Old musical myths, new interpretation

Great songs never die – but they do get a second life, especially if they have been heard over and over again like Mikis Theodorakis’s huge 1960s hits – the kind of songs which have entered this country’s DNA. It’s hard to believe at first, but given a fresh interpretation, these larger-than-life songs can again acquire a new immediacy. But this might have been a risky venture, given that in this particular case the voice belongs to a bass: Christoforos Stamboglis. Though the singer’s voice has been charming audiences both locally and abroad – where his career has been on the rise in the last few years – it is hard to imagine this kind of singing talent interpreting these kinds of tunes. However, listening to «Mikis Theodorakis With the Voice of Christoforos Stamboglis» (Lyra Records) turns out to be a real pleasure – and a thoroughly moving experience. «This album was the realization of a dream which had been traveling inside me for years,» says the singer. «I didn’t have the means to make it happen until last year – a Theodorakis year as far as I’m concerned. I sang in his ‘Lysistrata’ and participated in an Athens Concert Hall series dedicated to his works. Then I was performing during a congress, and after interpreting Schubert, Schumann and Mahler among other composers, I sang two Hadjidakis and two Theodorakis songs. A Jewish-American businessman approached me saying that he had enjoyed the classics, but that he wanted to purchase the album with the Greek songs. I explained that the Greek songs had not been recorded and the reasons for this. He then suggested undertaking the production of such an album and, two months later, I was in a studio, recording.» How did you choose the 18 songs that make up the album? I followed my heart. These are my favorite songs; I was under their spell when I was a little boy. How did your singing technique influence the project? I have to admit that I broke some of the rules. Doing so was part of the experiment, partly because I don’t believe in boundaries in art. There are boundaries set by nature, of course. I, for example, would not be able to interpret a heavy rebetiko, unless I found an inspired and special way to do so. How do you manage to make these «well-worn» songs sound so fresh? As an opera singer, I always remain faithful to the composer’s original score. What came together here, almost by magic, was my kind of voice, on the one hand, and my inner work on the music, on the other. Tassos Karakatsanis’s input (the eminent composer accompanies Stamboglis at the piano) was also invaluable, reaching, in some cases, great heights. In the introduction of «Nychta Magiki,» for example, his interpretation sounds like a Schumann impromptu.