Georgios Iatrou is one of the most promising and versatile greek singers. In the opera world, he is considered one of the best baritones worldwide. Outside the opera world he performs as Nina Naï, his drag persona who is one of the freshest drag queens you can find in Athens.
George, is just 35, talented and never gets tired, although he is always travelling, as he splits his time between Essen and Athens, where he is based. He has participated in many opera projects in Greece and Germany and, quite recently, he starred in “ORFEAS2021” (based on the baroque opera “Orpheus” by Monteverdi, creation of the artistic duo FYTA), a queer video opera film dedicated to Zackie Oh, who was murdered in Athens by shop-owners and the police in 2018.
At the moment, Giorgos Shortly is getting ready for “Autumn” by Konstantinos Hatzopoulos, a new performance realised by the bijoux de kant group, where he will star, and we cannot get more excited.
YASS met Giorgos and here is all you need to know.
How do you feel being probably the only drag baritone in the world?
I am not sure if I am the only one… I’m probably the only one mixing drag with Lieder (german art songs). In any case I am very proud and happy to be combining two art forms that, at first glance, are very different but share more in common than one might think.
You are an internationally acclaimed baritone with a big career in the opera sector. How did everything start and how did Germany help you establish your career as an opera singer?
I used to study molecular Biology and worked in night clubs singing to support my studies. Parallel with that I started getting singing lessons by an opera singer and I was slowly introduced to this exciting world. After finishing my biology studies, I went to Germany to study opera, where I had many opportunities that built my career in this business. Even as a student I was working in theaters like the Operas of Cologne, Dortmund. When I finished my masters, I was offered a fest contract at the opera of Essen where I had the chance to build a broad repertoire of roles. After that I sang in France, Italy, Switzerland, England and of course in my birthplace Greece.
How does the opera scene differ from one country to the other?
Well, there is Germany, the largest opera market in the world, where Regie-theater was born that influenced the whole world. Italy is more traditional. France does a very interesting mix of the two. Those three are also the main birthplaces of most opera composers and somehow opera is part of the DNA of these countries. Greece is an upcoming market and the Greek National Opera does a great job bringing international artists and productions as well as giving voice to Greek creators and performers.
Where are you based and how is your life as a baritone travelling all around the world?
My two bases are Essen, Germany and Athens, Greece and at the moment I am splitting my time between these two. Travelling is great because you see new places and meet new people and that is refreshing. On the other hand, It can also be very lonely and tiring. I remember how excited I was getting on planes and travelling the world for auditions or shows. Now I wish a had the superpower of teleporting.
Where do you enjoy performing the most?
I love working with good teams and I don’t mind the place. Of course Italy and France have great food which always helps.
When did you realize you wanted to become a baritone?
When I met my first teacher. I wanted to do pop singing but she had this amazing, strong soprano voice and I was mesmerised. One day I went to her and asked: How do you do this? Please show me! And that’s how it all started. Then I listened to Callas and it all clicked.
Talk to me about the time drag entered your life. How did everything start?
I was experiencing a work and personal crisis. I felt like I didn’t belong in a- might sound funny- macho business and I needed an artistic outlet. I was a big fan of drag race and with my friends- that later became my drag Haus- we started experimenting with makeup and “cross-dressing”.
What is drag for you and what role does it play in your life?
It is a passion and a need. I do it wholeheartedly. I spend a lot of time and money and it is my happy place. I never thought, when I started, it that it would mean so much to me.
Talk to me about Drauma. What is it and how was the idea born?
Drauma is a video project and my first attempt of classical singing in drag. The motive was an international competition in 2020 (Goodmesh Concours) under the theme of body respect, calling for interdisciplinary projects. So, we came up with the idea of Drauma (Drag + Trauma) in an attempt to talk about different types of wounds psychological or physical and how those scars can be worn as jewels on the bodies of the survivors.
What does opera and drag have in common?
A lot. There is an exaggeration, an expressionism, both art forms are larger than life. That is why I feel like they belong together.
What is your vision regarding your drag persona? Do you see her as an opportunity to participate in more opera productions or is it just fun?
I don’t have a certain vision. I just do what feels right at the moment. Of course Iam interested in making creative stuff and share my passions with the world. I have no idea where this path will lead, but I know I am excited.
Do you feel there is enough LGBTQ+ representation in your field?
It is growing. The opera is still very conservative in its core. But fortunately more people speak up, trans colleagues finally get recognised for their hard work and talent. So I am hopeful.
How do people react when they realise that Georgios Iatrou and Nina Nai are the same person?
It is a big surprise since my transformation is quite extreme. When I show pics of Nina in no context they never recognise me.
How are the people you admire and how are your inspirations?
I admire Callas. She is one of my biggest inspirations. I admire trans people and all they do for our community. Iam also influenced by Greek “trashy” icons. Nina is a strange mixture of all that.
Talk to us about “Orfeas 2021” the queer opera that is a movie now and travels all around the world. How did you come up with this idea?
The idea was by FYTA and is a queer paraphrasis of the opera Orfeo by Monteverdi. In our version Orfeo (Orfeas) is the first gay prime minister of Greece and Euridice is his NB partner (Euri) who is murdered by fascists due to their upcoming marriage. The film is dedicated to Zackie Oh who was murdered in Athens by shop-owners and the police in 2018. The film made an impact worldwide due to its message and also its interesting format (retro-futuristic video opera) and was/is shown in many film festivals and cinemas. I am really honoured and proud to perform the title role. It means a lot to me to portray queer characters in operas since the operatic literature is mainly patriarchic, macho figures especially for the baritones.For all you Londoners, Orfeas 2021 will be screened in Whitechapel Gallery coming September.
You will be playing in a theatrical play in Athens this fall. Can you share with us more about this project? How are you feeling about it?
I am ecstatic to be part of a theatre production. It is a very different way of working and I really enjoy it. There is much more room for experimenting and improvising. Traditional opera is more structured and strict in some ways. The piece is called “Autumn” by K.Hatzopoulos and it is a postromantic novel about love and oppressed desires. My character is actually a fond memory of the main role- Stephanos- that through the years has taken strange dimensions in his head. In our project this mysterious character is a force of awakening for the other roles. The creative team is Bijoux de Kant led by the director Y.Skourletis and my counterparts on stage are Eleana Stravodimou, Theoharis Ioannides and Flomaria Papadaki. We start 13.5 for 15 shows in Faust Theater in the center of Athens.
What are your future plans?
This summer I will sing the title role in Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky in a queer version in Toronto Canada. Then I have some very exciting projects that I cannot reveal yet.
More of Giorgos Iatrou here: