Greece is in mourning, as internationally acclaimed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis has passed away on Thursday, at the age of 96.
The huge, perhaps the most important Greek composer of all time, whose music has touched generations, passed into immortality at the age of 96.
Mikis Theodorakis has composed all kinds of music, from operas, symphonic music, chamber music, oratorios, ballet, and church choir, to music for ancient drama, theater, cinema, art-folk songs, and post-symphonic works. His work can be distinguished into three main periods. In the first period (1937-1960), he composes symphonic and chamber music works according to Western European forms and modern techniques. In the second period (1960-1980), he attempts to combine the symphony orchestra with folk instruments and creates new forms based on the voice, while since 1981, he returns to symphonic forms and deals with opera.
Mikis essentially created the movement of Melodic Poetry. Some of the poets he melodised lyrics to include: Angelos Sikelianos, Andreas Kalvos, George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis, Giannis Ritsos, Manolis Anagnostakis, but also Pablo Neruda, Lorca, Bernard Biam. Their lyrics thus become accessible to the general public, framing folk songs that set fundamental values and constants in contemporary Greek music.
He became internationally famous when he composed the music for the film Zorba the Greek (1964), directed by Michael Cacoyannis and starring Anthony Quinn. But he was becoming very popular even before that film, when he was composing music for the Jules Dassin’s film Phaedra (1962) starring Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, Raf Vallone, and Cacogiannis’ Electra (1962) starring Irene Papas, Aleka Katselli. He even composed music for such acclaimed films like Z (1969) by Costa-Gavras starring Yves Montand and Papas, and Serpico (1973) by Sidney Lumet starring Al Pacino. He came back in 1974, but he stayed only for 6 years. Theodorakis was dissatisfied and went back in Paris and finished his third big work, Canto General, which together with the music from the film Zorba the Greek (1964) and “Axion Esti”, a piece of work based on the poems of the Nobel winner poet Odysseas Elitis.
During the 80s, he became for one more time member of the Parliament and issue of controversy in the beginning of the 90s, when he collaborated with the right party’s prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. In 1992, he composed the Canto Olympico for the Olympic Games of Barcelona.
Mikis Theodorakis was born in the Greek island of Chios, in 1925. He fought during the 2nd World War, and he was captured at the city of Tripoli. He was tortured, but when he was set free, he joined the partisan army of Greece named EAM, which means National Liberating Movement. He took part in the civil war in Greece which occurred during 1945-1949, always with the left parties of Greece. He was exiled for the first time in the island of Ikaria in 1947, and then he was transferred to the island of Makronisos in 1948. Mikis Theodorakis was honored with multiple awards and distinctions.