After half a lifetime of having been a dedicated fan, I had really not anticipated to be left totally breathless and speechless by Maria Farantouri, but I was charmingly taught otherwise in Ettelbrück on October l4th 2000.
She brought the house down!
She had come to sing in the newly opened Centre des Arts Pluriels Ed. Junker, the same day as Guy Wagner presented the French translation of his chef-d'oeuvre on Mikis Theodorakis (" Une Vie pour la Grèce", editions phi).
The author's unaffected love and admiration for Theodorakis the man, musician and visionary initiated the warm and happy atmosphere which would effortlessly continue throughout the concert and beyond.
I had last seen and heard Farantouri in Luxemburg at a concert at the capital's Conservatoire some two years ago. At the time I thought Maria might not have been at her usual very, VERY best, but there could not be the slightest shadow of a doubt about her being in more than perfect vocal shape for her Ettelbrück performance.
She started off with a hauntingly melodious song that she dedicated to the new era just begun in former Yugoslavia. Both parts of her programme comprised traditional songs from the mainland and the islands as well as old favourites by Hadjidakis and, of course, Theodorakis. For the mounting and powerfully resounding despair of "Ancient Roads" she earned spontaneous shouts of "Bravo! Bravo!" whereas the uncomprehending terror of "Song of Songs" tears you apart the same as it did some 30 years ago. The further the evening progressed, the more loudly appreciative and enthusiastic the audience became.
Maria Farantouri spread perfect harmony, first on stage, between herself and her excellent musicians and then between herself and her public. With sparing looks and gestures she created an ex change of more than usual warmth and empathy between herself and us and we basked unashamedly in the radiance of her personality and generosity. There were repeated shouts of enthusiasm or else one could hear breath communally drawn or released when our hearts missed a beat or two at recognizing an old favourite or at feeling a recent song poignantly interpreted. She clearly enjoyed surprising us with "Hijo de la Luna" as much as we enjoyed listening to this treat not announced in the programme.
The smooth fullness of her more mature voice was flatteringly set off by the acoustics of the new concert hall. At times her sonorous interpretations were downright painfully beautiful and her rapt audience erupted in thundering applause again and again .Her fans seemed to vibrate more intensely than ever with her songs and drew a pleasure from her performance that was subtler, deeper and quite different from what it was years ago.
Maria was granted the voice and the incredible charisma and she combines them with unfailing modesty, warmth and sheer friendliness. And an overwhelming, touching sincerity.
She did bring the house down - but what else was to be expected?
© Mylène Rizzi, in: GALERIE. Revue culturelle et pédagogique 18 (2000) N°2