Roman Agora to host songs for the theater by Manos Hadjidakis

Manos Hadjidakis always insisted his work be presented in full cycles. This month, at an August 24 concert at the Roman Agora in Plaka, the public can rediscover some gems the celebrated composer created for theater. Hadjidakis’s music – written for productions of Lorca’s «Blood Wedding,» Brecht’s «Caucasian Chalk Circle,» Iakovos Kambanellis’s «Paramythi Horis Onoma» (Fable Without a Name), and Gerasimos Stavros and Costas Kotzias’s «Captain Michalis» – will feature crooners Alkinoos Ioannidis and Manolis Lidakis, accompanied by the Manos Hadjidakis Musical Ensemble. Composer Nikos Kypourgos, who was greatly influenced by Hadjidakis and who worked with him closely, has arranged the material and will conduct. Dated between the late 1940s and mid-1960s, the music for the four plays reflected the volatile history of Greece at the time. «Blood Wedding,» as produced by Karolos Koun’s Theatro Technis, or Art Theater, was the first of the four to appear, in 1948, with the founder of the company directing. The same ensemble later staged «The Caucasian Chalk Circle» in 1957. The Neo Theatro, or New Theater, followed two years later with Vassilis Diamantopoulos directing «Paramythi Horis Onoma,» while rebetiko-heavy «Captain Michalis» was staged in 1966 by Manos Katrakis’s Elliniko Laiko Theatro. A couple of months before the launch of Koun’s «Blood Wedding,» Hadjidakis had offered insight to Athenians about rebetika at the time the emerging, notorious and widely shunned song style was beginning to go mainstream. The customary lyrics around the theme of drug taking were being replaced with more conventional subject matter, making the genre more palatable to a broader public. Of the four theatrical scores, Hadjidakis’s soundtrack for Brecht’s «Caucasian Chalk Circle» ranks as one of his more potent efforts. The play was translated by Odysseus Elytis, the poet who went on to win the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature. It took Hadjidakis just 10 days in January 1957 to compose a series of songs that remained faithful to the nature of Brecht’s writing. The Greek composer, however, did not imitate the styles of composers such as Kurt Weill, Paul Dessau and Hans Eisle, the renowned «Brechtian» composers. Two years later, Hadjidakis agreed to compose nine songs for Kambanellis’s «Paramythi Horis Onoma» for a promised fee of 8,000 drachmas. (A day’s wage at the time was approximately 30 drachmas.) «I received 4,000 [drachmas], but no matter how many times I stopped by, I never got paid the rest of the money because the theater didn’t even break even that year. So I decided to forget about it – and I did,» Hadjidakis later recalled. The composer rarely revisited these songs either, but thanks to the efforts of a young singer, Lakis Pappas, who used to perform them live at small tavernas, the material gained popularity. At the time, friends of Hadjidakis apparently tried to persuade him to record the material for an album release, but they were astonished, according to the composer, to hear that he «didn’t even have a single sheet of his manuscripts at home.» A double soundtrack album, featuring Hadjidakis’s «Blood Wedding» and «Paramythi Horis Onoma,» was eventually released in 1965 with Pappas included on vocals. Hadjidakis’s music for «Captain Michalis,» also part of the upcoming Roman Agora concert, was composed for a second version of the play that was reworked by playwrights Stavros and Kotzias for performances at the Elliniko Laiko Theatro in 1966. This was the time when Hadjidakis was also writing some of his greatest international hits and dividing his time between Greece and the United States. Tickets from Metropolis music stores.