The Air of Greece – George Tsontakis
Greek National Opera Alternative Stage
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
World premiere / Commissioned by the GNO Alternative Stage
An opera-drama in three scenes
Cycle “Odes to Byron”
Curator Alexandros Mouzas
As part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution
In collaboration with The Messolonghi Byron Society
17, 18 December 2021
Music George Tsontakis
Script George Tsontakis, Elsa Andrianou
Dramaturgical collaborator Elsa Andrianou
Research Nefeli Maistrali
Conductor George Tsontakis (17/12), Nikolaos Laaris (18/12)
Set & costume supervision Daphne Aidoni
Lighting designer Christos Tziogkas
Music director Nikolaos Laaris
|Lord Byron (Messolonghi)||Robin Beer|
|Lord Byron (poet)||Christos Kechris tenor|
With the participation of a 9-member instrumental ensemble
Christine Assimacopoulou soprano
Diamanti Kritsotaki, Margarita Syngeniotou mezzo-sopranos
Dionisios Melogiannidis, Nicolas Maraziotis tenors
Vangelis Maniatis baritone
The GNO Alternative Stage’s tribute to Lord Byron comes complete with the presentation of the new music-theatre work The Air of Greece by multi-awarded Greek-American composer George Tsontakis, who has been recently described by the journal Gramophone as “a giant of the American contemporary music scene”. The work, a complex poetical portrait of the 19th-century poetry star and hero of the Greek War of Independence, Lord Byron, will be given its world premiere on the GNO Alternative Stage at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on 17 and 18 December 2021, as part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.
Well-known for the rhetorical and communicative power of his music, George Tsontakis presents on stage Lord Byron’s last days in Greece. He sets the “scene” at Byron’s deathbed and undertakes to render the dying poet’s consciousness through a musical and textual synthesis of authentic historical documents and fragments from his poetical work.
The dual role of Byron (portrayed by an actor and a tenor) is accompanied by a six-member vocal ensemble that combines the functions of English Madrigalists and Greek Chorus, juxtaposing the memory of the poet’s passionate and aristocratic youth to the chaotic war conditions he came up against in revolutionary Greece, and highlighting the transcendent dimension of his ultimate, sublimely Romantic self-sacrifice on the altar of the ideal.
This production, part of a tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org].
The music-theatre work The Air of Greece, commissioned by the GNO, aspires to nothing less than a reconstruction of the poet’s Greek adventure: Byron arrived at Missolonghi in January 1824 and died there three months later at the age of thirty-six, after an intense period of brave, though confused, involvement with the Greek War of Independence, of meditation on the onset of middle age and his awareness of the oncoming end, of visionary desire for heroic action as well as of impetuous passion for the sixteen-year-old warrior Lukas Chalandritsanos.
George Tsontakis, who co-authors the text along with dramaturg Elsa Andrianou, portrays in The Air of Greece the immediacy of all the feelings Lord Byron may have experienced and was probably preoccupied with those last weeks and days, beyond, of course, his lost battle with the illness that killed him. In the “play”, there are two incarnations of Byron: the contemporary Byron, who is wasting away in Missolonghi from a wholly unidentified affliction; and the poet Byron, who is represented by a solo tenor in songful recitation.
As far as the musical forces are concerned, in terms of voices, the composer attempted to mix the East with the West, English poetry with the ancient Greek poetical tradition of chorality. “With this goal in mind and for reasons of economy, I decided to task a sextet of singers with a dual function: they are alternately transformed into an English ensemble of Madrigalists and a kind of ancient Greek tragic chorus; in the first case, obviously, so as to sing Byron’s Romantic English poetry, and in the second, so as to express the very first statements and comments of the Greeks about the great Lord Byron”, notes George Tsontakis.
The nine-member musical ensemble is conducted by George Tsontakis (17/12) and Nikolaos Laaris (18/12). Actor Robin Beer and tenor Christos Kechris perform the double role of Lord Byron. The vocal ensemble consists of the celebrated soloists of the GNO: Christine Assimacopoulou, Diamanti Kritsotaki, Marganita Syngeniotou, Nikolas Maraziotis, Dionysis Melogiannidis and Vangelis Maniatis.
The Air of Greece will travel to Thessaloniki for one and only performance at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall (Megaron) on Wednesday 29 December 2021, at 21.00, with the support of a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Ticket prices €12, €15
Students, children, reduced €10