Music theatre for young audiences
THE EMPEROR'S NIGHTINGALE
Music theatre for young audiences
The fascinating new opera for young audiences Prince Ivan and the Firebird by the leading Greek composer and director Theo Abazis was presented with great success by the GNO Alternative Stage. Βased on a well-known traditional Russian tale which was also the inspiration for Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet, the work is an ideal introduction to the world of opera from a composer versed in the language of modern music and theatre.
The story talks about the firebird, a big, beautiful bird with magical powers and magnificent feathers in the colour of fire. But what’s more important is that it brings trouble to whomever tries to catch it. The firebird is an unusual being, magical and stunning. It symbolizes absolute freedom, and that’s why conquering it is associated with the fulfillment of one's hardest goals and greatest desires.
Through a simple yet impressive set, the Alternative Stage carries children and young audiences to a fairy-tale world. Using a magical wardrobe as a vehicle, we travel through lush forests, palaces and otherworldly places, where everything is possible. Vivid colours, magic tricks and on-stage transformations compose an unforgettable music theatre journey.
Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 30 December 2017. Greek and English subtitles available.
When Tsar Vitchlav discovers that his precious gold apples have begun to dwindle in number, he tasks his three sons, Dimitri, Vassili and Ivan with catching the thief and handing him over to the Tsar. In exchange, he offers his crown and his kingdom. Ivan, the youngest son who is extremely spoiled and arrogant, manages to trick his brothers and starts an exciting, difficult journey on his own into the Black Forest of the witch king Koschei, the greatest wizard of all times, spoken off in many fairytales. With the aid of Volk the Wolf, he seeks out the golden Firebird so he can hand it over to his father and prove his worth as the next Tsar. Right from the outset of his adventures, he learns the value of honesty and bravery the hard way, setting him on the path toward true kingship.
Composer, stage director Theo Abazis
Libretto Sofianna Theofanous
Conductor Michalis Papapetrou
Set & costume designer Kenny MacLellan
Choreographer Stavroula Siamou
Lighting designer Nikos Sotiropoulos
Tsar Dimitris Nalbandis
Wolf Panagiotis Athanasopoulos
Koschei Vasilis Dimakopoulos
Ivan Yannis Kalyvas
Vassili Yannis Filias
Firebird, Yelena Vassia Zacharopoulou
Dimitri Nicolas Maraziotis
Nina Lito Messini
Apple tree Maria Katrivesi
Peasants Christina Asimakopoulou, Vasilis Dimakopoulos, Angeliki-Zoi Karagkouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Miranda Makrynioti, Lito Messini
Trees Christina Asimakopoulou, Vasilis Dimakopoulos, Angeliki-Zoi Karagkouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Miranda Makrynioti, Lito Messini, Dimitris Nalbandis
Thieves Christina Asimakopoulou, Yannis Filias, Angeliki-Zoi Karagkouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Nicolas Maraziotis, Miranda Makrynioti, Dimitris Nalbandis
Marinos Galatsinos (clarinet, flute)
Theo Vazakas (percussion)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Yannis Stratakis (viola)
Sofia Efklidou (cello)
Vilen Karapetyan (double bass)
Video recording, TV director Elias Vogiatzoglou
English translation Robin Beer
The musical fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Firebird came up from Sofianna Theofanous’ and my artistic need to work together again, after our first joint venture, The Snow Queen. The invitation from the Alternative Stage and Giorgos Koumendakis, who was in charge at the time, came at the right moment and this is how our new adventure started.
I was familiar with a part of the fairy tale of the same title, through Igor Stravinsky’s music for the famous ballet The Firebird. While I was studying in the Netherlands, I was very passionate about this genius composer’s work. Studying his orchestrations was an inextricable part of my everyday life.
Exploring the fairy tale’s world we discovered that we can find a series of variations of the firebird in Russian literature. We adapted the fairy tale preserving the main axes and we created a dense yet understandable story, fit to serve a libretto on the one hand and attractive to young audiences on the other.
The fairy tale’s core subject is arrogance, which is seen as a path that leads to isolation and, in the end, destruction. The gifted prince Ivan believes he can achieve everything by himself. He tricks and takes advantage of everyone around him in his effort to gain absolute power, but he is taught a life lesson when Yelena, although deceived and hurt by him, saves him from exile and misery.
In my productions, the stage direction and music are born together. The relationships between the characters and the circumstances in the scenes lead the compositional thought, with the goal of serving the work’s dramaturgy. At first, musical structures are created as a result of the musical representation of a stage action, but at the next stage, and while the total form of the show is being shaped, music undertakes to lead the dramaturgy through compositional and orchestrational techniques. Thus, a large part of the total result has essentially been completed in my mind, long before the start of the rehearsals. Mise en scène, movements, the delivery of the text that is set to music –or not–, choral renderings and solo or dialogical parts belong right from the start to the score of the performance. The core of my direction is clearly captured in the musical gestures and the stage directions accompanying them. And as, in my case, the composer and the director are one and the same person, the risk of major conflicts between the creative team is avoided – a risk always lurking in the holistic negotiation I just described.
The musical vocabulary of the production is completely free. As someone who adores colours, I often use chromatic scales which, however, alternate with diatonic parts, and sometimes –humbly winking at master Stravinsky– with octatonic or whole-tone scales. I try, just as with The Snow Queen, to introduce children to the wonderful world of opera. I avoided long musical gestures and, aware of the fact that children have limited attention spans, I made sure that the most “cerebral” musical constructions were followed by recognisable and easy tunes that children could “absorb” quickly and reproduce easily.
— Theo Abazis