Theodorakis Mikis

Theodorakis Mikis

Born: 29-07-1925
From: Greece, Chios


Mikis Theodorakis (Greek: Μίκης Θεοδωράκης) (b. July 29, 1925, Greek island of Chios) is one of the most popular Greek composers. He is known internationally for his scores in the films, Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1973).

Politically, until the late 1970s he identified with the left; in 1990 he became a member of parliament with the centre-right New Democracy party, a move which he has since said he has regretted but asserts that was needed in order for the country to come out of the political crisis that had been created due to the numerous scandals. He continues identifying himself with the left and speaking out against any aggressor and oppressor. See his statements on Palestine Official Web Site or the War in Iraq Official Web Site, or Greece - Turkey - Cyprus Official Web Site. He has consistently opposed oppressive regimes and was a key voice against the Greek Junta 1967-1974. He has been mentioned as a candidate for election as President of Greece, but he has refused to be considered.


The early years, World War II, and first works

He was born on the island of Chios and spent his childhood years in different provincial Greek cities such as Mytilene, Cephallonia, Pyrgos, Patras, and Tripolis. His father was from Crete and his mother from Asia Minor.

Theodorakis' fascination with music began in early childhood; he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. In Pyrgos and Patras he took his first music lessons, and in Tripolis, Peloponnese, he formed a one person choir (himself) and gave his first concert at the age of seventeen before a mirror.

In 1944 he becomes a member of a Reserve Unity of ELAS. During the Greek Civil War, he will be arrested and sent into exile.

Later he studied at the Athens Conservatoire under Philoktitis Economidis, and at the Conservatory of Paris where he briefly[1] studied musical analysis under Olivier Messiaen as well as conducting under Eugene Bigot. His time in Paris, 1954–1959, was a period of intense artistic creation for him.

His symphonic works of this period, a piano concerto, his first suite and his first symphony, received international acclaim. In 1957 he won the Gold Medal in the Moscow Music Festival. In 1959, Darius Milhaud proposed him for the American Copley Music Prize as the Best European Composer of the Year, after the successful performances of his ballet Antigone at Covent Garden in London.

Notable works up to 1960

1. Chamber Music: Trio four piano, violin, cello; Sonatina for piano ; Sonatines n° 1 et 2 for violin and piano ;

2. Symphonic music: Assi-Gonia (symphonic movement); Symphony n° 1 (Proti Simfonia); Piano Concerto "Helicon"; Suites n° 1, 2 et 3 for orchestre; La Vie et la Mort / Live and Death (for voice and strings); Œdipus Tyrannos (for strings); Piano Concerto (1958);

3. Ballets: Greek Carnival; Le Feu aux Poudres; Les amants de Téruel; Antigone.

Back to Greek roots — recognition

Theodorakis returned to Greece and his roots in genuine Greek music, and with his song cycle "Epitaphios" he contributed to a cultural revolution in his country. With his most significant and influential works based on the greatest Greek and world poetry – "Epiphania", "Little Kyklades", "Axion Esti", "Mauthausen", "Romiossini", and "Romancero Gitan"… – he attempted to give back to Greek music a dignity which he said it had lost. In developing his concept of metasymphonic music, he quickly became recognised internationally, and won acclaim as Greece's greatest living composer.

He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus, and gave many concerts. He became involved in the politics of his home country, and after the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963 he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth and was elected its president. Following the 1964 elections, he became a member of the Greek Parliament, associated with the left-wing party EDA. Because of his radical political ideas, Theodorakis was black-listed by the cultural establishment; at the time of his biggest artistic glory, a large number of his songs were censored-before-studio or were not allowed on the radio stations.

During 1963, he wrote the basic music theme for the Michael Cacoyiannis film "Zorba the Greek" which, since then, exists as a trademark for Greece in the world art. This music is also known as 'Syrtaki dance'; taken and edited by Theodorakis from an old Cretan traditional dance.

Main works of this period

1. Song cycles: "Epitaphios" (Yannis Ritsos); "Archipelagos", "Politia A & B", "Epiphania" (George Seferis, Nobel Prize 1963), "Mauthausen" (Yakovos Kabanellis), "Romiossini" (Yannis Ritsos)

2. Music for the Stage: "The Hostage" (Brendan Behan); "Ballad of the Dead Brother" (Theodorakis); "Maghiki Poli (Magical City)"; "I Gitonia ton Angelon" (The Angels' Quarter, Kabanellis)

3. Film scores: "Electra" and "Zorba the Greek" (Michalis Cacoyannis)

4. Oratorio: "Axion Esti" (Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize 1979)

The junta — going underground — imprisonment — banishment

On 21 April 1967 a right wing junta (the Regime of the Colonels) took power in a putsch. Theodorakis went underground and founded the Patriotic Front. The Colonels published Army decree No 13, which banned playing, and even listening to his music. Theodorakis himself was arrested on 21 August 1967 and jailed for five months. Following his release in 1968, he was banished to Zatouna with his wife Myrto and their two children, Margarita and Yorgos. Later he was interned in the concentration camp of Oropos. An international solidarity movement, headed by such figures as Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, and Harry Belafonte managed to get Theodorakis freed. On request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, Theodorakis was allowed to go into exile on 13 April 1970. He arrived to Paris by an aeroplane rented by a French Reforming Movement politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. Theodorakis's flight left very secretly from a Onassis owned private airport outside Athens. Theodorakis arrieved to Le Bourget Airport where he met Costa Gavras, Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin. Theodorakis was immediately hospitalized because he suffered from lung tuberculosis. Myrto Theodorakis, Mikis's wife and two sons joined him a week later in France. They arrived from Greece to France via Italy by a boat.

Main works under the dictatorship

1. Song cycles: "O Ilios ke o Chronos" ("Sun and Time", Theodorakis); "Ta Laïka"("The Popular Songs", M. Elefteriou); Arcadies I-X; Songs for Andreas (Theodorakis); "Nichta Thanatou" ("Nights of Death", M. Elefteriou)

2. Oratorios: "Ephiphania Averoff" (Seferis), "State of Siege" (Marina-Rena Hadjidakis), "March of the Spirit" (Angelos Sikelianos), "Raven" (Seferis, after Edgar Allan Poe)

3. Film score: "Z" (Costa-Gavras).

Exile — resistance

In exile in Paris, He fought for four years for the overthrow of the colonels and for his own interest he gave thousands of concerts worldwide as part of his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Greece, met Pablo Neruda and Salvador Allende, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Tito, Igal Alon and Yasser Arafat, François Mitterrand and Olof Palme. For millions of people, he became a universal symbol of resistance against dictatorship.

Main works written in exile

1. Song cycles: "Lianotragouda" ("18 Songs for the Bitter Fatherland", Yannis Ritsos); "Ballades" (Manolis Anagnostakis)

2. Oratorio: "Canto General" (Pablo Neruda)

3. Film scores: "The Trojan Women" (M. Cacoyannis); "State of Siege" (Costa-Gavras); "Serpico" (S. Lumet)

Return to Greece — activism — prolific writing

After the fall of the Colonels, Theodorakis returned to Greece on 24 July 1974 to continue his work and his concert tours, both at home and abroad. At the same time he participated in public affairs. He was elected several times to the Greek Parliament (1981–1986 and 1989–1993) and for two years, from 1990 to 1992, he was a minister in the government of Constantine Mitsotakis. He was then appointed General Musical Director of the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Hellenic Radio and Television for another two years.

Theodorakis has always combined an exceptional artistic talent with a deep love of his country. He is also committed to heightening international awareness of human rights, of environmental issues, and of the need for peace. It was for this reason that he initiated, together with the renowned Turkish musician and singer Zülfü Livaneli, the Greek–Turkish Friendship Society. Theodorakis is Doctor honoris causa of several universities, including Montreal, Thessaloniki, and Crete, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2000. Currently he lives in retirement, publishing on music, culture, and politics. But on important occasions he never hesitates to take a position, as in 1999, opposing NATO's Kosovo war, and in 2003 against the Iraq War. In 2005, he was awarded the "Russian International St Andrew the First Called Prize" and the "IMC UNESCO International Music Prize".

Main works after 1974

1. Song cycles: "Ta Lyrika", "Dionysos", "Phaedra", "Beatrice in Zero Street", "Heretismi" (Greetings), "Mia Thalassa" ("A Sea Full of Music"), "Os archeos Anemos" ("Like an Ancient Wind"), "Lyrikotera" ("The More-Than-Lyric Songs"), "Lyrikotata" ("The Most Lyric Songs"), "Erimia" ("Solitude"), "Odysseia" (2006/2007)

2. Music for the Stage: "Orestia" (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos); "Antigone" (dir.: M. Volanakis); "Medea" (dir.: Spyros Evangelatos)

3. Film scores: "Iphigenia" (M. Cacoyannis), "The Man with the Carnation" (N. Tzimas)

4. Oratorios: "Missa Greca", "Liturgia 2", "Requiem"

5. Symphonic music and cantatas: Symphonies no 2, 3, 4, 7, "According to the Sadducees", "Canto Olympico", Guita Rhapsody (1996), Cello Rhapsody (1997)

6. Operas: "Kostas Karyotakis", "Medea", "Elektra", "Antigone", "Lysistrata".

Songs and song cycles

Theodorakis has written more than 1,000 songs and song-cycles, whose melodies have become part of the heritage of Greek music. "Sto Perigiali", "Kaimos", "Aprilis", "Doxa to Theo", "Sotiris Petroulas", "Lipotaktes", "Stis Nichtas to Balkoni", "Agapi mou", "Pou petaxe t'agori mou", "Anixe ligo to parathiro", "O Ipnos se tilixe", "To gelasto pedi", "Dendro to dendro", "O Andonis", "Protos o Hlios", and many other songs.

His song cycles are based on poems by famous Greek authors, as well as by Lorca and Neruda: "Epitaphios", "Archipelagos", "Politia", "Epiphania", "The Hostage", "Mykres Kyklades", "Mauthausen", "Romiossini", "Sun and Time", "Songs for Andreas", "Mythology", "Night of Death", "Ta Lyrika", "The Quarters of the World", "Dionysos", "Phaedra", "Mia Thalassa", "Ta Lyrikotera", "Ta Lyrikotata", "Erimia", "Odysseia".

Theodorakis released two albums of his songs and song cycles on Paredon Records and Folkways Records in the early seventies, including his Peoples' Music: The Struggles of the Greek People (1974).[2]

Symphonic works

* 1952: Piano Concerto "Helikon"

* 1953: Symphony No 1 ("Proti Simfonia")

* 1954–1959: 3 Orchestral Suites

* 1958: Piano Concerto

* 1981: Symphony No 2 ("The Song of the Earth"; text: Mikis Theodorakis) for children's choir, piano, and orchestra)

* 1981: Symphony No 3 (texts: D. Solomos; K. Kavafis; Byzantine hymns) for soprano, choir, and orchestra

* 1983: Symphony No 7 ("Spring-Symphony"; texts: Yannis Ritsos; Yorgos Kulukis) for four soloists, choir, and orchestra

* 1986–87: Symphony No 4 ("Of Choirs") for soprano, mezzo, narrator, choir, and symphonic orchestra without strings

* 1995: Rhapsody for Guitar and Orchestra

* 1996: Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra

* 2008: Rhapsody for Trumpet and Orchestra

Chamber music

* 1942: Sonatina for piano

* 1945: Elegy No 1, for cello and piano

* 1945: Elegy No 2, for violin and piano

* 1946: To Kimitirio (The Cemetery), for string quartet

* 1946: String Quartet No 1

* 1946: Duetto, for two violins

* 1947: Trio, for violin, cello and piano

* 1947: 11 Preludes, for piano

* 1947: Sexteto, for piano, flute and string quartet

* 1949: Study, for two violins and cello

* 1952: Syrtos Chaniotikos, for piano and percussion

* 1952: Sonatina No 1, for violin and piano

* 1955: Little Suite, for piano

* 1955: Passacaglia, for two pianos

* 1959: Sonatina No 2, for violin and piano

* 1989: Choros Assikikos (Galant Dances) for violoncello solo

* 1996: Melos, for piano

* 2007: East of the Aegean, for cello and piano

Cantatas and oratorios

* 1960: "Axion Esti" (text: Odysseas Elytis)

* 1969: "The March of the Spirit" (text: Angelos Sikelianos)

* 1971–82: "Canto General" (text: Pablo Neruda)

* 1981–82: "Kata Saddukaion Pathi" (Sadducean-Passion; text: Michalis Katsaros) for tenor, baritone, bass, choir, and orchestra

* 1982: Liturgy No 2 ("To children, killed in War"); texts: Tassos Livaditis, Mikis Theodorakis) for choir

* 1982–83: "Lorca" for voice, solo guitar, choir, and orchestra (based on "Romancero Gitan")

* 1992: "Canto Olympico"


* 1970: Hymn for Nasser

* 1973: Hymn for the Socialist Movement in Venezuela

* 1973: Hymn for the Students. dedicated to the victims of Polytechnical School in Athens (18.11.)

* 1977: Hymn of the French Socialist Party

* 1978: Hymn for Malta

* 1982: Hymn of P.L.O.

* 1991: Hymn of the Mediterranean Games

* 1992: "Hellenism" (Greek Hymn for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games of Barcelona)


* 1953: "Greek Carnival" (choreography: Rallou Manou)

* 1958: "Le Feu aux Poudres" (choreography: Paul Goubé)

* 1958: "Les Amants de Teruel" (choreography: Milko Sparembleck)

* 1959: "Antigone" (choreography: John Cranko)

* 1972: "Antigone in Jail" (choreography: Micha van Hoecke)

* 1979: "Elektra" (choreography: Serge Kenten)

* 1983: "Sept Danses Grecques" (choreography: Maurice Béjart)

* 1987–88: "Zorba il Greco" (choreography: Lorca Massine)


* 1984–85: "Kostas Karyotakis"

* 1988–90: "Medea"

* 1992–93: "Elektra"

* 1995–96: "Antigone"

* 1999–01: "Lysistrata"

Music for the stage

Classical tragedies

* 1959–60: "Phinisses" (Euripides)

* 1960–61: "Ajax" (Sophocles)

* 1965: "Troades" (Euripides)

* 1966–67: "Lysistrata" (Aristophanes)

* 1977: "Iketides" (Aeschylus)

* 1979: "Ippies" (Aristophanes)

* 1986–88: "Oresteia": "Agamemnon", "Choephores", "Eumenides" (Aeschylus)

* 1987: "Ekavi" (Euripides)

* 1990: "Antigone" (Sophocles)

* 1992: "Prometheus Desmotis" (Aeschylus)

* 1996: "Oedipus Tyrannos" (Sophocles)

* 2001: "Medea" (Euripides)

[edit] Modern plays

* 1960–61: "To Tragoudi tou Nekrou Adelfou" ("Ballad of the Dead Brother"), Musical Tragedy (text: Mikis Theodorakis)

* 1961–62: "Omorphi Poli" ("Beautiful City"), revue (Bost, Christodoulou, Christofelis, et al.)

* 1963: "I Gitonia ton Angelon" ("The Quarter of Angels"), Music-drama (Iakovos Kabanellis)

* 1963: "Magiki Poli" ("Enchanted City"), revue (Theodorakis, Pergialis, Katsaros)

* 1971: "Antigoni stin Filaki" ("Antigone in Jail"), drama (Yannis Ritsos)

* 1974: "Prodomenos Laos" ("Betrayed People"), music for the theatre (Vangelis Goufas)

* 1975: "Echtros Laos" ("Enemy People"), drama (Iakovos Kabanellis)

* 1975: "Christophorus Kolumbus", drama (Nikos Kazantzakis)

* 1976: "Kapodistrias", drama (Nikos Kazantzakis)

* 1977: "O Allos Alexandros" ("The Other Alexander"), drama (Margarita Limberaki)

* 1979: "Papflessas", play (Spiros Melas)

International theatre

* 1961: "Enas Omiros" ("The Hostage"), drama (Brendan Behan)

* 1963: "The Chinese Wall", drama (Max Frisch)

* 1975: "Das Sauspiel", tragicomedy (Martin Walser)

* 1979: "Caligula", drama (Albert Camus)

* 1978: "Polites B' Katigorias" ("Second-Class Citizens"), drama (Brian Friel)

* 1980: "Perikles", tragedy, (William Shakespeare)

* 1994: "Macbeth", tragedy (William Shakespeare)

Principal film scores

* 1960: "Ill Met by Moonlight"

* 1960: "Honeymoon" (Luna de miel=

* 1960: "Faces in the Dark"

* 1961: "The Shadow of the Cat"

* 1961: "Phaedra"

* 1961–62: "Les Amants de Téruel"

* 1961–62: "Five Miles to Midnight"

* 1961–62: "Electra"

* 1964: "Zorba the Greek"

* 1967: "The Day the Fish came out"

* 1969: "Z"

* 1972: "State of Siege"

* 1973: "Serpico"

* 1974: "The Rehearsal"

* 1976: "Actas de Marousia"

* 1977–78 "Iphigenia"

* 1980: "The Man with the Carnation"

Reference: Guy Wagner. Chairman of the International Theodorakis Foundation FILIKI. List of works based on the research of Asteris Koutoulas.