Founded in 1939, the Greek National Opera is a public body and the sole opera house in Greece. It produces and stages operas, musical theater, operettas, and ballets, and multi-disciplinary productions for its two stages at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), the Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage, as well as at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an open-air theatre in the center of Athens. The company’s repertory covers four centuries of lyrical theater, from the works of Claudio Monteverdi to those of contemporary composers. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Greek National Opera were both founded in 1939 alongside the opera company, then a part of the Royal Theatre, and a Children’s Chorus was founded in 2012. In addition to its opera programming, the GNO also encompasses the GNO Professional School of Dance, as well as education and community programs aimed at all age groups.

The GNO’s vision is to be one of Europe’s most innovative opera houses with a unique artistic identity that engages global talent and inspires large and diverse audiences. Led by Artistic Director Giorgos Koumendakis and supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), its mission is to offer audiences high-caliber productions by presenting operas, ballets, operettas, operas for children, and music recitals, among other events. The GNO’s main source of funding is the Greek State and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Over 60% of its annual budget is covered by state funding, with the rest coming from ticket proceeds, private sponsorship, and grants. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is the Greek National Opera's biggest donor and to date, its grants to the GNO amount to €27.5 million.

A turning point in its history came in 2017 when the GNO relocated to a new state-of-the-art building at the architecturally striking Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), which was conceived, designed, constructed, and equipped with a substantial grant, exceeding €630 million, from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Assisted by a €5m grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the GNO relocated from Athens’ Olympia Theatre to the SFNCC and the two, purpose-built theaters designed by Renzo Piano, doubling its audience capacity to 1,400 seats in the opera hall and also doubling its ticket revenues. 

The hall’s inaugural production in October 2017 was Strauss’ Elektra, starring the celebrated Greek mezzo Agnes Baltsa as Klytaemnestra. In 2019 a major grant of €20 million was announced by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to support the implementation of a four-year programming and development plan that will enhance the artistic outreach of the GNO and increase the promotion of its work overseas. The same year the GNO celebrated its 80th anniversary, commissioning and presenting works to reintroduce itself to the Greek and global audience through its new artistic identity and mission. This programming has included, among other productions: Verdi’s Don Carlo, a co-production of the Royal Opera House, London, the Metropolitan Opera (New York), and the Norwegian National Opera (Oslo), directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner; and Berg’s Wozzeck directed by Olivier Py. Following a suspension of live performances in 2020 owing to the global pandemic, the GNO returned with an All-Star Verdi Gala held at the historic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens starring soprano Anna Netrebko, mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, and Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias and conducted by Philippe Auguin for an audience of 8,000. In September 2021 the GNO presented a sold-out recital by star tenor Jonas Kaufman at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and returns to Stavros Niarchos Hall with the Athenian premiere of Marina Abramovic’s 7 Deaths of Maria Callas.

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In November 2020 the company launched GNO TV with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) as part of the outreach grant, increasing the company’s artistic outreach even further afield. Although launched in the midst of the pandemic when GNO’s live performances had been suspended, GNO TV will continue as a high-quality digital platform aimed at attracting audiences worldwide with programming ranging from opera and ballet performances from the Stavros Niarchos Hall, to operetta, music theatre performances, and festivals from the Alternative Stage, as well as earlier GNO productions, new online festivals, educational programs and children’s productions.

GNO TV performances are streamed through the global content delivery network Akamai, a top cloud security, web performance, and media delivery service. GNO TV offers both free-to-view and paid content.

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