Meeting E.T. Ioannidou

Updated: 3 days ago

At the opening of the Days of Greek Song in the amphitheater in Zgorzelec, the chairwoman of the Ars Augusta society was invited to speak about her childhood in Zgorzelec, about Greece and about Ars Augusta e.V.

The event was organized by the Municipal Library in Zgorzelec and advertised as follows: "Culture knows no borders. Meeting Eleni Triada Ioannidou"

The City Public Library in Zgorzelec invites you to meet an outstanding Greek-Polish opera singer, born in Wrocław, cultural animator in Lower Silesia and Saxony, founder and director of the Ars Augusta Society in Görlitz, and a fascinating woman, which is undoubtedly Eleni Triada Ioannidou. The meeting organized as part of the 24th International Festival of Greek Song will take place on July 22 (Friday, 6:00 p.m.) in the Municipal Cultural Center in Zgorzelec (ul. Parkowa 1). She is an opera soprano, winner of many singing competitions and a valued performer of roles from the world repertoire. She has performed in Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Colombia, among others. She has performed successfully on the stages of the Athens National Opera, La Scala, Teatro Massimo di Catania and Teatro Donizetti di Bergmo. She sang with Jose Carreras at Megaron Mousikis in Athens. She has been a music event producer since 2015. She lives in Görlitz, where she organizes workshops and runs a recording studio together with Heinz Müller (author, musician and sound engineer). In 2017 they founded the Ars Augusta association together, which promotes young artists, founds ensembles and music projects, in one sentence - it contributes to our regional heritage.

Working in the field of high culture is not a path of roses today and probably never was. However, its reception requires at least an elementary prepared environment, and that is not very good in our region. Despite this, Ioannidou does not give up and fights against the resistance of matter. The secret of her belief in the rightness of the path she has taken may lie in the Triada, Eleni's second name, which marks and characterizes her. The platonic triad is: truth, good, and beauty. Do these values ​​actually determine her actions? Come to the meeting and see for yourself - warm invitation."


The educated people in the city library already knew a little more about the middle name (Triada) of Eleni Ioannidou, an unusual name in Greece, which was actually a wish of Eleni's mother: as a Polish and Philhellenic woman, she was enraptured by the sound and beauty of this archaic word. And it was with this woman, Danusia, that the interview began. Here are the interview questions and answers as prepared by Eleni.


You were born in Wroclaw and you grew up in Greece, please tell us a few words about this beautiful country, what does "Greece" mean to you?


I got to know Greece in Wrocław, not even from my Greek father, but from my mother, who is Polish. If I am familiar with Greek mythology and Greek history, it is not thanks to my father, who was rather disinterested in such subjects. My father was Greek and my mother loved Greece. There are people living in Greece and people around the world who have a Greek spirit, the so-called Philhellenes. One of them was my mother Danusia. I still remember the books she read: books by Jadwiga Żylińska, for example, "Amazons, Priestesses and Witches".

Mit Mama und Schwester in Akropolis (?)

She attended and partied at the "Club of Greeks" in Wrocław and she loved everything about this culture: that's how she fell in love with my father. Later she bought us children's books with myths about Greek gods and heroes, together we visited the Acropolis and all other temples in Greece every year.

Today my mum lives in Oropos near Athens. Although she had a lot of problems with the financial crisis, she doesn't want to leave the country, she says "I'm Greek". Conclusion: Greece is a universe, a great universal soul beyond the national borders. But Greece as a country is the source of that spirit, I mean the very special nature of this country. The light is different in Greece, it is stronger, and the nature is beautiful and full of gifts, the people who live there think differently, are happier and because nature is so generous with people, so are the people: It is not a miracle that in such a nature, philosophy and aesthetics were generously given to all mankind.


Görlitz-Zgorzelec is not unknown to you. You had a family here, would you like to tell us the story about your family?

Familienfoto aus dem Jahr 1973 mit (von oben links) Opa Józef, Papa Theodosios, unten links: Oma Eleni, Mama Danusia, Oma Helena und ich.

It's true, this city is no stranger to me. I used to spend my vacation days here as a child because my grandmother Eleni and beloved aunt Sofia and uncle Kostas lived here with their children, my cousins ​​Thomas, Archondula and Charilakis who now live in Greece and dear Eleutheria, ours only doctor in the family who died young from cancer. My grandpa Vassilios died before we were born: today he lies in the cemetery in Zgorzelec.

I was born in 1972 and we came back to Greece when I was 6 years old. Everything I remember from that time stuck in my memory like the dream of a happy childhood that accompanied me everywhere in my later years. In Zgorzelec I remember the streets through which my mother and I walked to the city park. My mother said that when she drove to the German side of town with me in the stroller, people admired and liked me because such a black child was exotic there. I also remembered the granite in the middle of the park with its smell of coal, and wherever I felt that smell again, I remembered Zgorzelec. I also often saw a dream in which there was a beautiful Greek temple in the middle of a large beautiful park. Today I know that I dreamed of Dom Kultury, only that as a child I felt everything was huge. This neoclassical aesthetic made me feel like I saw a little "Greece" in Zgorzelec and Görlitz, considering what I said before: that Greece is a great universal spirit.


Ich und meine Schwester Filio mit Cousine Eleutheria, ihren Mann Rysiek, polnische Oma Helena und Tante Sofia in Zgorzelec

My grandmother had a small apartment at ulica Stefan-Okzej 5, the interior had something oriental about it. My father's family, like most political refugees, came from northern Greece, and had their origins in Pontos on the Black Sea coast: they were expelled from their homeland in the 1920s. They still had the traditions of the Greeks who lived in Anatolia for thousands of years and which we still see today in countries like Georgia, the Caucasus, Armenia: for example, tapestries over the bed.

Aunt Sofia and uncle Kostas lived in an older apartment at ulica Sienkiewicza 2. They were partisans in the war and in the mountains in cold winter, he lost his leg and she lost her foo. I felt like I was in a palace in the small apartment in the old building: parquet floors, large rooms, high ceilings, a large kitchen and a pantry with a coffee grinder on the wall. I have never seen such beautiful apartments in Greece. This beauty of post-German apartments stuck in my memory and has always inspired me.


You completed your singing studies in Volos with distinction, but you are also an agricultural engineer and you have also done scientific work in Vienna. You also speak many languages. How does this versatility come about?


The fact that I have a "serious" degree behind me is because music and art are really not seen as "professions" in Greece. You need to study something "serious". This year's Lied-Competition winner, also Greek, is a mathematician. Since my childhood I have loved music, especially the piano. It is also my mother who made me love classical music. Because she bought records, especially Chopin's music: today I know all his music by heart, and Beethoven's symphonies with Otto Klemperer, for whom I now know that the great conductor was born in Wrocław.

But I had a talent for learning, I was top of my class, a real "geek". It just meant that I should go to university. The main question is of course always what? I wanted to be an architect. But when the state exam came, I applied for mathematics and other academies, including an agricultural academy. In the end, the points of the exam brought me to study crop production and I said to myself: "I'll stay the semester and next year I'll repeat my exam". But then the first subject was biology, the professor was fantastic and I stayed. I was fascinated by the study of nature. Plants, how nature works, how important ecology and nature protection are! Today I am grateful that destiny led me there and that I now know so much, also that our climate here is very suitable for wine.


Artists, scientists, etc. - they may be good in their own discipline, but that's not all. When the artist has nothing to say, he makes empty, boring art. And a scientist who only cares about money or a career doesn't help the world, but that's exactly why he was called for. Art and science is a calling, not a job. Incidentally, I've always admired people who have dealt with both art and science. For example Albert Schweizer, the organist who was also a doctor.

As humans, we have to educate ourselves for the rest of our lives: as comprehensively as possible: history, nature, the world, anthropology, we have to travel, live longer in other countries, learn languages ​​to be able to read newspapers and books in the original language. Classical education is very important and helps to get to know yourself and the world. As for languages, I speak six of them, but unfortunately none of them are perfect. In Greece we learned French at school and everyone there has to speak English. I also learned German very early.

As a child I was fascinated by the literature of Thomas Mann and when I heard Schubert's songs I repeated them but did not understand them. I once asked my mother to enroll me in a German school and by the time I was 16 I already had a diploma from the Goethe Institute.


It was fate that I started studying singing in Volos, where I studied agriculture. Volos is a city that is called "the Vienna of Greece" because it has a lot of culture. I wanted to learn piano, but at the conservatory I was told that at 18 I was too old. Then I heard a beautiful voice there that enchanted me. I asked if I could learn to sing at that age and they said yes. Then this path began, which was not easy, because the world of opera is very difficult. But having other talents has always helped me along the way. I don't have a phenomenal voice. But I had a reputation for being charismatic on stage and very often people cried when I sang. In my case I was more of an artist than a singer, I didn't have a great instrument but I could do cool things with it and tell stories.


In 1998 you won the "Alexandra Triandi" scholarship, which was the start of your career. Tell about the most important moments of this career?


The scholarship was one of the many awards I received. There were always people on my path who recognized something in me.

Kitsa Damasioti was a mezzo-soprano who sang at the Vienna State Opera and was a permanent member of the ensemble in Düsseldorf: she played once the recordings of Wagner's "Wesendock-Lieder" with some very great conductor, I think Leopold Stokowski. Kostas Paschalis, with whom I perfected myself at the Athenaeum, one of the most outstanding baritones in Greece, who also had a great career abroad. When I was participating in the competition for the scholarship in the Society of Friends of Music of Athens, I was heard by Grigoris Lambrakis, a very important cultural figure of Greece, who loved his teacher Alexandra Triandi and created this scholarship to her honor.


At this year's Lied-Competition, the current director of the Society of Friends of Music, Mr. Charkiolakis, was in the jury. He told me that Alexandra Triandi was actually one of the founders of the Society and an important singer of Lieder - not opera. I also see something fateful here, because there are two scholarships for singers in Greece: "Maria Callas" and "Alexandra Triandi". Maria Callas, great opera diva and Alexandra Triandi, founder of a musical institution and unknown singer. And I got a scholarship in her name.


With the money I studied in Vienna for a year, the second year in Italy, then I started singing in the Arena di Verona choir to earn money for my studies. But it was a great experience. For example, I sang there in the Verdi Requiem under the direction of George Pretre: it was one of the most beautiful musical experiences of my life. And I experienced the opera there directly on the stage: it's nice to sing in a choir! I took part in competitions at the same time and it was Jose Carreras who heard me at the Verdi competition in Busseto and invited me to a benefit concert in Athens. I felt like Cinderella!


But the real start as a soloist was performing scenes from "La Traviata" at Stages in Orvieto in 1998. I will never forget what happened when I sang "Addio del passato": an earthquake in the theatre. People went crazy because I played the pain of the lady with the camellias so intensely. Then I realized that I'm more of an actress than a singer. I've always had many doubts about whether I'm good enough for this beautiful art. But Verdi and Mozart have always helped me a lot: I consider these two spirits my protectors. I won many competitions with Verdi and Mozart. Every time I sang "Pace, pace mio Dio" with a pianississimo Si-bemole, it was an award. But Leonora from Trovatore and Fiordiligi from "Cosi fan tutte" also opened doors for me. Leonora was a great role for me. At that time I could sing C pianissimo. A very difficult thing. And when I sang the high notes very softly, people started crying. So one day I was singing Leonora in Trovatore at the Milan Chamber Opera and a music critic heard me and said something about me to Leyla Gencer, who was then director of the Academia della Scala. Leyla was half Polish and half Turkish. Also fate. I sang "Tacea la notte" and "D'amor sull ali rosee" for Leyla and that was it. Did Leyla recognize something in me? She took me to the Accademia and I made my debut with two roles in Donizetti's operas, at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi (when La Scala was being renovated) and Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo. During the time at La Scala I watched all of Riccardo Muti's rehearsals, I admired this man and took free master classes with people like Luigi Alva, Christa Ludwig, Teresa Berganza and others.

In any case, Leyla said at the time that she wanted to help me to show "that there can be friendship between Greeks and Turks". I will never forget that.


Then I won the Giuseppe di Stefano competition in Trapani, and the prize was the debut of the role of Fiordiligi in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte", the role I sang in "Maggio musicale Trapanese" directed by Michał Znaniecki, who is very famous here. This debut made it easier for me to sing the role in Mozart Year 2006 in Athens as the Countess in "Nozze di Figaro" and then again in 2008 at La Scala in Milan as Fiordiligi, in the famous last production by Giorgio Strehler, at the Teatro Strehler. It was an incredibly beautiful experience, because Strehler's theater is unique: this man had a whole philosophy and vision of the theater. For example, a theater without electricity, only pneumatic technology - pneuma means spirit in Greek.

I haven't had a great career, but I have had the blessing of learning many things from great people that I can now continue to teach and help young singers. In 2015 I started producing operas, this year I initiated a singing competition and was a juror. I'm a producer, maybe not a bad one. This is fulfilment!


In 2017 you came to Görlitz. Why did you decide to live in Görlitz?


In 2010 I moved from Verona to Munich. In 2012, exactly 10 years ago, I met my husband Heinz Müller, with whom we now also work professionally because he is a fantastic sound engineer and we can record everything we do professionally. The problems started in 2015. I had a serious accident with a streetcar, our apartment burned down. It was a crisis where I felt the best way was to "return to my homeland". Something in my soul told me: "You would find peace there..." (as in Schubert's song "Lindenbaum"). This feeling was correct. The motherland always gives great strength in times of crisis. I say that very often and that's why one criticizes it me, especially in Germany, because "Heimat" is almost a bad word there, but home, family, your own country, these are sources of strength.

Well, I wanted to go home, and this is Wrocław. But Heinz doesn't speak Polish and didn't want to move his headquarters from Germany to Poland. So we agreed on Görlitz-Zgorzelec, which was also a great gift of fate because this city has incredible potential, beauty, great people and gives me so many gifts, such as being able to sit here and speak in front of this audience.


Please tell me something about the Ars Augusta Society...


For me, Ars Augusta is a door that opens the possibility to do everything I have dreamed of since I was a child: I love music and theater, history and heritage, but we live in a very difficult time for culture. Money is spent on other things, like wars. Art is in a major crisis, but applications for funding can easily be made through a non-profit association. Foundations, sponsors and also the ministries of culture have helped us a lot in many projects.

Then this area is like an archaeological paradise. There is so much history that has simply been forgotten due to historical issues!

Much of the history of Saxony (home of Winkelmann) and Silesia is also linked to Greece. Antonio Bioni's opera "Issipile", for example, which I discovered a year ago in Vienna, is based on Metastasio's libretto, and almost all of his baroque operas have a theme from Greek mythology. "Issipile" is one of 24 operas written by the Venetian composer Antonio Bioni for the Wrocław Opera House, which the Habsburgs founded shortly before the arrival of Frederick the Great. Catholic Silesia had an amazing opera tradition, every small town had an opera for the Habsburg nobles and the Jesuits: "Issipile" was the biggest and most important discovery I made and I'm very proud of it.

I also rediscovered many things from the circle of the brothers Gerhart and Carl Hauptmann. As part of an INTERREG project, I translated Gerhart Hauptmann's "Festspiel" into Polish in 2018. This is a pacifist drama that Hauptmann wrote for Max Reinhardt for the opening of the Centennial Hall in 1913, a year after he received the Nobel Prize and a year before the outbreak of war. Greece is in it too, for it ends with a pacifist monologue from the goddess Athena, who proclaims in 1913 that all nations should love one another. I gave Grzegorz Zak (a musician) the translation job and he did a fantastic job because he could write in rhyme, which not every translator can do! Later I discovered the songs of the composer Anna Teichmüller, who lived in Szklarska Poręba and wrote songs to Karl's poems, and we recorded them. Here I have a volume in Polish and German that anyone can take.


A year ago we rediscovered Martin Opitz, the great poet from Bolesławiec, and so on! This year I'm doing a workshop on Metastasio's opera "Re Pastore" (from the life of Alexander) by Johann A. Hasse, the opera was first performed in Warsaw in 1762 during the reign of the Saxon King of Poland Augustus III. Last night I rewrote the libretto I found at Polona's in Polish so that Polish singers could understand the Italian libretto.


We also do a lot to spread Polish culture in Germany with the help of Polish artists. For example, a year ago we studied Ludomir Różycki's songs, we played a lot of Polish music in the Augusta Kultursalon, at Augustastraße 6, where we live and give concerts. And for the next edition of the Lied Competition I would like to open a competition for the composition of a poem by Jan Kochanowski, the song should then be a compulsory song in the Lied Competition.

I love Greece, but I also love Poland. I am very grateful to God that I can call this country my homeland!


What are your plans for the future?


The most important projects of the association include the founding of the Lausitzer Barockensemble, with which we conduct workshops, operas and concerts, as well as the Bolko von Hochberg Lied Competition, which was launched in Görlitz-Zgorzelec in June 2022. I discovered Bolko von Hochberg from the first day of my arrival in Görlitz when I saw the town hall Stadthalle. Wow - what a great monument. When I found out that Bolko (a Polish name for a German surname) had built this hall for the Silesian Music Festival and that he was also a composer, I knew: this is a calling. At that time, Anne Marie Franke was the culture officer at the Silesian Museum, who helped finance the project to record Bolko's songs and write a biography. That's how it all started.

We will now start looking for sponsors for the next edition in 2024. We are grateful for any help and I will write to the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation - I don't know with which partner yet. There will be a competition one year and a series of recitals the next.

Zamek Ksiaz/Schloss Fürstenstein

Now, for example, we are starting a series of such concerts. On October 2nd in the Castle Fürstenstein/Zamek Książ, where Bolko was born. At 18:00, Dutch baritone Vincent Kusters and Bulgarian pianist Doriana Tchakarova will sing songs based on poems by the great Silesian poet Joseph von Eichendorff and songs by Bolko. And before that, the Greek winner of the first prize, Vassia Alati, will be performing in Ottobrunn near Munich, because Munich is very closely linked to Greece. And the Mayor of Ottobrunn donated 6,000 euros for the first prize.

All Films from the Competition can be seen on our YouTube-Kanal, we invite you to follow us.


After all, my biggest dream is to found a theater music academy in Görlitz as a Creative Europe Desk project with Poland and Greece. In Poland I have a great partner: the Łazienki Museum, where the Greek Amphitheater and the Baroque Theater of August Poniatowski (my favorite Polish king) are located, and in Greece, the Cultural Center in Kozani, where my father is from. Isn't that like closing a circle?

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After the interview, the State Library published the following report. I cannot be thankful enough for her attentive listening and the opportunity I have been given to tell the world what is important to me.


(Translation of the report: "A star of the first magnitude")

"On the occasion of the opening of the 24th International Festival of Greek Song, the Municipal Public Library in Zgorzelec invited the residents of Zgorzelec to meet Eleni Triada Ioannidou. The Greek-Polish opera singer now lives in Görlitz, where she lives with her husband Heinz Müller (author, musician, sound engineer) runs the Ars Augusta society.

Eleni Ioannidou talked about her Greek-Polish roots. Born in Wroclaw in the family of Greek Theodosios and Polish Danuta, who was a real Hellenophile. And it was the mother who told her daughters the most about Greece. Her mother's father instilled a passion for classical music in little girls, he had a large LP collection of works by Chopin, Beethoven and other great composers, which he played often. The next stop in Eleni's life was childhood and youth in Greece, and here, too, the Polish mother was the driving force in getting to know the history, culture and architecture of Hellas.

Eleni received a thorough musical education, won prizes in numerous singing competitions, performed on the major music stages of Greece, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Colombia. In addition to studying music, she also studied ... agriculture - graduating as a certified plant engineer. She says about herself that she is interested in many, very different things and actually wants to know everything...

She has been a music producer since 2015, and in 2017 she and her husband founded the Ars Augusta society in Görlitz. They support young musicians, organize workshops and set up classical music ensembles. The last completed project was the Lied Competition Bolko von Hochberg, the first edition of which took place this year in Zgorzelec and Görlitz. Ioannidou's dream is to hold this in the Stadthalle in the future, where – as he says – the acoustics are very good.

Eleni Ioannidou showed herself to be a person full of interesting ideas and a dynamic producer on Friday night. At the same time, she is a very open and warm-hearted person and impresses above all with her personal culture and modesty, which she even radiates despite the great successes she has achieved in her artistic life. According to many viewers it was a well organized and executed meeting and Eleni Triada Ioannidou emerged as a star of the first rank. Thank you for accepting the invitation and we look forward to further meetings under the auspices of the Municipal Public Library in Zgorzelec."


Credits: Miejska Biblioteka w Zgorzelcu

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