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The Mikis and Lysistrata show

One of a kind. The legendary Mikis Theodorakis is not above self-mockery in his latest project.

There's plenty of self-mockery in Mikis Theodorakis's latest project, a comic opera based on Aristophanes' ancient anti-war comedy, «Lysistrata.» At one point, the renowned composer surprises when reference is suddenly made to one of his older works, «Canto General,» a post-dictatorship work released in 1975. The choir begins singing «Canto General» before a voice hollers: «That's wrong!» The stunned choir stops and ponders before bursting out with the same line again - this time in different key. Theodorakis also casts the best-selling popular (laika) singer Giorgos Dalaras as the composer himself, in the role of narrator and singer.

The project, a work commissioned for the Athens Concert Hall and the Cultural Olympiad (a series of cultural events, organized by the Culture Ministry, which lead up to the Athens 2004 Olympics) will premiere in April. Later on, in the fall, it will go on tour to other Greek cities before being taken abroad.

«It will be completely different from his other operas,» commented Nikos Tsouchlos, the Athens Concert Hall's artistic director who will be on the podium conducting the National Opera's orchestra and choir for the performance. «The music, here, is far lighter, with the exception of a very operatic finale - a magnificent Hymn to Peace. The work's anti-war component is generally highlighted in the work, with, of course, all of Aristophanes' sarcasm and satire still intact,» he added.

Tsouchlos pointed out that the project's overall ironic mood distinguishes it from Theodorakis's previous operas. «The satirical mood is also expressed through the arrangements - saxophones, bouzouki, and plenty of percussion,» Tsouchlos said. «The texture helps him plumb the depths of this story. For example, the stage entry of the men's choir, a weary lot of sexually deprived soldiers, is accompanied by bouzoukia - something which provides a strange, not just comical, atmosphere.»

Through «Lysistrata,» the composer also manifests an interest in surveying his own body of work and its various aspects, Tsouchlos said. «The writing seems to follow his [older] songs. After all, there are lots of songs in this opera, along with the purely operatic transitions. It's a convergence of the songsmith and Theodorakis the symphonist,» Tsouchlos remarked.

The production's stage and costume designer, Dionysis Fotopoulos, and the director, Giorgos Michailidis, Tsouchlos said, have approached the work in a theatrical way.

«The choir, for example, performs without interval, while the director has strictly forbidden conventional opera behavior for the vocal soloists. The mood's extremely jovial,» said Tsouchlos said. «But the important thing is that, at long last, an anti-war message is being heard, which we've almost forgotten about in the performing arts. In the past, even Hollywood used to make anti-war films. It's important that we keep repeating the anti-war message over and over again.»

The title role will be performed by Daphne Evangelatou and Julia Souglakou; Cleonice by Ludmila Semcuk and Ioanna Forti; Myrrhine by Marina Vouloyianni and Mata Katsouli; Lampito by Alexandra Papadziakou and Angeliki Kathariou; Provoulos by Zachos Terzakis and Dimitris Sigalos; Kinisias by Dimitris Tiliakos and Costis Rasidakis; and Kyrikas by Christoforos Staboglis.

«Lysistrata» will premiere at the Athens Concert Hall on April 14, while four more performances have been scheduled for the venue on April 16, 17, 18, and 20.

By Vassilis Angelikopoulos - Kathimerini

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