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Culture

Theodosia Roussos’ Chamber Opera ‘Polymnia’ Premieres at UCLA January 21

LOS ANGELES – The UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture on Saturday, January 21, 7 PM, presents the premiere of the experimental chamber opera Polymnia, the story of a young woman whose family was tragically expelled from its village by the Ottoman Turks. The performance will take place at UCLA’s Little Theatre. A second performance will be held on January 22 at 2 PM.

Written and composed by emerging artist Theodosia Roussos, the opera presents the story of Roussos’ own great-grandmother Polymnia Athanasiades Pappas and draws from fragments of Sappho’s poetry, Kassiane’s hymns, as well as four generations of private family writings and oral history. The opera, which is sung in both Greek and English, shares a story of resilience in the face of war and trauma and self-invention as Polymnia creates a new life in the United States, far from her homeland.

According to Roussos, “Polymnia is the story of how my family survived the ethnic cleansing of the Greeks in the early 20th century, a story that will resonate with people the world over who share similar histories. It is a love letter to my ancestors, but also a way for so many people who carry intergenerational trauma to envision healing.”

Foregrounding the voices of Greek and Armenian sopranos, the opera authentically captures a story that is shared by many in diaspora. The opera emphasizes the critical role of women in safeguarding family history, both told and untold and questions the legacy of secrets and the consequences of their being revealed.

UCLA SNF Hellenic Center Director Sharon Gerstel noted: “Polymnia tells a story that is universal, moving from ancient days to our own time. Using her unique voice, Theodosia Roussos brings to light a tragic episode in human history, yet leaves us with tremendous hope. This is the story of an exceptional woman told in the ethereal voice of her loving great-granddaughter. We are honored to host this impactful work, which showcases the talent of a Los Angeles-based composer and performer with strong roots in Greece and Cyprus.”

The opera is produced by Plain Wood Productions and directed by Diana Wyenn. The cast includes Theodosia Roussos, Natalie Buickians, Michele Patzakis, Anthony Moreno, Joanna Lynn-Jacobs, and Jon Lee Keenan. Michiel Delanghe conducts the orchestra. The production features scenic design by Tanya Orellana, lighting design by Pablo Santiago, video design by Yee Eun Nam, and costume design by Wendell C. Carmichael.

Composer, librettist, and primary artist Theodosia Roussos is a Greek-Cypriot-American composer, soprano, and oboist. She recently composed what The Guardian calls a “magnetic score” for the Netflix doc Naomi Osaka alongside Devonte Hynes. Her original opera art film Polymnia, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, National Sawdust and All Arts TV, was described as “haunting and beautiful” by Opera News. Her oboe and English horn playing can be heard on Emile Mosseri’s score for The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and her vocals are featured on Mosseri’s score for Miranda July’s Kajillionaire. Theodosia’s latest film scores can be heard this year in upcoming releases of the documentary film Being Mary Tyler Moore, and Jennifer Esposito’s film Fresh Kills.

This performance is being held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and is made possible through the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Tickets are $35-$60 and are available online: https://hellenic.ucla.edu/event/polymnia/.

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