Old Manos Hadjidakis works receive a new lease on life

Back in the mid-1980s, the late composer Manos Hadjidakis remarked that he still stood by a panned older project, a musical comedy based on Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw’s «Caesar and Cleopatra» at the Rex Theater in 1962. Hadjidakis had provided the score for the production which starred the popular, light-entertainment actress Aliki Vouyiouklaki. «You may forget about this record, but I like it a lot,» Hadjidakis had noted in October 1986, while disclosing the behind-the-scenes details of the production, which the composer himself had described as «unsuccessful.» Its soundtrack, originally released in 1964 – and still unfamiliar to many – has been rereleased on CD in a remastered edition that contains old photographs as well as liner notes by Hadjidakis. «Caesar and Cleopatra» is one of several current Hadjidakis rereleases, some others being «Mythologia,» «Athanassia,» «Pornographia,» and «Apopse Aftoshediazoume.» The record label behind the initiative, Minos-EMI, is preparing to rerelease five more Hadjidakis albums, «Heimoniatikos Ilios,» «Skotini Mitera,» Yia Tin Eleni,» «Romaiki Agora,» and «Laiki Agora,» all next spring. The rereleases already out include detailed liner notes about the making of each work, as well as comments regarding public and critical reception. In his liner notes for the overall lackluster response to «Caesar and Cleopatra,» Hadjidakis recalled: «Smart, on the one hand, but also incurably non-crafty on the other, I paid the price once again. I say ‘paid the price’ because the theatrical team I collaborated with changed face after the first 15 days of curiosity and the crowds had subsided. The music was not so comfortable for easy listening pleasure. There were impressions of the period’s European intellectualism; stage design and costumes by Egonopoulos; superb paintings and genuine theatrics which, however, lacked the luxurious texture demanded from big productions in Greece at the time; direction by Solomos, which was classical but also with inspired abstract elements (our younger directors had not emerged yet to prepare us); and finally, an Aliki [Vouyiouklaki] with jet-black hair, gorgeous, but not blonde as we had grown accustomed to seeing her.»  From the perspective of hindsight, Hadjidakis attributed the production’s failure to a combination of factors. «I was unfortunately inspired to write a probably senseless introduction for the production’s program, in which I referred to Greek writers as imbeciles.» One negative word annoyed, but it was enough to cause irreparable damage. At the time, Hadjidakis had felt embittered by unfavorable – and unjust – criticism from various local writers, and used the production as an outlet to respond. At the end of the «Caesar and Cleopatra» project, Hadjidakis was «left with a commercial yet unsuccessful record,» while Vouyiouklaki «sadly turned into a blonde again so that the young children could recognize her.» It’s one of many stories retold in the liner notes of these Hadjidakis rereleases. The idea for «Pornographia» – a production staged in 1982 with an accompanying soundtrack release – the composer recalled, came during one Easter week in Makrynitsa, near Pelion, as a «vague and foggy idea like the damp landscape in Pelion.» A daring project for its time, and starring regular collaborators Minos Argyrakis and Sappho Notara, the stage performances of «Pornographia» ended quickly after failing to draw crowds. Hadjidakis’s «Mythologia» project, which emerged two years before the military dictatorship (1967-74), came as the composer’s «revolution,» he notes. «Instead of tanks, I selected a good-looking youth with an olive complexion from the Royal Children’s Choir and told him to sing. He told me that he ‘needed new myths to be able to sing.’» Hadjidakis responded by creating myths with the poet Nikos Gatsos. The lucky youngster was Giorgos Romanos, who has since recorded several albums. In the liner notes for the rerelease of 1976’s «Athanassia,» a cycle of songs for two singing voices – Manolis Mitsias and Dimitra Galani – with lyrics by Gatsos, Hadjidakis notes, «as is the case for all real songs, it was and remains a game.»

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