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The great Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis passed away, today, Thursday 2 September 2021.
Mikis Theodorakis first collaborated with the Greek National Opera in the political transition period following the fall of the 1967-74 dictatorship, and his works have been presented ever since for the last forty five years. He made his GNO debut with the ballet Captain Andrea Zeppo (choreographed by Yannis Metsis, 1976/77*) at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, followed by Zorba the Greek (in two different choreographies by Lorca Massine, 1978/79), a timeless success that toured to Greece and abroad. Then followed the ballets Electra (choreographed by Serge Keuten) and Mythology (choreographed by Haris Mandafounis) in 1979/80 at the Lycabettus Theatre. His first opera titled Kostas Karyotakis was presented at the Olympia Theatre (1986/87), followed by Lysistrata (in collaboration with Megaron – The Athens Concert Hall, 2001/02), and the oratorio Canto General (choreographed by Ray Barra, 2004/05). In January 2021, the GNO announced a three-year cycle dedicated to the work of Mikis Theodorakis, from 2021 to 2024.
The Artistic Director of the GNO Giorgos Koumendakis notes: “Today we mourn the loss of the leading Greek composer and remarkable intellectual and fighter, Mikis Theodorakis. Although Mikis seemed to have attained immortality, the day of his physical death has dawned to fill us with sorrow and signal the permanent end of an era in the most painful way.
His great work, synonym with contemporary Greek culture, will remain in our hearts and souls, unaltered in time. It is our duty to preserve it and pass it down to the next generations. Mikis’ work exceeds the boundaries of music, singing and art; it is an ode to the unending struggle for life and freedom.
To all of us here at the Greek National Opera, who had planned with him the three-year cycle dedicated to his oeuvre (2021-2024), the thought that we will implement it without him by our side advising and guiding us as always, and that we will have to dedicate it to his memory instead, is one more painful realisation.”
Mikis Theodorakis hailed from Creta but was born on Chios on 29 July 1925. He lived in many Greek cities but spent the largest part of his life in Athens. From 1954 to 1960 he worked in Paris and London composing symphonic music, ballets and film music. In the 1960s he is placed in charge of a cultural and political movement that strives for Greece’s rebirth and is centered around the pairing of poetry with music, composing dozens of song cycles, oratorios, revues, music for ancient Greek dramas and more. This movement is associated with the progressive political forces of the time that, apart from the democratisation of social life, are also aiming at a deeper and wider rebirth of the Greek people. His involvement in it often puts him in the spotlight of political life, and culminates with his active participation in the resistance movement against the military dictatorship (1967-74).
Theodorakis was prolific in all music genres and his multifaceted and rich oeuvre extends far beyond music, to fields such as poetry, prose, philosophy, musicology and even political essays.
The first period of his oeuvre (1940-53) includes songs, oratorios, chamber music, ballets and symphonic works. The leading work of this period is the First Symphony. The second period, associated with his life in Paris (1954-59), includes chamber music works, ballets and symphonic works. His most emblematic one is Antigone, a ballet mounted at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1959. The third period (1960-80) is dedicated to the art folk music movement and its most important compositions are the oratorios Axion Esti and Canto General. In the fourth period, from 1981 to 1988, while continuing to compose song cycles, he returns to symphonic music producing the Third Symphony, the Seventh Symphony, his first opera Kostas Karyotakis (The Metamorphoses of Dionysus) and the ballet Zorba the Greek. Finally, during his fifth period (1989-2021) he still composes symphonic works, with most typical among them being his four rhapsodies, but most of all he focuses on his operas (lyric tragedies, as he calls them) Medea, Electra and Antigone. This trilogy comes complete with the opera Lysistrata. With these works Theodorakis inaugurates his lyric era, that is, his total turn to lyricism and the refinement of lyric musical expression across the spectrum of his musical creation.
The Administration and staff of the Greek National Opera express their sincerest condolences to his family and friends and their deepest sympathy on his death.
* The season of the work’s premiere is indicated.