Athens Festival to close with a world premiere

The summer-long Athens Festival of music and drama at the Herod Atticus Theater will draw to a close this weekend with the world premier of «Erofili,» an opera in five acts by the composer Nikos Mamangakis, based on the epic work of the 16th century Cretan poet Georgios Hortatzis. Considered a landmark work, Hortatzis’s «Erofili» marks the dawn of modern Greek drama and is the most frequently studied tragedy of Cretan theater. Moreover, it remains a vital component in modern Greek theater, both in its own right and as a source of inspiration for other original works. Mamangakis’s production, directed by Maria Gyparaki, will feature vocalist Savina Yiannatou, who has collaborated with the composer on previous projects, in the new opera’s title role. Other cast members include baritone Tassis Christoyiannopoulos, a frequent performer at the National Opera, as Panaretos and the Messenger, as well as Spyros Sakkas as the King and Death. «Erofili» tells a a familiar story of an authoritarian father, the king, who obstructs the course of love for his daughter. Commenting on his latest project, Mamangakis, now 74, said «Erofili» constitutes a lifetime’s work. «I cannot remember a period in my life right up until today when I was not preoccupied by this masterpiece of Cretan theater. Even in the distant past, during the German occupation, my mother would improvise melodies and recite ‘Erofili’ in chant,» the composer, born into a family of folk musicians, states in the festival’s official program. Mamangakis has made several attempts at interpreting «Erofili» in the past, which generally failed to meet the composer’s expectations. In 1968, he recorded an album that formed the foundations for his future development of the opera. It has been a tedious process for the composer. Mamangakis has written his operatic interpretation of «Erofili» several times, retaining only portions of each effort for the next attempt. «I tried to achieve a blend that included a whiff of Renaissance music within well-hidden Cretan rhythms,» notes Mamangakis. It took extensive historical research to pinpoint the epic poem’s author and time period. Experts have arrived at the conclusion that Hortatzis can now safely be considered the creator of «Erofili,» which was probably written around 1595, or between «Panoria» and «Katsourbou,» two other well-known works by the Cretan poet. «Erofili» is roughly modeled on the Italian tragedy «Orbecche» by Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio, while various researchers have also located influences from other major works of the era, such as «Il Re Torrismondo» by Torquatto Tasso. Back then, borrowing from a previous work as the basis for another was the norm. The procedure, termed plagiarism later on, was at the time free use of a common tradition. The cast will be backed by the ERT National Symphony Orchestra and Choir, with Mamangakis at the podium. Saturday and Sunday, Herod Atticus Theater. Tickets available at the Athens Festival box office, 39 Panepistimiou, 210.322.1459, and the Herod Atticus itself, 210.323.2771.

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