Concerts / GNO Alternative Stage
THE CORNELIAN SECRET: Love poems by Lord Byron
Ioannis Angelakis / Orestis Papaioannou / Aspasia Nasopoulou
Isaac Nathan / Lord Byron
“The Greeks have as small a chance of redemption from the Turks as the Jews have from mankind in general”, wrote Lord Byron, whose genuine interest in what he called “the poetry of politics” –especially in issues concerning minorities and the liberation movements that marked the early Romantic period– is absolutely indisputable, as evidenced by his periodic, though passionate, involvements with matters such as the revolutionary movements of Italy, the political and cultural oppression of Armenia and, of course, his ultimate devotion to the cause of the Greek liberation.
Hebrew Melodies, a collection of old as well as newer Jewish tunes published in 1815 by Isaac Nathan –a popular English Jewish musician and generally colourful personality– with Byron’s lyrical contribution as commercial bait, struck a chord with the Romantic fashion for orientalism and the “ethnic” revival of local traditions, eventually becoming one of the poet’s most popular and widespread works, despite the inevitable anti-Semitic criticism. The popularity of the verses (subsequently set to music repeatedly by such figures as Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mussorgsky) did not help rescue Nathan’s original melodies from oblivion; fifteen of those original compositions are now being revived by the Alternative Stage, with the contribution of some of the most notable Greek recitalists.
The production Hebrew Melodies and GNO TV were made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.
Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the Orchestra rehearsal room at SNFCC on 14 March 2021. Greek and English subtitles available.
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.
Lenia Safiropoulou (mezzo-soprano)
Vassilis Kavayas (tenor)
Apostolos Palios (piano)
Video director, post-production Xenofon Vardaros
Greek translation Lenia Safiropoulou
Lenia Safiropoulou Μezzo-soprano
She is a classical singer, poet and translator. She studied in Stuttgart and in London with scholarships by the Onassis and Callas Foundations and by the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. She performs with orchestras, chamber and early music ensembles, and pianists in Greece and abroad. She has given recitals in Athens, Thessaloniki, London, Paris, Lyon, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg, Barcelona, and Nicosia. Her first personal album Sunless Loves was released in 2017 by the British label First Hand Records. She has published three poetry books. Her poems have been translated into German and Italian and they are included in anthologies of contemporary Greek poetry. She has translated Goethe, Heine, Pushkin and Kafka into Greek, as well as the complete Sonnets by William Shakespeare. She is a producer for the Τhird Programme of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation.
Vassilis Kavayas Tenor
He studied at the Department of Music Studies (Ionian University) and voice under Christina Yannakopoulou at the Municipal Conservatory of Kalamata. He continued postgraduate studies with Barbara Bonney at the Mozarteum University, Salzburg (grants from the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation and the State Scholarships Foundation, Greece). Further, he studied with Aris Christofellis. He received the first prize at the Competition of The Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe (2007). He has performed leading roles in such operas as Il barbiere di Siviglia, La cenerentola, L’Italiana in Algeri, Il viaggio a Reims, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, La sonnambula in prestigious theatres and festivals like the Greek National Opera, Athens Concert Hall, Linbury Studio Theatre (ROH), Rossini Festival (Pesaro), Teatro Comunale (Bologna), Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (Lisbon), Salzburger Landestheater, Heidelberg Theatre Company, Teatro Lirico Cagliari, Teatro Verdi Trieste, Prague State Opera, Hungarian State Opera (Budapest), Göteborg Opera and Royal Swedish Opera. He has participated in recordings of such works as Semiramide (Naxos), Il trionfo di Clelia (MDG), Joseph Weigl’s Il sacrifizio (Newplay).
Apostolos Palios Piano
He was born in Karditsa (Greece) in 1979. He graduated from the Hanns Eisler University of Music in Berlin and the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre in Leipzig with master’s and soloist diploma with distinction. He has been awarded scholarships and won prizes in several national and international piano, chamber music and composition competitions in Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy. He has performed at the most important concert halls in the world, such as Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, New York Carnegie Hall, Oslo Philharmonic Hall, Granada Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Athens Megaron. He is a frequent guest at many international festivals and has appeared with all Greek orchestras as well as abroad (Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, etc.). He has also recorded for the Naxos Label and given the world premiere performances of several piano works.