Byzantium and the Macedonian Dynasty came alive at St. Demetrios Preparatory School with Porphyra’s Grecian Rock Opera, “The Story of Princess Anna Porphyrogenita.”
A thrilling, historical, cultural journey through Music, Dance, and Theater was performed three days in June, June 24th-26th, at the School’s Petros G. Patrides Cultural Center. The production was presented by the Porphyra Foundation and St. Demetrios Prep. This was also a Fundraiser for St. Demetrios Preparatory School for all its wonderful music, art, and dance programs.
Set in the year 988 AD, the Heroic Age of Basil II Emperor of Byzantium, the story chronicles Basil II’s sister Princess Anna Porphyrogenita and her world-rocking marriage to Grand Prince Vladimir of the Kievan Rus. The show was narrated through the eyes of the great author Penelope Delta’s incredible world of Emperor Basil II’s Byzantine Greek Macedonian Renaissance, his struggles, victories, and aspirations for his people and family. There was a special tribute to Electric Guitar pioneer, Epaminondas (Epi) Stathopoulos, of Epiphone guitar fame, and the Armenian Zildjian Cymbal-making family.
Our community got the “Off-Broadway” experience it deserves. This Porphyra Foundation’s show has premiered in Carnegie Hall, Off-Broadway at the Player’s Theatre, and Flushing Town Hall. This is a musical in the Rock Opera genre where it features Rock Guitars and Greek ethnic instruments such as the Tzoura, the Pontian Lyra, and Greek Percussion (Daouli and Dumberleki). The show featured three incredible school dancers, Konstantina Koulouriotis, Frida Kasimis, and Stamatoula Figetakis, who prepared and choreographed all the dances by themselves. It featured acting and full costumed singers along with Greek folk numbers from The Greek American Folklore Society (GAFS). GAFS was founded in the early eighties by Paul Ginis, who was a recognized authority on Greek folklore.
The show was directed by St. Demetrios Prep’s own Thea Gibbs, who has an extensive theater background, and narrated by Despina Chrissochos who acted the part of Penelope Delta while helping backstage as well. The role of Princess Anna Porphyrogenita was performed by the vocal powerhouse, Elaine Tuttle. Grand Princess Olga was performed by Dorit, who also performed all the belly dancing numbers that wowed the crowds every night. Newcomer Andreas Pliatsikas looked great as Emperor Basil II while a returning favorite, Christos Alexandrou stunned the crowd with his theatrical dexterity as Grand Prince Vladimir. The props, costumes, and armor used were courtesy of the Porphyra Foundation’s Vassilios Chrissochos Collection.
Band leader, composer, and music director Vassilios “Billy” Chrissochos shredded on the guitar while Mike “Risko” Savvas dazzled everyone with his guitar and tzoura playing. The tzoura is the smaller cousin of the bouzouki followed by the baglama. Mike also helped arrange some of the Greek folk dance numbers for the show. Porphyra is blessed to have the following three gentlemen on its roster who have worked tech in musical theater for many years; drummer Tracey Beavers who also held the ship together, new bassist Derek Ortiz, and sound engineer/tech Tom Dicarlucci. The ethnic Greek folk instrument aspect of the group was rounded out by Porphyra veteran world-renowned percussionist Richard Khuzami, and new addition Dimitris Stefanidis on the Pontian Lyra.
St. Demetrios Prep’s own music teacher Dimitris Carabas performed with the Greek American Folklore Society and assisted with tech along with Nicole-Katherine Tiliakos (School Co-Salutatorian) who danced with GAFS and assisted backstage. Dimitris Carabas along with Billy Chrissochos came up with the dances that later Mike Savvas would help arrange for the band to incorporate into their repertoire. The addition of two Pontian Dances; Kotsari, and a Tik (Rasopoulo), along with a Thracian dance called Zonaradiko. Kalamatiano called “City of Gold” that was co-written with Christos Alexandrou and one song from their new album, a Hasaposerviko called “the Butcher’s Dance “ was also featured in the show.
Backstage on make-up and costumes were the school’s Maria Karamaniolas and Evangelia Ruppaner running the show. Frontstage we wish to thank Christa Ann Gibbs and David Gibbs for manning the ticket and merchandise tables. Despina and Billy’s little girls, Theoni and Triantafyllia, helped with the big wedding scene and backstage.
The new Rock Opera, “The Story of Princess Anna Porphyrogenita,” incorporates much of the previous story of “Anna and Vladimir: the love that ROCKED the world,” and now even added music from all four of Billy Chrissochos’ albums; Phoenix Reign’s “Destination Unknown,” Porphyra’s “Faith, Struggle, Victory,” “The Starmaker’s Prophecy,” and upcoming album “In the Spirit of 1821,” as well as new arrangements of popular Greek folk dance songs.
The band is now set to release their epic third album this summer titled, “The Spirit of 1821”. This has more tales about Greek history and mythology ranging from Orpheus and Eurydice, King Leonidas of Sparta, Achilles, The Greek Revolution, Byzantium, and even a Greco-Romanian tale of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), and the Armenian epic post WWI story of Operation Nemesis. Stay tuned for the release date on their website and social media!
This production was awarded by Mr. Ioannis Maronitis who is the President of the Club for UNESCO of Piraeus and Islands, a Member of the Executive Board of the World Federation of Clubs, Centres, and Associations of UNESCO (WFUCA) for Europe and North America, and Secretary-General of the Hellenic Federation Clubs, Centres and Associations of UNESCO. Ms. Despina Afentouli officiated the ceremony on Friday’s show awarding with certificates the cast and crew from UNESCO Piraeus and its sister organization InterAction Art. Many thanks also go to our partner Mr. Panayiotis Karousos and our own Billy Chrissochos who serves as Director of Modern Music in NY for UNESCO Piraeus.
Many thanks also go out to the AHEPA leadership for helping promote the show including District Governor Br Dean Moskos and our own Billy Chrissochos, who serves as AHEPA District 6 Empire State Director of Hellenism and past president of AHEPA Hermes Astoria Chapter 186. We also wish to thank our Media Sponsors New Greek Television (NGTV), Yanna Darilis, George Kokkinos, and Christos Tezides.
We wish to thank all our Sponsors: Mediterranean Foods, Rizos Jewelry, Selo Restaurant, Oasis Cafe, Crescent Apothecary, Kellogg’s Diner, Metropolis Realty, The Grand, Marvel Frozen Dairy, James P. Orphanides and family, Pat Gravino (Premier Consulting Partners), Chris Pollatos and family, Michael Tribunella and family, Perry Jonson, Theoni Chrissochos and Leach family. Also, all the places that promoted our show with posters and flyers: St. Demetrios Cathedral, St. Catherine and George Church, St. Demetrios Preparatory School, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine in Flushing, To Steki tou Laki, North Shore Diner, TRU Astoria, Avenue Cafe, Argy Realty LLC, Astoria Soundworks, and Euromarket.
The Porphyra Foundation wishes to thank Reverend Father Vasileios Tsiourlis, School Supervising Principal Dr. John Alfieri, Assistant Principals Mrs. Helen Karageorge and Mrs. Betsy Sideris, Dean Mr. Petros Stasinos, Parish President Mr. Stefanos Thomatos, and the PTA for all their support and help with our production of “The Story of Princess Anna Porphyrogenita.”