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Concerts

HEBREW MELODIES

Isaac Nathan / Lord Byron

60'

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Description

“The Greeks have as small a chance of redemption from the Turks as the Jews have from mankind in general”, wrote Lord Byron, whose genuine interest in what he called “the poetry of politics” –especially in issues concerning minorities and the liberation movements that marked the early Romantic period– is absolutely indisputable, as evidenced by his periodic, though passionate, involvements with matters such as the revolutionary movements of Italy, the political and cultural oppression of Armenia and, of course, his ultimate devotion to the cause of the Greek liberation.
Hebrew Melodies, a collection of old as well as newer Jewish tunes published in 1815 by Isaac Nathan –a popular English Jewish musician and generally colourful personality– with Byron’s lyrical contribution as commercial bait, struck a chord with the Romantic fashion for orientalism and the “ethnic” revival of local traditions, eventually becoming one of the poet’s most popular and widespread works, despite the inevitable anti-Semitic criticism. The popularity of the verses (subsequently set to music repeatedly by such figures as Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mussorgsky) did not help rescue Nathan’s original melodies from oblivion; fifteen of those original compositions are now being revived by the Alternative Stage, with the contribution of some of the most notable Greek recitalists.

The production Hebrew Melodies and GNO TV were made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.

Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the Orchestra rehearsal room at SNFCC on 14 March 2021. Greek and English subtitles available.

At a glance – Synopsis

Tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution
Cycle “Odes to Byron”
Curator Alexandros Mouzas

A sentimentalist as well as an ironist, a humanitarian as well as an animal lover, a person of ideas as well as one of passion, a man of action as well as a sybarite, a lover of men as well as women, “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, a philhellene to the (untimely) end and, most of all, a poet through and through, Lord Byron incarnated in an exemplary way and like no other figure the enthusiasms, achievements and contradictions of the Romantic movement. In an attempt to artistically render some idea of the magnitude of the work and impact of this precursor of the modern figure of the “superstar”, the GNO Alternative Stage presents throughout 2021 a multifaceted tribute, proportional to an inexhaustible personality that left behind, in only 36 years of life and in addition to 17 (!) volumes of poetry (opportune since its own time to all kinds of dramatic and musical appropriation), memorable political action, a slew of scandals and broken hearts as well as a reputation doomed, one might say, to transhistorical, as well as feverish, mythification.

The GNO tribute, curated by the composer Alexandros Mouzas, traverses the eras, genres and species of musical and theatrical discourse, covering a spectrum that extends from recital (the forgotten Hebrew Melodies, a collaboration between Byron and the Jewish musician Isaac Nathan in the spirit of the former’s Romantic interest for endangered “ethnic” cultures; new musical settings of Byron’s innovative, queer erotic poetry by three young composers) to Greek folk shadow theatre. Predictably, the largest share of the programming is dedicated to contemporary music theatre: a dramatisation of the poet’s letters from Greece by Mouzas; a multimedia tribute to Byron’s daughter and… computer pioneer Ada Lovelace by Yannis Kyriakides as well as, at the conclusion of the tribute, the new work by the distinguished Greek-American composer George Tsontakis, a treatment of Byron’s last days in Missolonghi.

Creative team – Cast

Lenia Safiropoulou (mezzo-soprano)
Vassilis Kavayas (tenor)

Apostolos Palios (piano)

Video director, post-production Xenofon Vardaros
Greek translation Lenia Safiropoulou

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