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Issue 24

(Spring 2014)






Nikos A. Dontas: Greek National Opera. From the foundation of the first state-funded opera company in Greece until 1974


The first state-funded opera company in Greece was established in 1939, more than a century after the foundation of the Greek State in 1830. Until this day the company doesn’t own its own house. Both facts pose questions that need to be answered: Given the constant presence of foreign touring opera companies in Greek territory during the 19th century, as well as the positive reception wherever they performed, why was a state-funded opera company never established? When this actually happened, why did it take place during the period of the Metaxas dictatorship, and why was the opera company created only as part of the Royal / National Theatre? Even after it became an independent organization, why did the state never decide to provide it with a self owned venue?

This essay is part of a dissertation on the choices, the ethics and the parameters which formed the repertory of the Greek National Opera since its foundation in 1939. The aim of this text is to detect the factors that contributed to the foundation of the Greek National Opera and later to the formation of its repertory from 1939 until the 1973-1974 season, the last before the regime revert to democracy in Greece. The survey focuses on the main object of the organization, i.e. opera, operetta and musical theatre performances, which where programmed by the company.

The results of the research seem to point to the fact that the permanent financial problems of the Greek state where only of secondary importance to the problems of the company. The basic, decisive factor was of an ideological nature. During each period, decisions were dictated by the decision-makers’ desire –or indifference– to prove that opera is a popular art and, hence, the Greek National Opera does not spent the taxpayer’s money but, on the contrary, serves the people.



Konstantinos G. Sampanis: The Opera Performances in Cephalonia from the Establishment of “Solomos” Theatre (1837) until the First Years of “Cephalos” Theatre and the Annexation of the Ionian Islands to the “Kingdom of Greece” (1864) – ÉÉ


The first aimed, organized and complete season of opera performances in the Ionian Island of Cephalonia was held at Argostoli in 1837 at the “Solomos” Theatre, which was actually a transformed part of the residence of the nobleman Alexandros Solomos. For about two decades (1837-1856), opera seasons were not scheduled on an annual basis. However, from the establishment of “Cephalos” theatre (1858) until the season of 1863-1864, there was a remarkable stability and regularity concerning the annual occurrence. Altogether, from 1837 until the annexation of Cephalonia to the “Kingdom of Greece” (1864), 17 organized seasons of opera performances had been launched, while one more season may be considered as questionable. It is estimated that during the period between 1837 and 1864 a total of 90-95 opera productions were held, 53 of which are so far completely confirmed, while 14 more are strongly believed to have taken place based on documentary evidence. There were performed 40 operas of 11 composers, mainly Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi. The small population of Cephalonia, as well as the fact that this island was a minor and peripheral opera “market”, conduced to the appearance of Italian opera troops mainly of medium or law quality. They usually consisted, on the one hand, of young and undistinguished singers, a few of which made a name for themselves during the following years, but also most of which remained undistinguished, and, on the other hand, of aged singers, which were very close to the end of their career. Nevertheless, the public of Cephalonia had the opportunity to hear some significant singers, of which the most important were prima donna soprano Serafina Rubini, baritone Filippo Coliva, bass Luigi Dalla Santa and comic bass Giuseppe Rossi-Gallieno.



Irena Bogdanović & Walter Puchner: Greek melodramatic companies and opera singers in Odessa before the First World War (1880-1914)


The article provides details about Greek opera performances of early melodramatic companies and opera singers in Odessa before the Russian Revolution. Significant material from the Russian and the Greek local press for the Greek opera performances and solo concerts of several opera singers in this cosmopolitan city of Tsardom of Russia has been collected during three scientific Greek theatrological research expeditions in Ukraine, conducted in 2008, 2009 and 2010 under the auspices of the Academy of Athens. In particular, the article offers valuable information about Greek musical activity in the region for the years 1880, 1884, 1890, 1896-1903, 1905, 1908-1911, and 1914.



Ioannis Tselikas: The incidental music of John Knowles Paine for Oedipus Tyrannus and the Birds


One of the most important cultural events that took place in Harvard in 1881 was the premiere of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus in Greek. The music for that production was composed by John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), the first important American composer and professor, founder of the Harvard Music Department – the earliest music department in an American university. Twenty years later, Paine wrote the incidental music for Aristophanes’ Birds for another Harvard Theater production. Although Paine was fully praised by the audience and the press, the music was never performed again (nevertheless, the orchestral prelude to Oedipus Tyrannus became Paine’s most famous composition and it is performed often in American concert halls). This paper refers to the genesis, the reception and the stylistic trends of these two works, and discusses the possibility of a revival of the two classical plays with Paine’s original music.



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