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Greek-American Composer George Tsontakis at GNO Alternative Stage in December

The National Herald

The Air of Greece, a new music theatre piece by Greek-American composer George Tsontakis runs December 17 and 18 at the Greek National Opera Alternative Stage at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center where Tsontakis will also host a three-day workshop for young composers December 20-22. Photo: Greek National Opera Alternative Stage

ATHENS – The Air of Greece, a new music theatre piece by Greek-American composer George Tsontakis, is the culmination of the Greek National Opera (GNO) Alternative Stage’s tribute to Lord Byron. Tsontakis, an award-winning creator well-known for the rhetorical and communicative power of his music, will also host a three-day workshop for young composers at the GNO Alternative Stage at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens December 20-22, Broadway World reported on October 5.

The Air of Greece, commissioned by the GNO, runs December 17 and 18, and presents a reconstruction of the poet’s Greek adventure: Byron arrived at Missolonghi in January 1824 and died there three months later at the age of 36, after an intense period of brave, though confused, involvement with the Greek War of Independence, of meditation on the onset of middle age and his awareness of the approaching end, of visionary desire for heroic action as well as of impetuous passion for the 16-year-old warrior Lukas Chalandritsanos.

The composer sets the scene at Byron’s deathbed and undertakes to render the dying poet’s consciousness through a musical and textual synthesis of authentic historical documents (in Greek) and fragments from his poetical work (in English). Sung by a vocal ensemble that combines the functions of English Madrigalists and Greek Chorus, the work juxtaposes the memory of the poet’s passionate and aristocratic youth to the chaotic war conditions he came up against in revolutionary Greece, thus highlighting the transcendent dimension of his ultimate, sublimely Romantic self-sacrifice on the altar of the ideal.

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 dramatization 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 Tsontakis, a treatment of Byron’s last days in Missolonghi.

Concurrently with the production of his new music theatre work The Air of Greece at the Alternative Stage, award-winning composer Tsontakis will host a three-day composition workshop, addressed to composers up to the age of 35.

Applicants may send the following material to the e-mail address alternativestage@nationalopera.gr by Monday, November 1:

- Two (2) representative works of theirs as pdf scores. Scores may be accompanied by sound files (midi renderings acceptable)

- One (1) or two (2) works or extracts of works to be read/rehearsed by a live instrumental ensemble during the masterclass. Works to be rehearsed must be written for one (1) up to five (5) musicians from the following configuration: flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, percussion, harp, piano, violin, cello. The total duration of works to be rehearsed must not exceed six (6) minutes. It is understood that “representative” works and works “to be read” may be the same

- CV, including proof of birth date.

Composers whose works are selected will be notified by the GNO Alternative Stage by the end of November.

For further enquiries, email: alternativestage@nationalopera.gr.

Masterclass

Workshop for young composers with George Tsontakis, December 20-22, sessions start at 11 AM at the GNO Alternative Stage-SNFCC, as part of the tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, and with the participation of an instrumental ensemble.