ATHENS – The renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis celebrated his 96th birthday on July 29. During his lengthy career, Theodorakis has composed some of the most recognizable and iconic music in the world, including the film scores for Zorba the Greek, Z, and Serpico.
His composition the Mauthausen Trilogy, also known as The Ballad of Mauthausen, based on the poems of Iakovos Kambanellis, has been described as the "most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust."
The generations of Greeks who grew up with his songs continue to sing them regardless of political affiliation and in spite of the fact that Theodorakis has long been associated with the Greek Left. Though he had ties to the Communist Party, he served as government minister under right-wing Constantine Mitsotakis in the early 1990’s.
During the junta, Theodorakis was jailed, sent to prison camps, and then was allowed to go into exile after an international solidarity movement, led by such well-known personalities as Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, and Harry Belafonte demanded his release. On the request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, Theodorakis was allowed to go into exile on April 13, 1970, flying to Paris secretly from an Onassis-owned private airport outside Athens. Theodorakis’ music was banned during the junta.
Today, he is revered for his outstanding contributions to music and to society at large. The historic concert, All of Greece for Mikis – 1,000 Voices, was held in 2017 in his honor with the then-91-year-old in attendance. Health problems did not deter the world-renowned composer from rising twice from his wheelchair to show his appreciation for the audience. Just days before the concert, he said in an interview that his biggest wish was to stand up from his wheelchair and conduct his famous song To Perigiali to Kryfo (The Secret Beach). The concert was just a brief glimpse of how much Theodorakis means to Greece and Greeks everywhere.
This year, the Athens Orchestra performed a tribute concert to honor Theodorakis and his 96th birthday. The free event was held on July 20 and included selections from the prolific composer’s oeuvre performed by the orchestra at the Megaro Mousikis Athens Concert Hall garden.
We wish Theodorakis all the best and Xronia polla!