Kharálampos Goyós / Dimitris Dimopoulos / Alexandros Efklidis | After Richard Wagner’s TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
The controversial opera in paraphrase Twilight of the Debts which launched the first official season of Greek National Opera’s Alternative Stage at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center comes to GNO TV. It is a radical adaptation of Richard Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods, transcribed by Kharálampos Goyós, based on a libretto by Dimitris Dimopoulos and directed for the stage by Alexandros Efklidis.
The length of Wagner’s original 5-hour work has been reduced by half and brought down to chamber format, with 11 singers and a 9-member musical ensemble taking the place of the massive Wagnerian orchestra and chorus.
Besides the reduction of the opera’s original dimensions, this production puts forth a version of Wagner adjusted to the Greek imaginary, with a new libretto in Greek, thus turning the original work –already rich in political reflection– into an explosive political melodrama raising questions about the contemporary European reality, just as Wagner did in his own turbulent era. This distinctive reading of Wagner’s masterpiece is ably supported by a cast consisting of several of GNO’s leading actor-singers.
Twilight of the Debts is the third operatic paraphrase by the creative team of Kharálampos Goyós, Alexandros Efklidis and Dimitris Dimopoulos. The first two, Yasou Aida! (after Verdi’s Aida) and AirRossini or We Are the 1% (after Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims) met with great success in Berlin, Thessaloniki and Athens, opening the way to more experimental operatic readings.
Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 12 & 14 October 2017. Greek, English and enhanced leitmotif subtitle tracks available.
From Wagner’s mythical narrative, the creators borrow the fall of Valhalla, abode of the gods, replaced here with the Holy Rock of the Acropolis, a timeless symbol of the Greek and Western civilisations. The Greek Brunhilde –personification of the people and counterpart to the Valkyrie, daughter of the ruler of the gods in Wagner’s opera– offers through her vote the succession ring to her political Hero, Sotiris –the Greek counterpart of Siegfried–, hoping that he won’t betray her like his predecessors and that he will manage to break the perpetual cycle of debt that is tormenting them.
In Twilight of the Debts, several of Wagner’s original’s motifs, the famous “leitmotifs”, are replaced by widely known Greek musical themes, such as the Greek National Anthem and other popular tunes, thus producing a palimpsest, in which the Wagnerian creation engages in an immediate dialogue with the emotive world of the Greek audience. The added Greek musical motifs are detailed in the special, innovative subtitle track that accompanies the show, exclusively for the viewers of GNO TV.
Under the shadow of the Acropolis Rock, Brunhilde looks after the grave of the First Old Man, the ancestral ethnarch, while waiting for the election results. At the same time, the three Melinas (a reference to the famous actor and progressive politician Melina Mercouri) watch in horror the light of the small oil lamp fading out – an omen of great misfortune. Sotiris (Greek for “Saviour”), the winner of the election, comes to take Brunhilde’s blessing and then heads abroad.
Waiting for the new Greek Hero’s arrival, Dr Max Merten (notorious military administration counselor of the Nazi occupation forces in Thessaloniki) persuades the allegorical figures of Modernisation and Reason to seduce Sotiris with the magic potion of the West. That is the only way Sotiris could accept the double wedding they are planning in order to save themselves from the overwhelming and unprecedented crisis. Sotiris arrives, aiming to defend his country’s interests, but trustingly drinks the potion and gives in to the offer: Modenisation will marry Brunhilde and Sotiris will marry Reason; this is the best possible solution. When Dr Merten is finally alone, he reveals his plan’s true motive: in the past, during the war, he had illicitly hoarded a big treasure and hid it deep inside the Rock. Now the time has come for him to take it back.
In the meantime, Brunhilde is tortured by a premonition. Her concerns are confirmed by the visit of the First Old Man’s ghost. The father of the state reproaches her for being impatient and reminds her of her debt towards her benefactors. Brunhilde reacts fiercely while expressing her faith in Sotiris and the change he can bring about. Then, the Old Man reveals that her Hero has betrayed her. Sotiris appears and, confirming the words of the Old Man, announces to Brunhilde the double wedding to take place under the Rock’s shadow.
The guests arrive and the wedding preparations begin. Dr Merten’s gift to Sotiris is a bust of (controversial conservative Austrian 19th century statesman) Klemens von Metternich, which he plans to display in the Heroes’ mausoleum along with the rest of the Heroes’ busts. First, however, he reveals his plan: during the wedding celebration, while fireworks light up the Athenian sky, he will trigger the explosives he had planted in the Rock to open the way to the treasure. He then announces the news of the double wedding to the Heroes’ busts. At first, the Heroes are annoyed, but later they become convinced that this decision best serves the common good.
Despite the wedding preparations, the atmosphere is gloomy as three women from Souli (a legendary region famous for its heroism in the Greek War of Independence) mourn, first over the bertayed Brunhilde and then over the deceived Sotiris. Despite their efforts to give him an antidote to make him remember his promises to Brunhilde, they fail. Sotiris finally drinks the potion by accident, during a toast to the double wedding alongside Modernisation and Dr Merten. He remembers everything, but it is too late to change his stance or start any of the reforms Brunhilde had envisaged. His place in history has already been judged. With Sotiris overpowered, all the guests bluntly start laying their claims. Then, Brunhilde appears, determined to break the circle on her own.
Transcription, conductor Kharálampos Goyós
Libretto Dimitris Dimopoulos
Concept, stage director Alexandros Efklidis
Set & costume designer Constantinos Zamanis
Lighting designer Melina Mascha
Dramaturg Eleni Triantafyllopoulou
Brunhilde Julia Souglakou
Sotiris Dimitris Paksoglou
Merten Tassos Apostolou
Modernisation, Old Man, Metternich Yanni Yannissis
Reason, Third Melina, First Woman from Souli Myrto Bocolini
Second Melina, Second Woman from Souli Irini Karaianni
Busts Vasilis Dimakopoulos, Yannis Filias, Yannis Kalyvas, Michalis Katsoulis
Theodora Iordanidou (flute)
Maria Sifnaiou (oboe)
Stathis Manatos (clarinet)
Manos Ventouras (horn)
Maria Neofytidou, Yiannis Tsanakaliotis (piano)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Angelos Liakakis (violoncello)
Yiorgos Arnis (double bass)
Video recording, TV director Elias Vogiatzoglou
English translation Dimitris Dimopoulos, Kharálampos Goyós