A world-class opera singer with an international career
I first saw Aris Argiris perform five years ago. I was immediately impressed by his warm voice, his impeccable technique, and his artistic appearance on stage. Someone had posted on Facebook a video recording of “Rigoletto” scene from Verdi’s opera; that scene went viral. Mr Argiris’ performance reminded me at once all the great singers of Belcanto! Some days later, I saw his name featuring in the Theater an der Wien’s programme in Vienna. I bought tickets and there I was, at the sold-out premiere of the “La mere coupable” opera of Darius Milhaud. During the whole performance, Aris Argiris was always in control of his voice. However, even more remarkable were his acting musicality skills. Once the play was over, I ran to meet him! It is thanks to such singers that I love so much my profession. We became friends on Facebook, and I follow all his posts and appearances ever since.
When the first lockdown took place from March to May due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Aris Argiris had since the very beginning, in March, a strong presence in social media. You see, Aris is not just a well-known and talented opera singer; he is an intelligent, well-educated person with a strong political view and strong persuasiveness skills. He is well aware of all the latest developments and news, both in music industry as well as in the society itself. A great supporter of freedom of speech and human rights, he was raised up in an environment where the influence of his grandfather, was very strong; the latter had taken part in the Greek resistance against the Nazis during the World War II and afterwards he was exiled during the civil war and the Greek dictatorship. All these elements had a great impact on this great artist, Mr Argiris. I still remember the months during the quarantine in March, April and May 2020, when he actively supported all of his peers, the artists. He even started an online interview series with “Das Opernmagazine”, where he presented together with Detlef Obens, distinguished artists and other important figures.
Therefore, you can share the excitement I had when I saw his name featuring in the programme of Volksoper Wien for the German version of Verdi’s opera “La forza del destino”. That moment I realised I needed to do two things; first to buy tickets to the premiere and then to contact him and kindly ask him to take part in our “Meet the Artists series”. He gladly accepted and I was looking forward to meeting him! I would be able to enjoy a world-class opera performance at the Volksoper Wien while having also the chance to interview an inspiring artist. I bought the tickets and some days later, I confirmed our meeting that would take place on the 31st October.
What I was unable to predict, was how the situation with the Covid-19 would evolve. Suddenly, the number of the infected people in Austria started to increase unexpectedly, and thus the Austrian Government was forced to take new measures. Everyone kept talking about a second a second lockdown.
We met with Aris Argiris at Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna, as agreed, on the 31st October. The “Meet the Artists” live streaming interview was scheduled just a couple of hours before the Austrian Government’s announcement of the new measures. It went without saying that we would discuss all the changes the pandemic brought to our lives, and especially the impact it had on every artist’s life. We started the interview as scheduled keeping up the high spirit. We could both assume that the new restrictions that were about to follow could result in the cancellation of “La forza del destino” at the Volksoper Wien as well as the rest of the cultural events in Vienna.
As I mentioned above, Aris Argiris is an artist with a strong political view and knowledge of the latest news and developments in the music industry as well as the society itself. However, that very day, when he found out that, regardless the preparation and the hard work, his performances would be cancelled once more, he showed on camera his greatiness! There he was in front of me, an artist who would keep his positive mindset by sending supportive messages to young opera singers, giving courage and hope, spreading positivity and explaining on camera why artists should stay focused, continue to make art, believe that better days will soon come without giving up.
At that point, he had the chance to talk about his source of inspiration and faith, his wife Lupe. “She has a great fantasy, my wife, that’s why I love her and admire her”, he said. Then, he mentioned that -just like any other person- he is also sometimes in a blue mood, feeling down; but then again, he keeps on spreading messages of hope and love and suggests to people to stay with their loved ones; I can feel from the warmth of his voice, the love he has for his family, his wife and his two beautiful daughters. In these “dark hours”, his wife is the one who lifts him up when he feels down and he does the same for her. This way, they face together all the new challenges that this pandemic might bring. “It is not easy”, he said, “but people should find the strength to come up with new ideas and stay artistically alive.
What I keep from our meeting is the following phrase: “it will not be easy; people will not be able to afford food, but we must not stop”! At this point, I should mention that two hours after our interview, the new restrictions were announced. As a result, the premiere of Verdi’s opera “La forza del destino” got cancelled. Aris Argiris announced on his Facebook account the cancellation of the premiere along with the rest of his scheduled appearances in Volksoper Wien. So much work and effort and so many rehearsals went in vain, despite following the hygiene measures. I could still clearly hear his voice saying, “we must not stop”!
Two days after our meeting, on the 2nd November, there was a terrorist attack at the very heart of Vienna. Aris Argiris was still here, but, fortunately, he was not in the centre of Vienna when the incident happened. In just two days, our lives were deeply affected. On one hand, all theatres closed, concerts and other cultural events were put on hold, and the art and culture industry was once again not well treated. On the other hand, hate and fear tried to find a way in our souls in an extremely violent way. Aris mentioned during the interview that this pandemic reminds him of a war, only that this is much worse. “During a war, art and crafts were flourishing, theatres remained open”, he said, “this is an enemy we cannot see, an enemy that deprives us of what builds and nourishes the human soul, the Art”. At the same time, extreme violence appears in the streets of civilized Europe spreading fear and hate. Aris Argiris returned to Bonn in Germany where he lives with his family; however, I can still hear his words in my head: “we must NOT STOP”!
“This will be our response to violence: making music in a more intense, beautiful and devoted way – more than ever before.”
Chryso Makariou ©
Vienna November 2020