STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
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With the Orchestra and Chorus of the GNO
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Starts at: 21.00 |
This production, part of a tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org].
A leading figure of the Greek National School that shook the country’s musical life during the first decades of the 20th century, Manolis Kalomiris composed his first symphony (entitled Levendia, after the Greek word for “manly vigour”) during a period of national euphoria over Greek military successes in the Balkan Wars, the concomitant doubling of Greek territory and the enthusiastic beginning of the Greco-Turkish War, climaxing with the Greek occupation of Smyrna, the composer’s birthplace, in May 1920. The 35-year-old Kalomiris conceived the work in Macedonia, in mid-1918 (while serving as general inspector of the Greek military bands) and expressed the desire “to render in music the emotion he felt when faced with Greek Levendia in all its manifestations: in the joy of life, in war, in dance, in love, in death”.
A deeply Romantic, programmatic musical work whose poetic idea transmutes the (partly folk-like) melodic material into robust symphonic form, heroic in character and Beethovenian in origin (as attested by the choral finale, based on the famous “Akathist” Greek Orthodox hymn to the Virgin Mary), the Symphony of “Levendia” grasps and uniquely renders the resurgent enthusiasm that ran through an era in which the double promise of Demoticism (the work is dedicated to the poet Kostis Palamas, an advocate of the popular –demotic– language during the period of the controversial “Greek language question”) and Venizelism (the republican-irredentist movement named after the liberal politician Eleftherios Venizelos; Kalomiris later wrote that “Palamas and Venizelos were always the beacons of [his] spiritual life”) thrilled the progressive strata of Greek society. The symphony’s first, triumphant performance, in the Herodes Atticus Odeon in September 1920, on the occasion of the war victory festivities and in the presence of Prime Minister Venizelos and King Alexander, would seal this rare alignment of aesthetic, ideological and political postulates. (The continuation, unfortunately, would be very different: exactly two years later, the great fire of Smyrna would usher in the collapse of the irredentist vision referred to as the “Megali Idea” –the “Great Idea”–, shaking Kalomiris deeply; a blow that, in conjunction with the tragic death of his eldest son a year later, would signal the end of his first, bright and optimistic creative period.)
The significance of the revival of the Symphony of “Levendia” by the Greek National Opera in the context of the tribute to the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence is, therefore, obvious and self-evident. Additionally, the GNO performance highlights the sublime, religious reference of the finale via its unexpected choice of venue (the courtyard of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens), in a characteristically Kalomirian gesture of fusion between the musical and symbolic registers.
The event will start with the Byzantine Chorus of the Music Foundation of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, under the teaching and direction of chorus master Konstantinos Angelidis, who will perform Byzantine ecclesiastical hymns dedicated to the Annunciation of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and the Holy New Martyrs Patriarch Gregory V, Cosmas of Aetolia, Chrysostomos of Smyrna, Filothei the Athenian, and Constantine Palaeologos.