THE CORNELIAN SECRET: Love poems by Lord Byron

Ioannis Angelakis / Orestis Papaioannou / Aspasia Nasopoulou


SNF Lead Donor of GNO & Production Donor


Music was the catalyst for seventeen-year-old (not-yet-Lord) Byron’s passionate love for the young chorister John Edleston at Trinity College, Cambridge: “His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever”, writes the fledgeling poet who would henceforth refer to their love by coded reference to a red cornelian brooch pin, gifted to him by Edleston.

Deeply shaken, some years later, by the unexpected death of his college lover from consumption at the age of twenty-one, Byron would compose a series of affecting elegies in which the biblical, female pseudonym “Thyrza” is used to mislead the public opinion of puritanical England as to the real, same-sex object of his desire – a potential scandal that would no doubt contribute to his decision to definitive go into self-imposed exile to Southern Europe in 1816.

These early monuments of queer poetry form the basis of the commission by the GNO Alternative Stage to three among the most interesting Greek composers of the younger generation, Ioannis Angelakis, Aspasia Nasopoulou and Orestis Papaioannou; their music, distinguished by its interiority, philosophical attitude and dizzying expressive breadth (ranging from neo-romantic sensitivity to hard-boiled, avant-garde sonic experimentations), attempts to give contemporary expression to the timeless lament of the Romantic poet for his “musical protégé”.

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

Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 17 January 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

Ioannis Angelakis  
a music drama for Lord Byron for two male voices and seven soloists (2020)

Christos Kechris (tenor)
Vangelis Maniatis (baritone)

Marilena Dori (bass flute, piccolo)
Grammenos Chalkias (bass clarinet)
Guido de Flaviis (baritone saxophone)
Spyros Vergis (trombone)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Eleftheria Togia (viola)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Orestis Papaioannou
on poetry by Lord Byron for baritone and ensemble (2020)

Sotiris Triantis (baritone)

Marilena Dori (flute, piccolo, alto flute)
Grammenos Chalkias (clarinet, bass clarinet)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Apostolos Palios (piano)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Eleftheria Togia (viola)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Aspasia Nasopoulou
on poetry by Lord Byron for tenor, baritone and ensemble (2020)

Christos Kechris (tenor)
Vangelis Maniatis (baritone)

Grammenos Chalkias (bass clarinet)
Mislav Režić (guitar)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Apostolos Palios (piano)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Conductor Vladimiros Symeonidis

Ensemble ANAX – Cultural Projects
Ensemble coordinator Alexandros Mouzas

Video recording, TV director, editing Konstantinos Arvanitakis
Greek translation Lenia Safiropoulou

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