Sonia Theodoridou on taking risks and the difficulty of coming home

Amedley of tunes famously interpreted by Edith Piaf, Amalia Rodrigues and Danae Stratigopoulou, «Mousiko Carre tis Damas,» is a show currently taking place at the Polis Stage on Mondays and Tuesdays. An alternative production, it stars renowned Greek soprano Sonia Theodoridou. Who came up with the idea of the «Mousiko Carre tis Damas»? It was my own wish. Among other things, I wished to pay tribute to the leading woman of Greek song, Danae (who is about to turn 95 years old), Edith Piaf and Amalia Rodrigues. I feel that they fit in well with each other. All three of them have influenced their own countries. They are also part of my childhood memories. From Handel, Verdi to Hadjidakis, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and Theodorakis. You have been described as a soprano with open musical borders. Yes, I strongly believe that all artists have to spread their wings. I always felt restless. Having lived abroad for 25 years I had the opportunity to get into contact with various music genres. I never thought twice when it came to putting myself to the test. What do you prefer to interpret? Which are you favorite moments on stage? Naturally I prefer to sing opera. I am a performer. I was born on stage and the kind of feeling you get on stage you don’t get anywhere else. Recitals are measures of comparison, standing naked with the score you are up against yourself. But that’s another part of who I am. I enjoy singing Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, for instance, because I have a strong political conscience. And I don’t want to lose the messages they sent out, messages with which I grew up. Opera tends to lift you up into another kind of air, sometimes the wrong kind of air. The other songs bring you back to earth. It’s as if they are telling you to keep it simple, keep it humble. You have flirted with so many different kinds of music. Given your experience, what is your take on the present music reality in Greece? I believe that many people are marginalized, there is a new wave which is not that well known, great efforts are being made. Of course you also get what I call «waves of idiots,» people who think they can turn into singers overnight, only to land flat on their faces further down the road. I hope there will be nice music waves in Greece. I look at the children, where I teach. The eagerness with which they follow the lessons, whether classical, jazz or musicals. They are all seeking an education. We have lovely voices – that’s just part of our culture. We just need to say to these people, «Sit down and work hard.» What kind of advice would you give to young musicians who are just setting out? I would advise them to be themselves. Never compare yourself to other people. We provide our own luck. Even in our darkest hour there is a shining star guiding us, a star which will never disappear from our lives. Nothing came easy for us either, we had to fight. Above all, I would advise them never to let go of their moral standards. Do you feel that opera artists who turn to alternative music stages, as opposed to traditional concert venues, are treated with some degree of suspicion? I would say that most people find that admirable. I am not referring to certain colleagues of mine who tend to criticize, but to the public itself. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t base my decisions on what other people say. I follow my heart, my instinct and the feedback I get from those who come to the show. I really enjoy this kind of contact with the audience. It suits my personality. And I’m not at all afraid of losing the quality or the luster. What’s important is how I create the space I’m singing in. Do you have any unfulfilled dreams? My feeling is that I’m on the threshold of a second career. I came back to Greece only a short while ago and, unfortunately, my readaptation has been difficult. It was a blow for me because I didn’t really expect it. I came up against closed doors, as if I didn’t really exist, as if it was a mistake to even turn up. During my international career abroad, doors opened at the sound of my voice. As far as Greeks are concerned, however, you are great when you go abroad, but you’re nothing when you come back. Singing is my life. If I don’t sing I will die. What fills me with gratitude as I grow older is the public’s love – it’s like a caress amid the unbelievable loneliness of the artist. Even the effort made by people to actually come and see the performance, I don’t take it for granted. I’m honored by it. The truth is, however, that I don’t know if I will be staying in Greece. Your 16-year-old son is into heavy metal. How do you deal with this? I think it’s wonderful, fabulous, because he’s on his own path, he will complete his cycle and learn in the process. I’m learning too as he goes along. Why does he enjoy this noise? I like his power and I take a step back. I let him go forward. As you know, we simply accompany children, backing them up until they are ready to spread their own wings. I also believe that the generation which is on its way will do great things. Polis Stage, 18 Petrou Ralli, 210.347.6316.