Countertenor Nikos Spanatis is Pope Leo IV in the opera “The Papess Joanne”
Based on the homonymous novel by Emmanuel Rhoides, the opera “The Papess Joanne” will be presented in Greek National Opera. Countertenor Nikos Spanatis will perform the role of the extremely unconventional Pope Leo IV and the artist reveals to us what his emotions are shortly before he gets on stage.

Journalist: Evdokia Vazouki | 06.03.2020


nikos spanatis

Nikos Spanatis © Stefanos Papadopoulos llocq

Emmanuel Rhoides’ novel, which caused sensation when it was published in 1866, is presented in the form of a new opera for three shows on 8, 15 and 22 March 2020 at Greek National Opera, under the baton of Efstathios Soulis and the direction of Dimitrios Karatzas.

It is one of the most subversive works of the author, with a strong satirical spirit, that brings up the way the church was governed during the Middle Ages, on the occasion of Papesse Joanne’s story.

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Countertenor Nikos Spanatis is Pope Leo IV

In the opera "THE PAPESS JOANNE" presented at Greek National Opera



Countertenor Nikos Spanatis is interviewed by ATHENS VOICE about his life and role in the opera "THE PAPESS JOANNE" at Greek National Opera
Interview: Maria Alexiou
 2018 - 10 - 13 Brussels Thessaloniki 2
Nikos Spanatis ©  Yannis Gutmann
A new opera, “The Papess Joanne”, ordered by Greek National Opera to composer Yorgos Vassilantonakis for the 80th anniversary of the organization, occurs 154 years after the release of Emmanuel Rhoides’ "anti-christian and malevolent" novel. The libretto, which has the signature of the author Vaggelis Hadjigiannidis, is based on the homonymous novel by Rhoides, which is about a woman who managed to take the Pope Throne by hiding her femininity. The new ambitious production will be presented for three unique performances, March 8, 15 and 22, 2020, at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of Greek National Opera at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, under the baton of Stathis Soulis and the direction of Dimitrios Karantzas.

Photo c Στέφανος Παπαδόπουλος llocq
Nikos Spanatis © Stefanos Papadopoulos llocq

We met countertenor Nikos Spanatis who holds the role of Pope Leo IV, a role that shows a highly unconventional character, without any seriousness, causing the public to strongly disrupt the prestige of the Papal Throne.
A crystal countertenor voice, plenty of rave reviews, with many appearances such as at The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Onassis Stegi, Athens and Epidaurus Festival, Megaron Athens Concert Hall, Parnassos Literary Society, the artist unfolds his truth.

Talk to us about your childhood and how your relationship with music started.

I was born in Frankfurt and when I was very young, we moved with my family to Athens. I intensely remember my childhood full of endless games in the neighborhood with my friends and classmates. I have loved music since the last grades of primary school and, when I came back from school to home, I would enjoy listening to my favorite vinyl record “The Water Music” by Handel.
Later on, being encouraged by my father, I became an active member of a Philharmonic Orchestra for many years, where I took music and trumpet lessons. I studied piano, music theory and singing later at the Conservatory and I graduated from the Department of Music Studies of the Ionian University, where I am currently a PhD candidate.

Tell us about the countertenor’s voice and the contemporary repertoire you have performed.

Countertenor’s voice is carrying the audience away in a magical way, especially to the Renaissance and Baroque eras. It is a specific voice, exceptionally peculiar for many people and unexpectedly dynamic sometimes, with virtuosity and ability, a voice that must coexist in an equal level with other operatic voices. I have been very frequently invited to sing contemporary operatic repertoire composed by Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Sullivan, Philip Glass, as well as songs of a different repertoire by composers such as Kurt Weill, Ariel Ramirez, Jacques Brel, Michael Nyman, the Epirus dirge “Mariola”, the song “Anoikse giati den anteho” by Greek popular composer Yannis Papaioannou, the excerpt from the amazing “Murderess” by Yorgos Koumendakis, etc.

How old were you when you first heard about the novel “THE PAPESS JOANNE” by Emmanuel Rhoides?

I heard about “The Papess Joanne” while at the University, among other novels and writers of the previous century.

How would you describe your collaboration with director Dimitrios Karatzas, an artist of your generation?

I am very happy to collaborate with director Dimitrios Karantzas, who marks a great career in the theater industry. He is truly devoted to the direction of the opera and he often intervenes vigorously with just a single word. He gives the singers the freedom to think and perform every movement and he is always conciliatory, smiling and inspirational.

Tell us about your role.

In the opera “The Papess Joanne” by great composer Yorgos Vassilantonakis, I play the role of Pope Leo IV, a role that shows a highly unconventional character, without any seriousness, causing the public to strongly disrupt the prestige of the Papal Throne.
The "anti-Christian and blasphemous" novel by Rhoides is massively formed by librettist Vangelis Hadjigiannidis and comes alive with the mystical music of Yorgos Vassilantonakis, creating intense reflection on religion and authority issues.

What are your forthcoming artistic plans?

In the summer, I will perform in London, at the Concert Series of the historic St. Martin in the Fields church, as well as at the Church of St Laurence at Upminster with acclaimed organist Heleni Keventsidou.
Furthermore, during Fall, initially in London and then in Athens, I will present my first personal album under the English record label “Ravensbury”, a collaboration with Heleni Keventsidou, containing works by Dietrich Buxtehude, Arvo Pärt, Yorgos Koumendakis, etc.

Nikos LIVE


Tell us about contemporary artists in Greece.


Contemporary artists are given the ability to stand out and claim a place in the artistic landscape of Greece. The competition is hard, but there are many opportunities. Now, artists are able to promote their work independently, through the internet, something that did not happen in the past, they can be supported by public and private organisations, and the reward, in Athens and the periphery, is the pleasure, recognition and warm applause by the audience.


Guide της Athens Voice

INTERVIEW | Nikos Spanatis

"Love is a blind emotion full of outbreaks and swirling."

Interview: George Stavrakidis

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 Numismatic Museum in Athens | Photo (c) Stefanos Papadopoulos

How did your relationship with music started?

When I was a little kid, I remember the afternoons after school listening to my favorite LP Record from Haendel’s “Music of the Water”. However, my substantial connection with music happened when I became a member in a Philarmonic Orchestra playing the trumpet at the age of eight. There, I took my first music lessons and I remained as active musician for seventeen years.

On the 13th of February you will perform songs of love at Serres…

The initial idea was, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, to present a program here at Serres, at “Asteria” theatre, which would be inspired by the force of Eros and love, including songs, ballads, arias and duets known to the general public. Supported by the Municipal Regional Theatre of Serres, this idea came true and on Saturday 13th February I will perform with magnificent and established mezzo soprano Irene Karaianni and virtuoso pianist Dimitris Yakas, in a program with arias and duets by the most popular French composers, such as Offenbach, Saint-Saëns and Massenet, the provocative “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen, very well known songs and duets by Greek acknowledged composers, such as Samaras, Spathis and Sakellarides, as well as the famous Sous Le Ciel De Paris by Giraud, perhaps the greatest French melodist. Purcell and Haendel could not possibly be absent from this program, with their enchanting melodies, the well known and tender “So in Love” from Porter’s musical “Kiss me Kate”, Weill’s music with the “milestone” song “Je ne t’ aime pas”, the delightful music by Audran, Curtis and Britten, as well as the emotional ballad by Niles “Black is the color of my true love’s hair”. All the works are dedicated to Eros and the beauty of real love.

["The great moments music has given me are the true friendships..."]

Has the music given you great moments?

Even though I have collaborated with Greek and international orchestras, as well as with acclaimed singers and conductors, I believe that the great moments music has given me are the true friendships I make after a collaboration has taken place, the love and true enthusiasm of my colleagues and the daily enjoyment of the music I love in any way or activity.

Which professional dream has not come true yet?

The release of a personal album with favorite arias of my repertoire.

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Nikos Spanatis: «The classical music has a limited but a passionate audience …»


"The classical music has a limited but a passionate audience ... "
In a seductive play where nostalgia meets expectation and happiness surrenders with melancholy to hopeless love, the counter tenor Nikos Spanatis talks about the baroque music concert «Mi palpita il cor». Featuring vocal and instrumental music of the 18th century, this music night will take place at the Philological Association " Parnassus ", on Friday April 12th , at 20.30 pm , with artists specialized in the interpretation of Baroque music. Among them, the distinguished counter tenor Nikos Spanatis who talks about the concert and the magic of music.

 Who will be your partners on stage ?

"I am very pleased - the last two years- to work with great and highly regarded Baroque music artists in Greece. For Katerina Ktona recommendations are not necessary, since the history of the harpsichord in our country has been identified with her name.

 Ms. Ktona is a founding member of important recordings and numerous appearances at home and abroad. 

nikos-spanatis 1

Our collaboration took place for the first time in April 2011 and was soon repeated in the next few months. I will also have the pleasure to interact musically once again with Angelos Repapis. Mr. Repapis studied double bass and viola da gamba in Netherlands, is a founding also member of the ensemble "Sinfonia" who works with major early music ensembles in Greece and greatly supports the dissemination of interpretation with original organs.

My acquaintance with Efi Minakouli lasts for many years. Ms. Minakouli studied singing, lute and theorbo in England, works with the most significant Greek orchestras as laoutista and participates in important recordings of baroque opera. It would have been an omission not to mention that over the years my acquaintance with Efi Minakouli developed into a regular cooperation and cordial friendship. Finally, another partner to this concert will be Anastasia Miliori in baroque violin. After completing her studies in Germany, she works with Baroque ensembles in Greece and abroad and participates in Baroque opera recordings . I will have the pleasure to work on stage for the second time With Anastasia Miliori. "

Which moment of your artistic journey do you believe that defined your evolution ?

"I think during my career until now there has been  no specific moment which proved to be decisive. Each successful cooperation is a reason for what will follow. The singer who has a healthy and beautiful voice with a sense of professional responsibility and  above all shows respect to the music it serves, has the opportunity to participate in productions , performances and concerts, to become loved by the audience and above all to create great partnerships."

What is attitude towards classical music in Greece ?

"The classical music - although universal – has a limited but a passionate audience. Fortunately, the nightlife spots are not characterized as “cultural centers” anymore ." Now, with a new spirit , the great artistic and educational activities of the State Orchestras , the Camerata, the Foundation of Arts and Letters , the National Opera and many other cultural institutions present distinguished works of the classical repertoire with a different and fresh look throughout Greece , dazzling young and old viewers. "

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