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Culture

Composer Magdalini Giannikou Discusses ‘Live from Mount Olympus’ Podcast

April 27, 2024

NEW YORK – Live from Mount Olympus, the award-winning podcast for tweens and families that weaves timeless Greek myths, the artistry of contemporary theater-makers, and the imaginative power of audio, is back for a dynamic new season. The standout podcast is fueled by the Onassis Foundation and has already been downloaded more than a million times. Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award winner André De Shields (Hadestown, the Wiz) stars as Hermes, host of this newest season, which tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between Zeus and the young Titan Prometheus, played by Ato Blankson-Wood (Cabaret, Hamlet, Slave Play). New episodes of Live from Mount Olympus: Prometheus will drop every Tuesday from early April until early May (and then resume with a different myth for part two in October).

Beyond being riveting and informative, the Live from Mount Olympus podcast, with its vivid audio presentation of these important and timely Greek myths, offers a particularly enriching way for today’s generation of young listeners – to learn about them, possibly for the first time and right in their own homes/through their own devices.

This richly-imagined drama for the ear is created and produced by Peabody-winning showrunner Julie Burstein, co-produced by the Brooklyn-based theater ensemble The TEAM, and directed by Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (Lempicka, Hadestown), Zhailon Levingston (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Chicken & Biscuits), and Keenan Tyler Oliphant (Hadestown, The Broken Ear Set-list). Karen Brooks Hopkins, president emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is executive producer. Live from Mount Olympus is distributed by public media organization PRX, one of the world’s top podcast publishers.

Live from Mount Olympus: Prometheus will set tweens’ imaginations soaring as it brings to life the story of Prometheus, a fast-paced adventure about a god with an unusual gift – the ability to see the future. After glimpsing a coming war that threatens the whole world, Prometheus realizes he must forge an alliance with Zeus and his siblings, the Olympians. But their friendship is tested when they have very different ideas about how to restore a shattered world. Combining powerful performances by a talented, diverse cast with immersive sound design that recreates a mythic world, Live from Mount Olympus and its latest season reflect the continuing power and relevance of Greek myths in the 21st century.

Previous seasons of Live from Mount Olympus featured guest stars including Anna Kendrick (Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Pitch Perfect) and Isabella Rossellini (Julia, La Chimera) in the story of Persephone, and John Turturro (King Iasus) as Atalanta’s father.

Among the other notable members of the Live from Mount Olympus creative team are writer Nathan Yungerberg; composer Magdalini Giannikou; and New Yorker cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein, who creates delightful illustrations for each episode.

Giannikou spoke with The National Herald about the project and what she is working on next.

TNH: What first drew you to the project?

Magdalini Giannikou: Its originality, its unique identity and the killer crew! Everyone involved is absolutely brilliant and Julie [Burstein] is one of the most passionate, compassionate and inspiring leaders I have ever worked with. Sometimes I will receive the voice tracks and burst into tears. Shivers are a common thing among the LFMO team. We talk about beautiful but also very complex and hard concepts and emotions. The project challenges me to go deeper and wider, opening my heart and mind towards a 360 degree perspective of a story.

A typical moment in our process, which is solely done via Zoom if you can believe it, is listening to a cue without music, Julie asking me a question of what I imagine, and me looking through the window to my right. The rest of the team cannot see that window, but that’s pretty much where I draw all my ideas, in the open sky. I cherish these moments, and I am in awe every time an episode is released, knowing that all that work is now able to touch other people’s lives, as it touches mine.

TNH: Were you always interested in Greek mythology?

MG: I grew up with Greek mythology. My mother writes children’s books. Her favorite place to be is the Parthenon and the Museum of the Acropolis. We go regularly when I am in town and always talk about Greek gods as if they are real. It’s part of who we are and how we explain creation, emotion, nature and our humanity.

TNH: What can listeners look forward to in Live from Mount Olympus: Prometheus?

MG: It’s a fascinating season. Live from Mount Olympus Season 4 tells the story of Prometheus and young Zeus uniting against Kronos and the Titans, but they clash over restoring the world. The way the resource of fire is portrayed is very thought-provoking and really gets you ruminating on the balance of the good and the evil. Building the music mood for this season was a step-up for me, I had to go through several drafts, especially in terms of Prometheus’ vision. You can expect synthesizers, solemn strings, a shimmering hammered dulcimer, fiery flutes and a nod to bank robbery film scenes!

TNH: What are you working on next?

MG: I am currently working on a project called ‘For Seasons’, a tetralogy of albums dedicated to the cyclical, magnificent but also endangered beauty of the natural world.  It’s a collection of original music and re-imagined folk songs in Greek, English, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese. The first volume ‘For Spring’ is being released on May 3 and the rest will follow every six months. Apart from the music and lyrics, I hope that the project gets people motivated towards taking more initiative in the fight to preserve the inner workings of our planet and live a more connected life.

More information is available online: https://shorturl.at/arxAY.

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