In the winter of 1961-62, Theodorakis had come from Paris to Athens to write the score for the Michalis Cacoyiannis film ELECTRA.
The previous summer, the review ARCHIPELAGOS, by Sakellarios- Yiannakopoulos based on 12 songs from the cycle of the same
name had been presented with great success in the theater Metropolitan. It appears that the success of this production prompted Theodoras Kritas, who owned the adjacent Park Theater, to suggest to Theodorakis and to Cacoyiannis the idea of a new review also based on songs.
So BEAUTIFULL CITY was created. And shortly afterwards, STREET OF DREAMS by Hadjidakis-Solomos was commissioned as a response by the Metropolitan to the Park Theater. The result was that the war between trie Metropolitan and the Park theaters expanded to the realm of artistic rivalry between the two composers and their collaborators. The final upshot of this artistic "battle" was to dominate the summer of 1962 with very positive results for the production of songs, but also for the theater, leaving its stamp on the artistic, social and political life of Athens, given that the age-old division between Right and Left in Greek did not remain outside this rivalry.
An important role in this "politicization" was played by the choice of Bost, who, at that time spearheaded the de-mythification and comic satirization of the bastions conservative nationalism. Mother Greece, Mr. Famished and Mrs. Unemployed - with the booklet of the "indigent maiden" that Queen Frederika distributed - had become symbols in the broader sectors of the population who thirsted for democratic rights and better conditions of life.
Bost undertook to write the first part of the review, which was supported with music and songs by Theodorakis.
The second part consisted of a series of new songs based on verses by Dimitris Christodoulou, a cycle of songs with verses by Errikos Thalassinos
with the theme of the moon, and sketches in the style of the Greek review theater for which the composer himself wrote the words and music.
The participation of Anna and Maria Kalouta was noteworthy; their presence linked the classical Greek review theater with the new experiment. Apart from the sketches, they sang traditional Greek songs of the home, work and wedding. The song In Your Black Hair with lyrics by Akos Daskalopoulos was sung alternately by Voyiatzis and Yiovanna. The songs by Bost were sung by Andreas Douzos (Serenade) and Maria Constandarou (Bournazi).
The were many first appearances in BEAUTIFULL CITY, for example by Martha Karayianni in the dance numbers together with Seilinos and Prokopiou, by Katerina Gogou in the sketches (one of the first of these has been preserved: Melina Mercouri, Eirini Pappas, Aliki Voyiouklaki, I'll tell my Mother...)
From the point of view of choreography, the most outstanding achievement was the musical arrangement of BEAUTIFULL CITY (with lyrics by Yiannis Theodorakis), which gave its name to the entire review.
The review's songs (apart from the ones by Bost) were performed by Grigoris Bithikotsis and Dora Yiannakopoulou who had recently risen to stardom through her interpretation of the Laughing boy song (THE HOSTAGE).
Bithikotsis, apart from interpreting the Sorrow song (Kaimos), he also
sang the new songs in Errikos Thalassinos; lyrics of which the Moon, you bewitched me one was and still is the most broadly hailed by the audiences. '
They were accompanied by the Mikis Theodorakis' Popular Orchestra in which Yiannis Didilis. Kostas Papadopoulos and Lakis Karnezis were the leading artists and soloists.
Vassilis Photopoulos had been in charge of stage scenery while Michalis Cacoyiannis had directed the whole act.
The BEAUTIFYL CITY is linked with Theodorakis' serious health problems. Due to his extensive professional undertakings (apart from the revue he was traveling back and forth Paris where he was working on two record releases - one with Melina Mercouri and one with Edith Piaf - his old-time tuberculosis problem rose to surface once more. It is rumoured that, while recording the Sorrow song (orchestra, choir and soloist parts] inside the unbearable - due to the heat - conditions of the then Columbia studio, he suffered his first major haemoptysis.
However, he remained in Greece up until the BEAUTIFUL CITY'S dress rehearsal and then flew to Paris where he had to compose for the FIVE MILES TO MIDNIGHT Litvak's film.
It was only after he finished composing and recording foe this film that he collapsed and was transferred to the Edward VII Sanatorium in Essex, England. From there he was transferred to the Mt. Penteli's Sanatorium, Greece.
In between, the Revue was triumphant without himself being able to attend it; it was only towards the end of the performances that the doctors allowed him to attend the last performance and conduct a part of it.
It is same that both Theodorakis' sketches and Bost's lyrics (except Serenade) were censored when the record was released; they may or may have not been recorded. The fact is that they are lost forever since, not even the lyrics or the music are to be found.
Only two songs by Bost (Serenade, Bournazi) which were included in Romanos' edition of the BEAUTIFUL CITY for piano and voice still exist.
© Andreas Brandes