STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
364 Syggrou Avenue, Kallithea
Collaborating visual artist, costumes
Milia: Sophia Ketedjian
Mother: Aliki Siousti / Georgiana Filippaki
Brother I – Kyriakis: Antonis Vasiliadis
Brother II – Sotiris: Alexandros Psihramis
Brother III – Diakoumis: Giorgos Kasavetis
Brother IV – Panayiotis: Rafael Kritoulis
Brother V – Kostantis: Nikos Ziaziaris
Father: Giorgos Nikopoulos / Vasilis Pelantakis
Seer Teiresias / Harp: Gogo Xagara
Violoncello: Dimitris Travlos
Ticket prices: €12, €15
Students, children: €8
A co-production with the Paxos Music Festival
Greek National Opera Alternative Stage
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
With English surtitles
Starts: 20.30 (Sunday: 19.00) |
Dimitra Trypani’s The silent one is based on real events that happened in a poor mountain village of Greece around 1850. A young woman, Milia, is murdered by her father and brothers to “wash away the family’s shame”, after the groom finds out she is not a virgin on her wedding night.
The story unfolds in an atemporal setting, in a Dantean limbo, a place inhabited by forgotten souls. There, the characters coexist without meeting each other, racing with their memory, wrath, guilt and sorrow. By taking responsibility for their hideous act, they are led to repentance and self-forgiveness.
The work is an alternative requiem; like an ancient chorale. The story’s heroes find their way to forgiveness and redemption, singing dirges and lamenting over themselves.
Pantelis Boukalas’ libretto, written especially for this work, gives Dimitra Trypani the chance to perfect her basic compositional tool, which she has been working on and developing for twelve years in her works and constitutes the most typical element of her aesthetics: it is the almost absolute abolition of “seams” between text and music, achieved through the strict and orchestrational integration of the text into the music score.
A few words on Amiliti (The Silent One)
Amíliti is a music performance based on a real event that took place on a mountainy village in Southern Greece around 1850. A young woman named Miliá (the name in Greek sounds both like the word for the "apple tree" and the word for "speech, voice") is murdered by her father and five brothers in order for them to wash off the shame of their family, since she was found "damaged" by her husband on the first night of her wedding. Miliá is buried alive in a pit filled with stones at the entrance of the village. Only her head is kept above the ground. In that way, the villagers become witnesses to the expiation of the shame that the male members of her family force on Miliá.
This story is transfered in Amiliti in a dystopian timespace, a Dantean limbo, a place of forgotten souls. In that place, the characters coexist without meeting eachother, and they compete against their memory, rage, guilt, love and grief. Through the acceptance of the responibility for their atrocious deed they gradually arrive to repentance and self-forgiveness.
The tragic ending of Miliá is just the excuse in order to present the coalescent violence and sadness in the construction of the male identity, but also in order to compose a sincere and deeply loving lament for the real Miliá, who was sacrificed and left this world unmourned and un-lamented – thus cursed – almost two centuries ago.
The work is an alternative requiem mass, composed and structured liked an ancient Greek "khorikòn" (choral ode). The heroes of the story lament Miliá and themselves proceeding to forgiveness and redemption. A god and a prophet – the prophet Tiresias – watch them from above and "accompany" them, sometimes with words, other times with music.
The initial idea was that Amiliti would essentialy be a long lamenting «khorikòn» - Milià ’s wake before her funeral. The traditional ritual of the Maniot lamenting (lamenting ritual developed in the area of Mani in Southern Peloponnese) emerged almost self evidently before us as the starting point as well as the foundation for this "wake". The Maniot lament has one unique characteristic. It is the only public forum allowed to a woman in which she has the right to express whatever she wants with no restraints; she can even curse the deceased, or swear at the deceased or at her fate, at the people who might have hurt the deceased or her; she can reveal things and events related to the deceased but were kept secret when he or she was still alive; she can really mourn for him or her. This unique characteristic of the Maniot lament, in its raw power and harsh sincerity, as well as in its striking resemblance to the respective ancient Greek lamenting ritual, seemed to be the foundation stone on which "Amiliti" would be built.
The writer and poet who "built" a wonderful poetic text on that stone for «Amiliti», and to whom I owe enormous gratitude not only for the gift of the poem itself, but for the joy and emotional vibrancy of our collaboration is Pantelis Boukalas.
With his poetic text – which was written especially for "Amiliti" but can easily stand on its own as it possesses a strong self-contained value as a literary work – Pantelis provided me with an exceptional opportunity to refine my primary compositional tool, which I have been exploring and developing during the last twelve years in my works, and it constitutes one of the most characteristic elements of my music: I am talking about the almost total abolishment of the "seams" between the text and the music, something that is achieved through the strict incorporation of the whole text into the orchestral score. If we add to the aforementioned characteristic the "obsessive" use of asymmetric rhythms and polyrhythm, and also the chromatic and heterophonic neomodality, then one has in front of them the whole musical canvas of the work.
Finally, it is important to state that the song lyrics of Amiliti are taken from real traditional laments and folk songs of different areas of Greece, however they have been set into a completely contemporary musical idiom with all the aforementioned characteristics.
This music work as well is defined as a "performance of sound", which the audience-spectators can watch either with open or with closed eyes.
One Logos in six voices
A commission is not an unknown practice in poetry; we know it from the ancient Greek times and not only from Pindaros. Until Dimitra Trypani asked me to redraft poetically a shocking incident of domestic life, which took place in Greece in the mid-nineteenth century - until, that is, she gave me as a present a “burning charcoal” - I did not have a prior experience in commission writing. I could only refer to my translations of ancient Greek dramas, the ones that I have been asked to make by Greek theatre directors in order to be performed in Epidaurus, at the Herodion, or in closed winter theatres: Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes.
In the case of translation as well, poetry is both the principle and the aim. But the given text demands you are its servant; No matter how much distance you allow yourself to have from the original text, you cannot be unfaithful to it nor can you interpret it with excessive freedom, because it will result to hubris.
On the contrary, when they tell you a story and ask you to think about it and interpret it poetically, so that it can then intertwine with the sound of music, what they actually ask you is to become a storyteller and a director and an actor. You are still a servant, but with undoubtedly much more freedom. In this latter case, you cannot look for help in the dictionaries, the wider literature and critical editions. You are on your own. And you fight against a material which is extremely tough, which does not break unless you approach it with respect, you feel it and share the immense pain that is hidden inside it. If you are not shaken by it, and you only trust whichever skills in writing you might have and whichever experience you might possess, in the end you will stay indifferent to it. And equally indifferent will be what it is you will create.
Talking again and again with Dimitra Trypani (in person, on the phone, and online) we jointly besieged the hard tragic nucleous, not in order to break it, but in order for it to not break by its own weight and crush us as well. Our very fertile collaboration gradually led to the final form of «Amiliti», with the two idiolects, those of music and poetry, intertwining with trust on all stages, in order to form – if possible – a single unified language.
I tried to think and feel as all the characters who took part in this 19th century drama (possibly) thought and felt, a drama so far back in time yet so familiar: the young woman who dared to love a stranger before marriage, the father, the mother, her brothers, the younger brother with his timid refusal to kill, her (only for twenty four hours) husband, the stranger, the village itself in which the drama took place. The micro-community of the village in the way it is organised by its norms and traditions, by its customary or probably “natural” male dominance can be found really anywhere in the world – not only in Mani, Crete or Ksiromero. In all such environments, the woman is “her father’s and her husband’s”, a possession and a victim, a machine which silently produces everything, including her children.
My research on the Greek folk song, which constitutes a substantial witness of mentality and ethos, served as my helping hand because, beyond its motifs and technique, the Greek folk song showed me in an undeniable way how often love mates with violence. How often murder is chosen or imposed as the solution to dramas, whose core is the “offense of honour”, real or imaginary and slanderous. I did not, however, imitate the modes and ways of the folk writing, as they have been engraved with unprecedented deepness in laments and songs of blood-filled love. Even when some verses from “Amiliti” are formed in an octasyllabus, in the inapproachable standards of the improvised laments of Mani, I chose that they are audibly “out of tune” in certain moments, either in metre or in language, so that the “tax” that the personal poetry has to pay, when it adopts ways and method from the anonymous folk poetic creation, is evident.
From the very beginning, I decided to spread the words into different “mouths”, in different voices, so that through their verbal dispute we have a clearer illustration of a horror that has to be “discussed” in the hope that it is controlled. A horror, though, that can be “discussed” with much difficulty (I am borrowing the verb and the image in general from Giorgos Seferis’s poem “Last Stop”), even though there is a need for it to be coherently articulated. Not in order to be interpreted – that would be hubris – but at least in order to be tamed or cast out. And poetry had always a very close relationship with spells or sorcery.
What I have wanted and tried was to feel all at once, not separately, the things that the characters of the drama thought, or I assumed they thought and felt. This is how the distribution of the text into six voices is justified, a division and warlike coexistence of voices that forbids the presence of an omniscient writer. Or maybe it obliges him to exist in the drama not just as one person – following the poetic dogma of Arthur Rimbaud – but as many others. Many and in war with each other. Each one with their own “right” yet with the right of an accuser who knows deep inside him that he is also an accused, so he ought to organise and utter an indictment in the form of an apologia. In a way, they have all been victims – the victimisers as well. If poetic justice exists, it exists when it gives a voice to everyone, in order to listen to everyone.
(translated by Dimitra Trypani)
A NOTE ON THOUGHTS BEHIND THE SET
The set of Amiliti - The Silent One has been designed around a few simple elements. At the opening the deep black of the whole environment in which the performance takes place is devoid of orientation except for a huge central orb, a sun, a moon, a disc that will rise and fall till eternity ends; like a slow heavy metronome marking time in a timeless world, a relentless presence governing all existence, the power of universal forces binding the people together into an anonymous one. There is no horizon, no vertical where wall meets floor, no way to locate in space, no distraction on which to train the eye, on which to anchor oneself in another way of being. Below, the dwellers function in a limbo where the community is neither alive nor dead, neither present nor absent, but caught up in the relentlessness of an enforced system. Ever watchful of each other, clan of clan, monitoring behaviour and enforcing punishment on themselves by themselves for any deviation from the culture’s code of honour. The individual has no escape but to endure in this decimation of the human spirit. Within this empty dark noise is an individual consciousness, a blaze of light that embraces love, a ray of hope in the vacuum. Suspended above Milia is a translucent flame honeyed with beeswax, an ellipse of woven cotton; cotton from the land, which is spun into threads and woven like the tales this story will tell; waxen like two sides of the waning silvery moon; the honeyed ellipse which was broken with her virginity. Throughout her persecution, Milia holds herself intact as the brutality of the tragedy unfolds. The flame, her psyche, illuminates her path from the oppression to release. No blame, no anger but a simple understanding that this was what her family had to do.
With the kind support of
THE J. F. COSTOPOULOS FOUNDATION
HILDEGARD BEHRENS FOUNDATION