Music theatre for young audiences
THE EMPEROR'S NIGHTINGALE
Music theatre for young audiences
Athos Danellis’ original historical shadow puppet play in three acts Byron in Greece brings Karagiozis, our legendary childhood hero, and the Greek adventures of Lord Byron to your screen via GNO TV. The performance will be available on GNO TV until 31 December 2021.
In this new work, commissioned by the GNO Alternative Stage, the first shadow theatre work starring the historical figure of Lord Byron, the important shadow puppeteer Athos Danellis uses his cardboard figures to tell the story of Byron’s two visits to Greece (first as part of his youthful Grand Tour to Europe and then in the service of the Greek War of Independence) within the telescoped, dreamlike space-time of the “berdes” (the traditional backlit cloth that acts as screen-stage for the shadow play).
The shadow puppets and sets were crafted by Yannis Papadopoulos (Yuvan) after conducting a research in historical sources of that era. In fact, it is the first time that many of these shadow puppets (including those of Lord Byron in a traditional costume, the Maid of Athens and physician Francesco Bruno) are presented in a shadow theatre performance.
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].
Filmed on the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 28 March 2021. Greek subtitles available.
Approaching the Greek adventures of Lord Byron by means of the tradition of the Greek folk shadow play known as “Karagiozis” is not an arbitrary choice, as might be imagined, given that the multifarious Lord is known to have been among the spectators of a performance of the early, Turkish version of the play in an Epirus coffee-shop in 1809!
In this new commission of the GNO Alternative Stage, the important shadow puppeteer Athos Danellis uses his cardboard figures to tell the story of Byron’s two visits to Greece (first as part of his youthful Grand Tour and then in the service of the Greek War of Independence) within the telescoped, dreamlike space-time of the “berdes” (the traditional backlit cloth that acts as screen-stage for the shadow play).
The gradual conversion of Lord Byron from a “superstar” Romantic tourist-poet to a conscious philhellene, a critic of Greek factionalism and benefactor of the Revolution, eventually gaining the status of a national hero in the Greek popular imaginary, is highlighted through his imaginative absorption by the archetypal world of Karagiozis and enriched by deft references to historical figures such as John Cam Hobhouse, Ali Pasha and Teresa Makri – better known as “Maid of Athens” from Byron’s poem of the same title that paid tribute to the twelve-year-old girl with whom the poet fell passionately in love while lodging in her mother’s house in 1810.
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 and, 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.
At Tepelenë, Hadjiavatis meets Spyros Kolovos, secretary of Ali Pasha, who informs him that Lord Byron travelled from England to get to know Greece, the land he so admires. He stays as a guest in Ali Pasha’s seraglio. Hadjiavatis meets Karagiozis, who works at the seraglio. Byron meets Karagiozis and likes him. He laughs with his antics and keeps him as part of his retinue. They depart for Athens.
After a long tour, Byron, Hobhouse, Karagiozis and the rest of the team arrive in Athens. Karagiozis meets Hadjiavatis who is also in town and recounts their adventures. Byron’s stay in Attica is marked by an unexpected and candid passion. Byron departs for Smyrna and Istanbul and realises his great dream of crossing the Dardanelles. Karagiozis is always at his side, helping him. Byron soon returns to Greece. During his latest tour, his life gets in danger. Eventually, he departs for England, leaving his trusted servant and companion back.
After many years, Hadjiavatis informs Karagiozis that Byron is returning to Greece to assist the Revolution. They meet at Missolonghi with great emotion. Karagiozis re-enters Byron’s service as a soldier in the team of the Souliotes. A relapse leads the nobleman to his end. The final scene follows, in which Greece crowns Byron as a hero and angels take his soul to heaven.
Scenario, execution Athos Danellis
Composer, arranger, music supervisor Dimos Vougioukas
Shadow puppets, set design (research, painting & construction) Yannis Papadopoulos (Yuvan)
Stage collaborators Apostolos Gravvanis, Nikolas Tzivelekis
Production manager Anastasia Papageorgiou
Dimos Vougioukas (accordion)
Kyriakos Gouventas (violin)
Dimitris Koufogiorgos (guitar, mandolin)
Ioanna Riga (santouri)
Video director, editor Konstantinos Arvanitakis
Subtitle transcription Lina Zachari
Athos Danellis Scenario, execution
From a very young age, he loved the Greek shadow puppet theatre (Karagiozis) and studied next to the old teachers of the art. He studied journalism in England. He collaborates with the Hellenic Radio Broadcasting Corporation and the periodical press, presenting series of shows on the Greek and global shadow theatre. With his Athens Shadow Theater Company, he participated in many festivals in Greece and abroad (America, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc). Since 1989, he has maintained permanent stages where he presents rare works from the repertoire of the Greek shadow theatre as well as his own original creations, keeping this very important folk theatrical tradition alive. He teaches masterclasses on the art of shadow theatre (history and theory, style and imitation, the role of music in performance, construction and painting of figures, scenery and advertising) both in Greece and abroad. Alongside his colleague Yannis Papadopoulos, he founded the Crete Shadow Theatre.
Dimos Vougioukas Composer, arranger, music supervisor
He was born in Volos (Greece) in 1982. He began studying the accordion at the age of ten. He plays in the Balkan and Greek traditional music styles. In 2016, he created the Athens Tango Ensemble, one of the most famous tango orchestras in Greece. He is a founding member and soloist of the Estoudiantina of Nea Ionia (Volos) orchestra and has created many of the arrangements used by them. His career has included many concerts, masterclasses and recordings in Greece and abroad. Since an early age, he has been involved in the art of Greek shadow theatre and in its music.
Yannis Papadopoulos (Yuvan) Shadow puppets, set design (research, painting & construction)
He was born in Edessa in 1988. From a young age, he became acquainted with Greek shadow theatre by watching recorded performances. With his mother’s help, he started making shadow puppets (figures), both original and out of commercial paper cutouts of the time. At the age of ten, he gave his first performances and continued until his student years, while at the same time he developed the art of creating shadow figures. His acquaintance with shadow puppeteers from Athens and Thessaloniki helped him to get more immersed in shadow theatre. He is a graduate of the Department of Traditional Music School of Arts of the TEI of Epirus. Since 2015, he has been working as a teacher of Cretan lyra in music schools in Crete. There, he has been active in performance, both alone and in collaboration with the shadow puppeteer Athos Danellis. He makes and plays with his own figures, which have also been used by other shadow puppeteers.
Apostolos Gravvanis Stage collaborator
He originates from Karditsa and was born in Athens, where he first encountered live performances featuring Karagiozis. He was enchanted by the art of shadow theatre and became a regular spectator. From a young age, he entered the atelier of the veteran shadow puppeteer Manthos Athinaios. He soon became one of his best students and his permanent assistant. For about twenty years, he worked with him at the Rialto Theatre (Kypseli) and the Manthos Athinaios Τheatre (Nea Smyrni), at school performances, festivals and television productions. He became close to the older generation of veteran craftsmen, befriending them and collaborating with many of them. He collaborates with contemporary shadow puppeteers in theatrical performances and television productions. He has taken part in numerous festivals in Greece and abroad.
Nikolas Tzivelekis Stage collaborator
He was born in Athens in 1993. He studied at the Department of Theatre Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. In 2009, he started his career in the field of shadow theatre. He gained significant experience alongside contemporary artists of the genre. He has collaborated with associations, municipalities, schools, the Haridimos Museum, and participated in various festivals. He creates shadow theatre figures and scenery, taking part in exhibitions. During the 2011/12 season, he presented shadow theatre performances on Greek TV (Kontra Channel). In 2013 and 2014, he gave performances in France. In 2014, he won the award for “Best performance, set and figures by a young artist” at the 5th Greek Shadow Theatre Games in Patras. With Athos Danellis and the group Othonion, they presented Iossif Vivilakis’ plays Karagiozis Undertaker (2017) and Filothei, the Noblewoman of Athens (2019/20). In 2020, he gave a series of performances for adult audiences at the Avaton Theatre, entitled Karagiozis… by Night.