‘Canto General’ set to debut in ballet form

Composer Mikis Theodorakis’s flowing speech featured prominently at the recent press conference held for one of the National Opera’s highlights this year: the celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday with the presentation of his work «Canto General» in a ballet form (a world premiere). «’Canto General’ is very up-to-date politically, culturally, nationally and ecologically,» the composer said. Absence At the press conference, the absence of Loukas Karytinos, who only recently resigned as the National Opera’s artistic director, was strongly felt. The ballet is to be staged at the Herod Atticus Theater this Thursday and Friday. The choreography, to be performed by the National Opera Ballet, is by Ray Barra and the production will also feature conductor Ilias Voudouris. Vocalists Maria Farandouri and Petros Pandis, who first interpreted Theodorakis’s composition, will sing alongside Sofia Michailidou and Tassis Christoyiannopoulos. «I wanted to say how much I miss Loukas Karytinos here today, as he is inextricably linked to ‘Canto General.’ In the concerts we performed all over the world, he conducted the difficult parts while I kept the easy parts,» said Theodorakis, among other things. The composer took us back in time, to the Chile of Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda at the time of the creation of «Canto General» and the mystical experience he said he had when visiting the poet’s grave. He also lodged his protest about the decision not to include «Canto General» at the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics last summer. «The variety of tempos in this work came spontaneously out of Neruda’s language,» said Theodorakis. He went on to recall the time he heard three Chilean composers’ versions of «Canto General.» Theodorakis was given the two editions of «Canto General» by Allende himself and was commissioned to write the music for it. The conception of the libretto for the National Opera performances belongs to Vassilis Nikolaidis, who, based on Neruda’s poem, dramatized its images and used the poet as his main theme. «The work talks about the rape of a nation, but also of an idea,» said Theodorakis. «That rape continues with the same persecutors and the same victims. It is just the names and symbols that change. ‘Canto General’ is explosive material. The greatest revolutionary act in the United States today is to sing Pablo Neruda…»

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