Friday 20 February 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
reading of fragments from Euripides and from Corrado Alvaro's La lunga notte di Medea
Irene Papas is to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 40th International Theatre Festival dedicated to the Mediterranean. The award to the great Greek actress has been proposed by the Festival Director, Maurizio Scaparro, and approved by the Board of the Venice Biennale, presided over by Paolo Baratta.
The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award ceremony, that will open the 40th International Theatre Festival, will take place at the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale at 6:00 p.m. on Friday 20 February 2009.
In 2006, the award was presented to Ferruccio Soleri, in 2007 to Ariane Mnouchkine and in 2008 to the Lebanese director Roger Assaf.
The statement whereby Irene Papas is attributed the award reads: «A Greek actress of international renown, Irene Papas is one of Europe’s most famous artists who over her 50-year career has played important female roles in theatre and in film (many in classical tragedy) becoming, in the eyes of the world, the spokeswoman and symbol of the Mediterranean culture, the very incarnation of the power of Greek tragedy. With extraordinary artistic results, Irene Papas devoted herself to stage direction and, recently, to the training of young actors by establishing and directing Art Schools in Athens, Sagunto and Rome».
Born near Corinth in 1926, she was well known at home before being 20. At 12 she was admitted at the Dramatic Art School of her city and later moved to Athens to study theatre. She became a famous theatre actress playing the leading female roles of classical drama. Due to her increasing success, she was noticed by Italian film producers who invited her to Cinecittà offering her the part of Mediterranean beauty, as was the case in 1953 in Mario Monicelli's The Unfaithfuls and in 1954 in Pietro Francisci's Attila. She then moved to Hollywood acting in Robert Wise's Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) and in J. Lee Thompson's The Guns of Navarone (1961), and was noticed for the collaboration with a director of Greek origin, Mikis Cacoyannis: the two realized Zorba the Greek (1964), in which Anthony Quinn was also involved, the film resulting in a worlwide success that also introduced the sirtaki, a popular Greek dance. Soon after, Papas moved again to Italy, devoting herself to demonstrations against dictatorship in Greece and working with committed filmmakers such as Pietro Germi and Francesco Rosi. It was nonetheless the Odissea TV-series (1968) by Franco Rossi that gave her enormous popularity in Italy. In the 80s she acted in a number of films including Into The Night (1985) by John Landis and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1987) by Francesco Rosi. In the mid 90s she moved to Portugal where she worked extensively with Manoel de Oliveira, and acted in Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001) by John Madden. In 2004 she co-directed with Giuliana Berlinguer the film Ecuba from Euripides. In 2005 she directed to huge acclaim Antigone by Sophocles at the Teatro Greco in Siracusa.
In 2001, the Università degli Studi "La Sapienza" of Rome conferred her the honoris causa degree in Arts and the Humanities. A creator of memorable performances in the most diverse genres of spectacle, Irene Papas is, most of all, the very incarnation of Greek tragedy that, like no other actress of our time, she was able to bring to life in such roles as Antigone, Electra, Trojan Women, Iphigenia, and Medea, both in theatre and in the films directed by Cacoyannis. In recent years, Irene Papas devoted herself to the establishment of the School of Athens and the School of Sagunto that, together with the School of Rome, are conceived as workshops where to train young pupils to performing arts and as centres of cultural promotion dedicated to classical drama and the European theatrical tradition.
Her awards include: Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Best actress for Elektra, 1962); Union of Greek Film Critics (Best actress for Elektra); National Board of Review (Best actress for The Trojan Women, 1971); Hamptons International Film Festival (Distinguished Achievement Award, 1993); Flaiano Award for Theatre (Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993); Madrid National Arts Institution (Lifetime Achievement Award, 2000); International Festival Women's films (Lifetime Achievement Award, 2000); University of Rome (Degree in Arts and Humanities, 2001); Woman of Europe Award (Lifetime Achievement Award, 2002).