratives and viewpoints that have been silenced or overlooked by dominant narratives, providing an opportunity for a re-examination of the legend surrounding Callas while ensuring her artistic achievements remain unadulterated. The exhibition design is sustainable, using archival boxes and existing GNO structures that are suitable for reuse.

In parallel with this exhibition, the second iteration of From Callas to Medea – An Installation in Three Acts will also be presented inside the GNO Foyer at the SNFCC, as part of the UNBOXING CALLAS arts program.

Free admission
Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

Mary, Mariana, Maria – The Unsung Greek Years of Callas
A documentary by Vasilis Louras

2 December, 2023
Stavros Niarchos Hall of the GNO – SNFCC

Concept, research, script: Vasilis Louras
Direction: Michalis Asthenidis, Vasilis Louras
Cinematography: Fotis Zygouris
Producer: Stella Angeletou
Production management artistic associate: Io Calochristos

Research consultants: Aris Christofellis, Sophia Kompotiati
A GNO co-production with ESCAPE Productions

Premiering on December 2, 2023, at the Stavros Niarchos Hall, exactly 100 years after the birth of Maria Callas, is a new documentary film that explores the life of the greatest soprano of the 20th century. Maria Callas began her career in Greece, and this documentary, by Vasilis Louras co-produced by the Greek National Opera with ESCAPE Productions, focuses on her early years of arts training and performances at the Greek National Opera (1937-1945). Additionally, the documentary covers her three later appearances in Greece: at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (1957) as part of the Athens Festival, and at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus (1960 and 1961) with the Greek National Opera.

At the age of 14, Mary Kalogeropoulou arrived in Greece and started taking singing classes at the Greek National Conservatoire, taught by Maria Trivella. She made her first public appearance in 1938, at the Parnassos Literary Society as part of the Conservatoire’s annual showcase. The following year, she enrolled at the Athens Conservatoire to study under the legendary Spanish soprano Elvira de Hidalgo, which marked the most important phase of her training. Hidalgo recommended her to Kostis Bastias, Director of the Greek National Opera and the National (then known as the Royal) Theatre of Greece, who hired her as a member of the chorus, thus enabling her to earn the funds she needed to continue her studies. Kalogeropoulou’s first contract with the Greek National Opera is dated June 20, 1940, and from 1940 until 1945, she took on her first major roles despite the challenges of the Second World War.

The documentary explores the difficulties Callas faced, including her strained relationship with her mother, the hostility she faced from some of her peers, and the injustices she suffered following the German withdrawal. Despite these challenges, Callas left Greece in September 1945 as a fully-primed prima donna, widely known among devotees of the Greek National Opera in Athens, with sound training and a great deal of experience performing on stage. Just a few months later, after an audition, The Metropolitan Opera offered her a contract, which marked the beginning of her international career.

In 1957, Maria Meneghini-Callas returned to Athens to open the Athens Festival at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Unfortunately, the Greek media and political establishment of the time targeted her with shameful attacks. In 1960, now known as Maria Callas, she accepted an invitation from Kostis Bastias to perform the title role in a production of Bellini’s Norma at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, and the lead in Cherubini’s Medea at the same venue the following year.

Using archival materials, interviews with peers and individuals who experienced the events firsthand, and interviews with Callas herself, this documentary provides a comprehensive insight into a pivotal yet overlooked period of Callas’ life. The film gathers snippets of information from every possible source and details that record, recount, and shed light on Callas’ life and evolution.

Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

Maria Callas in Greece, 1937-1945
The Repertoire Never Heard…

Video recital
From December 2023 on GNO TV

The Greek National Opera presents a unique and exclusive video recital that celebrates the formative years of Maria Kalogeropoulou’s career. This recital will be screened for free on GNO TV and will feature the repertoire that Callas performed in Athens from 1937 to 1945, including her conservatoire exams, production performances, auditions, events, and recitals.

In keeping with the spirit of the times, the works will be performed in the Greek language, in the exact same translations that Callas herself sang. The recital will feature established and emerging Greek opera singers, who will perform the repertoire in chronological order, paying meticulous attention to historical detail. This video recital is a unique tribute that offers both international audiences and coming generations an audio-visual treasure trove, capturing the “Greek” repertoire of Maria Callas. 

The recital will include great arias from the repertoire as well as works from operas that Callas would never sing again, such as Tosca and Cavalleria Rusticana translated into Greek, songs by Greek composers, and popular light music hits of the time, including the celebrated La Paloma. This tribute aims to offer contemporary audiences a complete overview of Callas’s repertoire during the eight years she spent in Athens. 

Free screening on GNO TV
Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Founding Donor of GNO TV STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas
A GNO partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab)
of the Technical University of Crete

September – December 2023

Project Lead: Panagiotis Parthenios
Professor of Digital Media in Architectural Design
Head of the Digital Media Lab – DmLab
School of Architecture | Technical University of Crete

In continuation of the collaboration between the GNO and the Technical University of Crete, an educational workshop called “Visualizing the Voice of Maria Callas” is being jointly organized by the two institutions. This workshop builds upon the successful “Interactive 3D Model of the Main Stage and Backstage Areas of the Greek National Opera” research project and is being held in honor of the centennial celebration of Maria Callas’ birth. Using new digital media, the workshop aims to further explore the relationship between architecture and music, space and sound, by experimenting with the visualization of Maria Callas’ voice.

The workshop offers participants a unique opportunity to explore creative new media tools and experiment with the three-dimensional surfaces (3D point clouds) of the scanned interior spaces of the GNO from the earlier research project. Through this, participants will seek ways to capture the interactions between Maria Callas’ voice and the spaces of the Greek National Opera. The outcome of the workshop will be virtual and hybrid installations that provide a fresh perspective on this iconic figure. These creations will be exhibited in digital form on GNO TV, as well as in specialized exhibition spaces located in Athens and Chania. The workshop aims to broaden the relationship between music and architecture while offering participants a chance to learn and create using cutting-edge digital media tools.

This workshop is organized by the Greek National Opera in partnership with the Digital Media Lab (DmLab) of the Technical University of Crete
Sponsor PPC (Public Power Corporation)
Lead Donor of the GNO & Workshop Donor STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

A Collection Devoted to Maria Callas
Available from the SNFCC STORE at the
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Maria Callas’ birth, the Greek National Opera (GNO) is proud to present a unique collection of products inspired by her iconic appearances in Greece. These GNO products are distinguished by their exceptional quality and aesthetics and are available in black, beige, and gold hues.

The collection includes:

  • A limited edition 2023 calendar featuring illustrations of Maria Callas’ memorable moments from her performances in Greece and objects from the Dimitris Pyromallis collection. Each month is encapsulated in a vinyl disc slipcase, making it a true collector’s item.
  • An art print of the program cover for the 1961 GNO production of Medea at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus starring Maria Callas. This print is available in both large and small poster sizes and is a true homage to Callas’ legendary performance.
  • Three rare photographs of Maria Callas in GNO productions of ToscaNorma, and Medea, printed on acrylic glass. These timeless images capture Callas’ artistry and are perfect for any Callas enthusiast.
  • A special-edition candle inspired by Medea. The candle is scented with wild lilies of Colchis, an allusion to the colchicine poison used in Greek mythology by Medea to infuse a deadly robe embroidered with gold. Made with natural oils and a 100% cotton wick (lead-free), the candle’s packaging echoes the sets designed by David McVicar.
  • A series of silk scarvesbags, and notebooks inspired by a study conducted by Maria-Olga Vlachou. The study is based on designs produced by Yannis Tsarouchis for the 1961 production of Medea, a photograph capturing the hands of Maria Callas, a drawing by Yannis Tsarouchis, and handwritten letters exchanged by Callas and Pier Paolo Pasolini, all drawn from the Dimitris Pyromallis collection. These products are a wonderful way to commemorate Callas’ legacy and cherish her memory.

Products range from €7 – €90 
Available for purchase from the SNFCC STORE at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and on


Founded in 1939, the Greek National Opera is a public body and the sole opera house in Greece. It produces and stages operas, musical theater, operettas, and ballets, and multi-disciplinary productions for its two stages at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), the Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage, as well as at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an open-air theater in the center of Athens. The company’s repertory covers four centuries of lyrical theater, from the works of Claudio Monteverdi to those of contemporary composers. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Greek National Opera were both founded in 1939 alongside the opera company, then a part of the Royal Theatre, and a Children’s Chorus was founded in 2012. In addition to its opera programming, the GNO also encompasses the GNO Professional School of Dance, as well as education and community programs aimed at all age groups.

The GNO is one of Europe’s most innovative opera houses with a unique artistic identity that engages global talent and inspires large and diverse audiences. Led by artistic director Giorgos Koumendakis and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [], its mission is to offer audiences high caliber productions by presenting operas, ballets, operettas, operas for children, and music recitals, among other events. The GNO’s main source of funding is the Greek State and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Over 60% of its annual budget is covered by state funding, with the rest coming from ticket proceeds, private sponsorship, and grants. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is the Greek National Opera’s biggest donor and to date, its grants to the GNO amount to €27.5 million.

A turning point in its history came in 2017 when the GNO relocated to a new state-of-the-art building at the architecturally striking Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), which was conceived, designed, constructed, and equipped with a substantial grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Following completion, the SNFCC was delivered to the Greek state and the public in February 2017 through the SNF’s largest grant initiative to date, totaling €618 million. Assisted by a €5 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the GNO relocated from Athens’ Olympia Theatre to the SFNCC and the two, purpose-built theaters designed by Renzo Piano, doubling its audience capacity to 1,400 seats in the opera hall and also doubling its ticket revenues.  

The hall’s inaugural production in October 2017 was Strauss’ Elektra, starring the celebrated Greek mezzo Agnes Baltsa as Klytaemnestra. In 2019 a major grant of €20 million was announced by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to support the implementation of a four-year programming and development plan that will enhance the artistic outreach of the GNO and increase the promotion of its work overseas. In 2020 the GNO celebrated its 80th anniversary, commissioning and presenting works to reintroduce itself to the Greek and global audience through its new artistic identity and mission. This programming has included, among others: Verdi’s Don Carlo, a co-production of the Royal Opera House, London, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and the Norwegian National Opera ,Oslo, directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner; Berg’s Wozzeck directed by Olivier Py; Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk directed by Fanny Ardant; Marina Abramović’s 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, a co-production with Opéra national de Paris, Bayerische Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Teatro di San Carlo; Verdi’s Otello, a co-production with Festspiel Baden-Baden directed by Robert Wilson; Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a co-production with the Göteborg Opera and the Royal Danish Opera directed by John Fulljames; Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffman, a co-production with La Monnaie de Munt, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; Verdi’s Fallstaff, directed by the artistic director of the Glyndebourne Festival Stephen Langridge; and Verdi’s Rigoletto, directed by the artistic director of the Athens Festival Katerina Evangellatos.

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