CULTURE

Musical fairy tale with poems

The musical fairy tale presented this holiday season at the Athens Concert Hall, «Merlin the Magician and the Island of the Poets,» is by Periklis Koukos. The fairy tale will be performed daily until December 30, except for Christmas Eve. Although both the libretto and the music are by Koukos, the fairy tale is based on works by the great Greek poets, beginning with Seferis. «I started off with a short fairy tale Seferis had written for his grandchild, called ‘Merlinos the Magician,’» said Koukos. «Then I took the plot further by incorporating various poems. Each poem I chose is a song in and of itself.» Koukos described the fairy tale’s plot: «Young Maria has her birthday and her Uncle Giorgos tries to put on Merlin the magician’s costume and gives her a poetry book. She leafs through it and falls asleep while reading a poem by Elytis. In her dream, she is traveling in a small boat along with her uncle and friends to the sound of poems by Elytis and Vizyinos until they reach an island and fall asleep on the shore, where a poem by Sikelianos is heard. The following day, while exploring the island, they come across an old man, a character in a poem by Vassilis Rotas. At nightfall, fairies and other creatures appear from Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ They explore the island further until, at dawn, the rooster crows, Maria wakes up and finds the poetry book next to her.» Koukos started working on the fairy tale in 1986, when his daughter and son were 5 and 6 years old respectively. He returned to it last spring, now that his children are in their 20s. «The Americans were bombing Iraq and I was stuck with my opera ‘The Persians.’ I needed a break and I found it in Merlin,» he said. He described the show as «strictly structured, yet complex and melodic. The challenge is to make the show suitable for both children and adults and, of course, to get kids acquainted with poetry and even opera.» This is a musical and not a theatrical performance, accompanied by the Camerata Orchestra as conducted by Alexandros Myrat and the Manolis Kalomiris Children’s Choir, directed by Nikos Malliaras. Actor Costas Kastanas narrates, while the show features mezzo-sopranos Irini Karayianni and Mary-Ellen Nezi and baritones Haris Andrianos and Tassis Christoyiannopoulos. «The 60 people who take part in the show, including the orchestra musicians, sing and recite. And Alexis Kyritsopoulos’s magical paintings, projected in motion by Nikos Soulis, breathe life into the fairy tale.»