Music theatre for young audiences


Athos Danellis




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) [].

Filmed on the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 28 March 2021. Greek and English 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.

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.

At a glance – Synopsis

Act I
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.

Act II
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.

Creative team – Cast

Scenario, execution Athos Danellis
Composer, arranger, music supervisor Dimos Vougioukas

Shadow puppets, set design (research, painting & construction) Yannis Papadopoulos (Yuvan)
Stage collaborators Apostolos GravvanisNikolas Tzivelekis
Production manager Anastasia Papageorgiou

Dimos Vougioukas (accordion)
Kyriakos Gouventas (violin)
Dimitris Koufogiorgos (guitar, mandolin)
Ioanna Riga

Video director, editor Konstantinos Arvanitakis

Subtitle transcription Lina Zachari
English translation Angeliki Boura

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