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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Vangelis honours Mars trip
Jessye Norman and Vangelis
Jessye Norman will perform Vangelis' new work
Oscar-winning composer Vangelis has given a gala performance at the Temple of Zeus in Athens.

The composer dedicated his latest composition - which was premiéred at the concert - to the Nasa space mission to Mars.

He has had a life-long passion for space.

But the concert was criticised for risking the safety of the ancient ruins at the Athens temple.

Athens
The use of the ancient site for a concert has been criticised
Vangelis' new composition Mythodea was performed by opera divas Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle, the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the 120-member chorus from Greece's National Opera.

The composer won an Academy Award for the soundtrack to the 1982 film Chariots of Fire.

He wrote the new work to mark Nasa's 2001 Mars Odyssey which was launched in April to search for water on the Red Planet.

Martian exploration

Before the concert he said: "Science and mythology were the topics which fascinated me since my early childhood."

Images of space from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided the backdrop to the show.

Nasa's chief scientist Jim Garvin said: "The saga of Martian exploration continues, now enhanced vividly by the music of Vangelis, which captures part of the spirit."

Scaffolding, seating and a giant screen were erected in the ancient grounds to accommodate the performers and the 2,000 spectators.

Others were able to watch on a big screen at the nearby Panathenian Stadium - the home of the first modern Olympic games.

The project had been heavily criticised for its $2.8m (£1.9m) budget, funded by the company behind the 2004 Olympics, as well as being accused of being inappropriate.

"It is an improper use of these places ... they may be archaeological sites but they are also holy places for our religion," said Panaghiotis Marinis, head of the Greek Society of the Friends of the Ancients.

After the performance, French Education Minister Jack Lang was due to award Vangelis the French Academy's medal of the Legion of Honour.

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