The Artistic Director of the Alternative Stage of the National Opera of Greece embodies the new, “experimental” era of lyric theater in Greece.

Alexandros Efklidis

Overthrowing stereotypes

Text: Evi Kallini | Photographs: Alexandros Efklidis' archive
Alexandros Efklidis

The Artistic Director of the Alternative Stage of the National Opera of Greece embodies the new, “experimental” era of lyric theater in Greece.

Alexandros Efklidis was born and raised in Thessaloniki. Since his early childhood years, he was a bookworm and a classical music lover, two traits that created a gap between him and his classmates, as he confesses. “Along with a handful of friends, I found myself in the fringes of school life, one of my most bland periods in life”. At a very early age, he developed a crash for the opera, went through the compulsory stage of Maria Callas worshiping, and got acquainted with the classical music repertoire both by practicing and exploring his parents’ rich record collection. “My bond with the world of Western scholarly music is founded on personal experience and dates a long way back,” he explains.

Alexandros Efklidis graduated from the School of Drama of AUTh’s Fine Arts Faculty, which made its baby steps at the time, having attracted some renowned artists to join its teaching staff. Efklidis set out to become an opera director, combining two of his greatest loves, opera and theater. He went on to study Dramatics in France, seizing the opportunity to work with remarkable researchers and important theatrologists, as well as to attend innumerable theater performances from all over the world, expanding his horizons.

He returned to Thessaloniki in 2002, dropping out of his PhD thesis in Paris. Thereupon, the National Theater of Northern Greece’s former director, Victor Ardittis, entrusted him with the position of the repertoire consultant. As he recalls, “it was an incredible chance for a young theatrologist, for which I am grateful, as it gave me the opportunity to work in a truly professional environment and brace myself for a future collaboration with a prestigious state cultural institution, such as the National Opera of Greece.” At that time, he had a close collaboration, as a dramaturge, with Konstantinos Rigos, at NTNG’s Dance Theater, a model dance ensemble with many great performances under its belt.

His first “reluctant moving” to Athens took place in 2008, following the completion of his PhD thesis. He had already gained a certain level of experience as an opera director, and was splitting his time between an academic and an artistic career. In 2009, he debuted as a director at the National Opera of Greece. He returned once again in Thessaloniki, working as a teacher at the School of Drama of AUTh’s Faculty of Fine Arts. He moved to Athens, for good this time, in 2013, when he took on the post of permanent director at the National Opera of Greece. In 2017, when Giorgos Koumendakis was appointed as head of the NOG, he assigned Efklidis the Alternative Stage’s direction.

However, two of the largest-scale productions directed by Efklidis for the Alternative Stage were The Murderess and The Bat, both staged in 2014, at a time when he was still working as a permanent director. “These two productions represent, as far as I’m concerned, my two greatest expectations when staging a musical theater play. On one hand, the rebirth of past plays and their liaison with the experiences of the modern audience, as I attempted to do with the Greek version of The Bat. On the other hand, the staging of fresh opera and musical theater plays that reach out to a wider audience, as in the case of Koumendakis’ The Murderess, which became the first successful large-scale Greek opera in many years,” he goes on to say.

What other plays does he consider as landmarks in his career? “My debut show, in 2002, will remain indelible in my memory: it was a wonderful play by Händel, Acis and Galatea, staged at the Municipal Theater of Kalamaria, alongside some enthusiastic young artists and my music teacher, Kostis Papazoglou. My first stage production in Germany, Yasou Aida!, was another key moment in my journey, not only for its success, but also because it offered me the chance to realize some of my wildest dreams, working side by side with a group of collaborators, with whom we bonded together. Giorgos Koumendakis’ The Murderess was also a benchmark, as I experienced the feeling of taking part in something that is destined to obtain historic importance. On the following day, I took notice of a political cartoon in a newspaper, featuring Christine Lagarde as the “murderess” of Greek economy. That’s when I came to realize that the play had exceeded the narrow boundaries of theater. Last but not least, I would like to mention the first stage production of the Alternative Stage, Twilight of the Debts. The show triggered a real scandal and was brutally derided to such an extent that one might say that it served its purpose,” he replies.

As we wrap up our talk, I ask him to comment on the pandemic-driven changes in the field of art and culture. “The pandemic crushed us and with the exception of few artists who are employed in important institutions, the rest of them are on the edge of the cliff. Support to artists is a prerequisite for any optimistic glance at the future. As without them, there’s no future for art, either.”