Interview with the world famous Greek singer, Ms Alkistis Protopsalti:
“Attica boasts stunning “ancient secrets”, wonderful nature, biodiversity and myths awaiting to be discovered…”
Dynamic and sensitive. Passionate and tender. She mesmerises with her voice, she electrifies with her Mediterranean disposition and impresses with her stage performances. Alkistis Protopsalti has been at the forefront of the Greek music scene for over four decades, with many gold and platinum albums, countless concertsshows-recitals, not only in Greece but in the world’s greatest theatres and operas, as well: USA, Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Israel, Canada, Cyprus, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Kenya.
She has sung great Greek poets, has worked with the most significant composers, songwriters and directors of Greece and famous artists and singers from all over the world.
Alkistis Protopsalti has the gift to communicate emotions, images and moments with her voice, and convey the culture of Greece worldwide through her songs.
1. Ms Protopsalti, you were born in Alexandria, Egypt to Greek parents and came to Athens at the age of 7. What does Greece, Attica, Athens mean to you?
Greece is my life itself, my dreams, my joys, my sorrows, my loves, my separations, my friends, my closest people, my way of expression. Greece is my whole universe. Greece makes you love life more than you can handle. I am eternally in love with my country and I will sing it out everywhere I go. Greece is more than a country on the globe, it is a universal system of values and principles that has its roots on the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis and developed a world civilisation that is centred on humans and their welfare. Athens is the city I grew up in and over the years I kept on discovering its cultural richness. As for Attica, it is a place that boasts stunning “ancient secrets”, wonderful nature, biodiversity and myths awaiting to be discovered.
2. You have chosen to live in the countryside of Attica. What is it like to live near nature, half hour away from Athens city centre?
What urged me to leave the centre of Athens and live in Attica was my great love for countryside mornings and the open view over the sea. I have lived in Keratea for almost twenty years now, near nature and its transformations, which is exactly what I wanted, in a place that calms me down and helps my mental well-being!
3. Mountain or sea? Which are your favourite “getaways” in Attica?
I choose the sea. I am a sports person and the region generously offers me everything I want. Swimming, surfing, sailing and fishing… as well as hiking, cycling and diving. Anavyssos, Fokea, Legrena, Sounio. Especially in Sounio, at the Temple of Poseidon, the sunset and the full moon cannot be described in words…
4. In 1994 you performed for the first time at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, giving a grand concert. Can you describe how you felt in that concert and in your later performances at this majestic ancient theatre, on the slope of the Acropolis?
Every time I sing at this astonishing theatre my heart fills with light. What a setting, what a vibe, what a marvelous History!! It is very important for an artist to be able to express themselves, in their lifetime, at this unique space with the worldwide magnitude!
5. In April 2020 you sang pro bono at a special moving concert around Athens city centre and neighbourhoods, symbolically stopping at two hospitals where doctors and nurses were fighting against the coronavirus. Tell us a few words about this experience, how you – personally and professionally – experience the new reality created by COVID-19 and how safe you feel here in Attica.
This was my “thank you” to all people on the front line who supported our lives those days and to my fellow citizens who persevered and are still holding on. That morning in the neighbourhoods of Athens was astounding. It was a lot bigger than us. What we experienced, the things we felt, no matter how much I try to describe them I will never be able to give you the true dimensions of it. It was utterly unique. Even now that I’m speaking of this, I am moved and the images that storm my mind and eyes are absolutely breathtaking. I feel safe because I’m very careful and I believe that soon “masks will fall” and we will take our lives up where we left off…
6. Given your love for sports and your role as Ambassador of Athens Marathon, tell us a few words about this great sporting, cultural and world tourism event that takes place in Attica.
Marathon is one of the strongest brand names of Greece. The utmost historic road race of 42 kilometres (42,195) has been stirring powerful emotions worldwide since 1896. The Museum, the exceptionally beautiful and rich natural landscape, the unique artificial lake of the region and the Marathon dam, the wonderful sandy beach and the stunning natural reserve of Schinias make you want to visit the area all around the year.
7. As an artist and former Minister of Tourism of Greece, talk to us about Attica’s culture as an attraction pole for travellers from all over the world. How can the foreign visitor be initiated in the history, the culture and tradition of Attica through its ancient monuments, museums and cultural events that are organised all around the year in Attica?
Let’s start our tour from the Acropolis. On the rocky hill that dominates the centre of modern Athens stands the greatest and grandest sanctuary of the ancient city, a monument that is in total harmony with the surroundings, dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. The Parthenon, the most significant architectural work of the 5th century BC, will always remind us of the magnificence, the wealth and power of Athens in its heyday, the golden age of Pericles. The Erechtheion, the Propylaea… the new Acropolis Museum is absolutely stunning!!! The sights all around Athens are countless. Among the most important ones is the Temple of Olympian Zeus that was built by Emperor Hadrian, one of the greatest temples of the ancient world that still houses Roman baths, residences and part of the fortification wall of the city.
The Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds that was built with donations by Julius Caesar. The archaeological site of Plato’s Academy, which today is used as a public park. The Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro) was where the Panathenaea took place in honour of the goddess Athena. For many centuries, it hosted sports games and several events. So imposing… This is where the Olympic Flame handover ceremony takes place.
The Philopappos Monument. At the top of the hill with the wonderful view stands a mausoleum that was built by the Athenians in honour of their benefactor Gaius Julius Philopappos.
As you can see, it takes a few days to visit all these stunning monuments. We continue our tour at the Bath House of the Winds, the only surviving public bath in Athens. Then a walk around Monastiraki (grand bazaar) and Plaka, the oldest neighbourhood in Athens with wonderful houses and narrow streets. Kerameikos cemetery, the greatest ancient cemetery of Athens. Stroll around Zappeion, walk the trails of Lycabettus hill – with a view over the entire city of Athens – and wander in the forest of Kaisariani.
Don’t miss out on the Archaeological Museum, the Benaki Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art and, if you have time, the Epigraphic Museum, unique in Greece and the largest of its kind in the world, and so many others…
Of great interest are the cultural events that are held in Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall, and in the extraordinary Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre! Athens is truly inexhaustible and Attica will always be a wonderful tourist destination with natural beauty, History and Culture.
Photo: Manolis Chiotis