Saturday, November 23, 2019

Mikis Theodorakis Orchestra concert

On November 17th, I accompanied my father to a concert of the music of Mikis Theodorakis, performed by the Mikis Theodorakis Orchestra, with the singers Dimitris Basis and Maria Farandouri, at the Tel Aviv Opera House. The Opera House had great acoustics, and the seating arrangements for wheelchair users were good.

Mikis Theodorakis is one of the greatest composers of Greek music. I grew up listening to some of his albums, both while we still lived in England and after we came to Israel. This was just part of growing up in a philhellenic family. I remember as a young girl asking to listen to "the statue record". Yes, these were vinyl LPs, played on a record player. I knew some Greek music long before I ever visited Greece.

The Mikis Theodorakis Orchestra includes ten musicians on various instruments. It is managed by Margarita Theodorakis, daughter of the composer. The singers Dimitris Basis and Maria Farandouri were excellent.

The concert was arranged by journalist and radio presenter Yaron Enosh, who came onto stage now and then to tell us a bit about the fascinating life story of Theodorakis and to translate or explain some of the lyrics. Of course, one concert cannot encompass all of the work of a prolific composer like Theodorakis. It could only present a selection.

The Mauthausen Trilogy was performed in full. This work is well-known here because of its Holocaust subject matter, and it received a standing ovation.

I personally don't like the habit of the audience's rhythmic clapping during performances, and my non-conformist self refused to participate, even when the clapping was encouraged, especially by Dimitris Basis. But this also highlighted the incongruity of having popular music performed in the formal setting of an Opera House. Had the performance been held in a different setting, the clapping might have felt more appropriate.

I wasn't familiar with all the songs performed, but enjoyed them nonetheless. I also felt frustrated that I was only able to identify a few words or phrases here and there. This concert has reignited my dream of learning Greek, and I hope to do so soon. Presumably most members of the audience knew even less Greek than I did.

The concert ended, predictably, with the song Zorba the Greek. This is such a well-known song that has come to represent Greek music, and it tends to be performed too frequently. It was good to hear it performed as intended by such accomplished musicians.

We were told that photography and audio or video recording were prohibited during the concert, so I only took a photo of the performers bowing at the end of the concert.

I enjoyed this concert, which was both nostalgic, reminding me of my childhood exposure to this composer, and just good music by any measure.