“The 35 year-old internationally renowned, award-winning musician put his brilliant career in Germany on ice in order to bathe in the deep waters of the European Union’s flagship enlightenment initiative, which is the latest challenge to the unfolding cultural history of the Republic of Cyprus”

O Phileleftheros






The European Capital of Culture – Pafos 2017

Marios Joannou Elia is a much-sought-after artistic director of major European institutions and projects which dovetails with his compositional career. In 2013, the Board of Directors of the Organisation Pafos 2017 unanimously elected him as the Artistic Director of the European Capital of Culture 2017. Elia was the youngest person ever to direct a European Capital of Culture. Pafos 2017 sets up a contemporary Open-Air Factory with its cultural machinery installed mainly outdoors. The motto “Linking Continents, Bridging Cultures” covers a wide range of projects, organized into several production areas such as “Myth and Religion”, “World Travellers” and “Stages of the Future”. 

In relation to his vision for Pafos 2017 Elia says:

“From a European perspective and for international visitors who are going to engage with the place, what makes a city attractive is it’s uniqueness in the eyes of its habitants. The goal for Pafos 2017 should be to celebrate the personality of the city with all its strengths but also to face up its challenges and build a programme that simply cannot be repeated anywhere else. This programme shall create a big arc into the future. It will widely concentrate on the people of Pafos and their development and it will be our task to draw upon and expand their experiences. We will make the year 2017 a project empowerment for as many people as possible, with multiple-participation being the key to success. 

The underlying basis for the programme planning will be one built on sustainability with a long-term vision. We should create something bold and ambitious and strive to be open to new ideas (for example the proposal for the ‘Open Air Factory’ being perfectly suitable here).  The plan is to move forward but with a retrospective context, with the intention of ‘evolving’ the state of mind of the population. This juxtaposition starts now in 2013.

Being born in Pafos, I am so excited and proud of my city’s successful nomination for the prestigious title of the European Capital of Culture 2017. This is a great opportunity that is certain to bring a multitude of benefits for the city. Notwithstanding the current economic situation, it will present some major challenges. However I do strongly believe that intelligent and strategic planning can turn this into a positive event – by augmenting our creativity and collective engagement. Pafos must now be considered as a cultural brand to invest in with the appropriate ‘mythos’ and hence rendering it globally accessible and desirable to an unparallelled degree.”

Ulm and Mannheim

Since the start of 2013 Elia accepted the artistic director’s position of a large-scale participatory music project commissioned by the City of Ulm in Germany. For this project, all the major music groups of the locality will unite for the first time and converge on the premiere of the newly composed oratorio by Elia which will become the focal point of the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of the completion of Ulm Minster; the tallest church in the world. The open-air premiere will take place at the Muensterplatz, in the central square of the city, in May 2015. 

Elia has also directed the 2.7 million euro open-air multimedia symphony AUTOSYMPHONIC commissioned by the City of Mannheim and mainly sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. Mannheim’s Lord Mayor, Dr. Peter Kurz, praised Elia when he said:

“As an artistic director, a music educator and a composer of world-class cultural events, Dr. Elia was commissioned by the City of Mannheim to create AUTOSYMPHONIC – the highlight for the 125th anniversary celebration of the automobile, which was invented in our city. This colossal project was by far the most exceptional cultural event ever in the history of Mannheim and likely in Germany too. AUTOSYMPHONIC was described by The New York Times as ‘an individualistically crafted, one-of-a-kind work of art’ and it immeasurably boosted Mannheim’s image at a European and International level. Furthermore, it decisively supports the candidacy of Mannheim for the nomination of the European Capital of Culture 2025.

During the years he was engaged by our city, from the beginning of 2009 till the end of 2012, Dr. Elia made a highly significant contribution to the cultural life of the City of Mannheim. Not only did he design, compose and direct the project of AUTOSYMPHONIC at which some hundreds of professional and amateur musicians, world-leading visual artists and multimedia companies took part, but he also initiated and supervised music educational workshops for many teenagers. He also transformed the centre of the city into a gigantic, open-air concert arena, in addition to integrating the popular music group Söhne Mannheims with the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

Dr. Elia further participated at other central events for the City of Mannheim, like creating and directing the musical highlight of the New Year’s Reception of Mannheim’s Lord Mayor at the Rosengarten Mozartsaal in front of a live audience of 2,300 people. He has also represented Mannheim at many festivities across Germany with great success. These engagements included the so-called ‘Stallwächterparty’ in Berlin, in which 2,000 prominent guests from the political, economic, social and cultural life of Germany took part.”

Additionally, Elia has innovatively directed several other cultural events that took place in places such as the Toihaus Theatre Salzburg (2005), the Salzburg Airport (2006), the baroque Mirabell Garden in Salzburg (2007) and the Skopje State Opera House (2009).

 October 2013 




December 28, 2013 / Newspaper / Language: English 

Forging ahead with passion
Meeting the man at the helm of the Culture Capital
Paphos won the title of European Culture Capital 2017 late last year with plans to steam ahead with the project in 2013. The title, which is being shared with Aarhus in Denmark, was officially announced in Brussels this May. However, the financial crisis has meant that the committee has needed to rethink its funding and execution strategy in order to meet the demands of the hefty project. While the year started with some uncertainty, it has needed on a high note with the appointment of Paphos-born Marios Joannou Elia. The Cyprus Weekly met recently-appointed artistic director for the project, Marios Elia to find out about how he plans to make a success of the prestigious title.
Cyprus Weekly: Tell us about your background in the arts or arts administration.
Marios Joannou Elia: I have studied music and musicology at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. My work, both as a composer and researcher, especially concerns the aspects of polymediality and polyaesthetics. I have written music for concert and opera halls and created cultural events for urban spaces like city squares and gardens, at an airport or automobile factory.  Regarding my experience in arts management, I have directed several large-scale and immensely complex productions, such as the “autosymphonic” in Mannheim with over 400 participants and a total cost of €2.7 million.
CW: How did you get involved in Paphos 2017?
MJE: There was an open call for the artistic director’s position at a European level. The interest was high and the competition tough. After three intensive personal interviews with several committees, the Board of Directors unanimously selected me. I have been living abroad for the last 15 years and it was the perfect reason to return back in Paphos where I was born. Working in Europe together with high-profile specialists and experts in the cultural arena, I wanted to offer the knowledge and experience I had gained to the people of Paphos and, together with them, create a successful, contemporary and unique European Capital of Culture whose echo will be able to last beyond 2017.  
CW: The project is facing tough times because of the economy. How will you and your team deal with this to ensure the delivery of the best project possible?
MJE: When money goes down, creativity goes up. We have to remain visionary and at the same time grounded. At this point I have to underline that Paphos 2017 is rather a national issue and not just a local one. Certainly, the economic crisis is affecting our planning to a great degree. However, the cost or size of a work does not presuppose its quality. In addition to receiving an imaginative idea, its implementation should be initiated in the same imaginative wavelength. Therefore, we have to be inventive and ambitious in the creative part and realistic at the production field.
CW: What kind of help do you need from the public for 2017?
MJE: The immediate and active participation of citizens is the key to success. This is one of the main goals of the European Capital of Culture initiative. Engage yourself, be a volunteer and part of an active and vivid community that creates and takes part in activities and actions. It is not only that we have to present a theatre play at a Paphian village or a concert at a cultural heritage site in Kato Paphos, but also to plan and create green areas, protect our natural environment and ecology, promote public health and social inclusion and establish cultural initiatives for the youth.
CW: Can you give us a project example where the engagement of the citizens is asked?
MJE: From the beginning, I had the idea of initiating the “Box of Memory” – something that is related to the somewhat older generations. This aims to be a long-lasting project that will firstly take place at the old, abandoned Othello cinema in central Paphos.The goal is to collect memories around the old buildings, spaces and settings by the people themselves who have lived with these memories through time. The memories, experiences and recollections will be collected through writing, video and photography, thus creating a mosaic of living witnesses, a living library. The revival in this way of the buildings and spaces will serve as a reference to the youth of today and the future generations, bridging the past and the future with our forgotten and misplaced present.
CW: How will you involve the foreign communities? This is important for Paphos 2017.
MJE: I want to say the following loudly and clearly: Expats, immigrants, all ethnic minorities and communities as well as Turkish-Cypriots associated with Paphos play an important role in the programme I am planning. I would also like to emphasise the strong European dimension which must identify our projects and activities. Besides, it is my intention to expand the European dimension to Middle East and North Africa, something that, as far as I know, has happened for the first time at a European Capital of Culture.
CW: I am sure you have some good news about 2017 in spite of the difficulties it is facing. Can you tell us what it is?
MJE: Despite the big economic difficulties which we face at this stage, I believe in the dynamism and abilities of the people of Paphos and Cyprus. This is regardless of ethnical or religious background and includes the Cypriot diaspora. The ‘bet’ is at a European level. With hard work, we will be able to succeed. The benefits are many – in urban, environmental, social and individual level – and we have a one and only opportunity. We are obliged to succeed. [Read Interview]


April 21, 2014 / Magazine / Language: Greek 

Cultural Pafos: the heart of Europe 2017

The acclaimed Cypriot composer and artistic director of Pafos2017 Marios Joannou Elia talks about his hard work.

EM: In a sentence, what is your vision for 2017 in Pafos?
MJE: Paphos as a center of aesthetic attraction; Paphos as a new model of European Cultural Capital. 
EM: What distinguishes Pafos from other cities? What is its USP (Unique Selling Point)?
MJE: I would like to refer to an important reason why Pafos won the title of Cultural Capital. The uniqueness of Pafos can be traced through two figures: of the goddess Aphrodite and her husband Hephaestus. Aphrodite, as we all know, was born on the shores of Paphos, was the goddess of beauty and desire. Hephaestus, on the contrary, was ugly and lame, the god of fire and forge. These two, not only are closely linked with the history of Pafos, but they also reflect part of the central idea of Pafos 2017, which is an open air cultural complex. Such a “complex” in Paphos itself is a dichotomy, exactly as Aphrodite and Hephaestus – beauty and ugliness, love and disgust, harmony and cacophony, agriculture and tourism, attractive landscapes and devastated nature, tradition and modernity, industrial premises and rural landscapes. Paphos itself is full of dichotomies. The open air cultural complex is where all this will become visible. We will work together, under the auspices of the figureheads of our heritage… [Read Interview]

March 16, 2014 / Newspaper / Language: Greek 

Pafos as a Vivid Lighthouse of Culture
The call of the Turkish Cypriots, the Ecological Biennale in Akamas, an exhibition in honour of Stass Paraskos… Discussing with Marios Joannou Elia, it’s good to keep the following, which he spoke of to a motorcycle group in Pafos when they approached him for collaboration: “Culture starts from every form of creation, we do not encounter it necessarily and exclusively emanating from classical arts expression. It can relevantly start from a body tattoo or an airbrush on a motorcycle”. [Read Interview]

Marios Joannou Elia - Pafos as a Vivid Lighthouse of Culture (Politis)

Marios Joannou Elia - Pafos as a Vivid Lighthouse of Culture (Politis)


Sept. – Oct. 2013 / Magazine / Language: Russian, Greek 

Marios Joannou Elia – The Artistic Director of Pafos 2017
“Pafos 2017 is rather a national issue and not just a local one”
BOC: What does the title of European Capital of Culture mean for you and for Pafos, given that it came at a difficult juncture for people who – due to the financial crisis – have to focus about their everyday survival?
MJE: I will not dwell on the practical benefits of investment in culture. Instead, I would like to focus on how the word “culture” evolved in Greek. When Adamantios Korais was trying to express the French word “civilisation” aptly in Greek, he referred to the relationship between the citizen and the state and what often characterizes the people of a city. In France the term “culture” denotes the spiritual-social-moral culture. In English, the words “civilisation” and “culture” were used as synonymous with emphasis on “technical culture” and “civilization.” “Civilized” means a “cultured” man, in the broadest sense. A country possesses its own identity, strength and survival prospects for the future in its inherent culture. It is therefore no coincidence that Marseille has invested an amount of 680 million Euros for presenting itself as the Cultural Capital of Europe 2013. Our cultural heritage is a source of European excellence, something that must be protected in every way and continue to evolve. Investing in culture is not a luxury, but a necessity, responsibility and a duty… [Read in Greek] [Read in Russian] 


September 16, 2013 / Newspaper / Language: Greek 

Marios Joannou Elia: Imaginative Grounded
“Pafos attractive means Pafos different”

The baton of the artistic direction of the European Capital of Culture 2017 has been passed to the hands of composer Marios Joannou Elia from the beginning of September. The 35 year-old internationally renowned, award-winning musician put his brilliant career in Germany on ice in order to bathe in the deep waters of the European Union’s flagship enlightenment initiative, which is the latest challenge to the unfolding cultural history of the Republic of Cyprus[Read Interview]

“Marios Joannou Elia – Imaginative but Grounded” (Phileleftheros)

“Marios Joannou Elia – Imaginative but Grounded” (Phileleftheros)



CYBC ENTEXNOS [RIK 2014 / in Greek / 30 Min]



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