The 1960s were for Mikis Theodorakis (born 1925) fruitful years in which his genius in music came to its peaks. It is enough to mention the oratorio “Axsion Esti” for the monumental poem of Odysseas Elytis, which covers the history of the Greek People, “The Ballad of Mauthausen” on the suffering in the Nazi concentration camps, music for films like “Zorba”, “Z” and many others, music for the stage, song cycles, and orchestral works.
At the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s as he was around his 30s he created beautiful love songs, some bright and gay, some dark and sad, some in-between, most of them are strongly connected to the cinema, ballet or the theater. We’ll present in this post six of them.
Beautiful City (Όμορφη πόλη)
The decade of the 1960s begins with the first recording of Theodorakis as a singer. “Beautiful City”, is a song that had been composed in 1952 to the lyrics of Mikis’ brother, Giannis. In 1960 few friends gathered in his Paris apartment, heard Mikis singing this song and three others that he had composed for Giannis’ lyrics. They convinced him to release a record of all four songs. In 1962 he used the song for the film “Les amantes de Teruel” (The Lovers of Teruel). It was sung by Edith Piaf with French lyrics, short time before her death, in “an amazing, heart-wrenching performance”*
There are many great versions of this song, on love that converges from the outside city into the intimate interior. Here is the classic one, by Giorgos Dalaras. With this version I was exposed to the song for the first time. I remember hearing it in the car with closed windows, and suddenly people in the noisy streets looked so peaceful, like in a movie… indeed a beautiful city… (For captions in English press the button on YouTube screen).
If You Remember my Dream (Αν θυμηθείς τ’ όνειρό μου)
The story of this song could be titled “on the wings of the song”. It was the title song of the 1958 movie “Luna De Meil”-Honeymoon, performed in English by the famous Marino Marini and his band.
One day Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis and Nikos Gatsos were sitting in a patisserie and while chatting about this song, the decision came that the time had come to put lyrics in Greek. The poet among the three, Gatsos, undertook the task and after a short while he completed it, and the song was recorded on the same day by Giovana.(1960).
The music of this song also used in “Les amantes de Teruel” as a ballet piece. Shortly after it received global success as Petula Clark recorded it in English, and then the Beatles sang it on a BBC radio show (1963). It had spread all over the world, reaching the lips of many, including those of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara…
The recording here is my favourite. The 17 years old Evangelia Moscholiou sings in a 1995 concert of her aunt Viky Moscholiou. The vivid youth overcomes professionalism in this lovely singing.(caps)
My star, my moon-Phaedra (Αστέρι μου φεγγάρι μου -Φαίδρα)
Phaedra in Greek Mythology is a young woman who is married to the older Theseus and falls desperately in love with Hippolytus, his son from another woman. ”Phaedra” is also the name of a 1962 film directed by Jules Dassin which adapts the old story to modern times. Here the father is Thanos, a shipping tycoon. His young wife Phaedra, played by Melina Mercouri falls in love with Alexis (Anthony Perkins), Thanos’ son from a previous marriage. Their love is doomed from the very beginning but they are unable to control their feelings, and it ends tragically as Alexis puts an end to his life by driving widely his car and crashing it, while Phaedra in turn swallows a bottle of sleeping pills.
I think that the song “My star, my moon” is a masterpiece, as the music and the singing express touchingly both the hope and the longing of a lover and also the despair of an impossible love. The lyrics are by Giannis Theodorakis.
We’ll have two versions, the original by Melina Mercouri, (Maybe unavailable in Germany) and the equally moving by Haris Alexiou with English caps.
April (Απρίλη μου)
This lovely and happy song is the opening song of a modern tragedy, the “Ballad of the dead Brother” (Τραγουδι του νεκρου αδελφου). “It expresses pure joy and the beauty of spring and love in a very ‘loud’ way, so that the contrast with the tragic events that will occur later will be a lot more intense.” (Katerina Siapanda)
This work which had been written in 1960-1961 consists of nine songs; all of them are settings of Theodorakis’s own poetry .The drama, which Theodorakis wrote himself, is set in the period of the Greek civil war. Two brothers join opposing sides in the struggle; their mother attempts to reconcile them but both of them die.
The singing here is by Dimtris Basis and Theodorakis coducting. (caps)
Margarita, daughter of May (Μαργαρίτα Μαγιοπούλα)
The song was first heard in a 1950s radio- play adaption of Carmen story, titled “Stella with the red gloves”. The adaption had been made by Yakovos Kampanellis (Ιάκωβος Καμπανέλλης) who wrote also the lyrics of the song. The first lyrics were slightly different, more “gypsy”- “Esterlita, the daughter of May” who later became “Margarita”.
Antonis Remos with children choir: (caps)
Make your bed for two (Στρώσε το στρώμα σου)
Many are familiar with the unforgettable dancing scene that concludes the movie “Zorba the Greek” (1964). Zorba is teaching his friend to dance to the wonderful sound of the bouzouki, in a glorious scene of friendship.The first part of this music was composed two years before, for this “very Greek” love song. “How was I to know that it would haunt my life ever after?” Theodorakis wrote few decades later.The lyrics writer is Iakovos Kampanellis.
Here too we’ll have two versions. An old one by Gregoris Bitikotsis(caps)
The second version,is sung by Yannis Parios and Theodorakis in the Finale of the famous 2001 concert in which Parios performed Theodorakis’ love songs. Parios wrote: “… but what I can say to such an important creator, with such a sensitivity, who, as he says himself, is dreaming of jasmine! His music knocks down the boundaries and creates big dreams and significant visions. I stood beside him, during an important evening in July 2001 and while I wanted to cry from joy, I sang his everlasting songs in front of an amazing world, along with a ‘big chorus’ of six thousand people…”
(no caps, maybe unavailable in Germany)
*Edith Piaf: http://youtu.be/67JnI4w-Xug
Other two posts on Theodorakis in this blog:
Dimitra Galani sings “Bewitched night” with our translation: https://youtu.be/9y3WswwYJkI
A beautiful version of “Margarita, the daughter of May” by Margarita Zorbala:https://youtu.be/3rPaehCyhWU
Many thanks to Anastasia Thanela and Katerina Siapanda!!!