“I’m not a hero. Heroes die young. I am a citizen who fulfills my duty, ”Mikis Theodorakis once said in an interview. And so it happened. He exhausted his whole life “to the bottom”, leaving this world at the 96th year of his life.
From his apartment on the top floor of the house, with huge panoramic windows and a view of the Acropolis, he commented in his own way on everything that worried him: culture, politics, social life.
“How can we live the measured years? You have to taste them, exhausting them (…) ”- said Mikis Theodorakis in an interview, and this was his daily life.
Theodorakis’ works touch the hearts of all peoples, all the oppressed, persecuted on earth. Mikis Theodorakis is a musical genius who made a decisive contribution to the cultural revival of post-war Greece. This cultural contribution has always been intertwined with the struggles and anxiety of the Greek people (…). The melodies and songs have been nurtured by the great works of leading national poets. In difficult times, in the days of the hard struggle of the country’s people against fascism, against capitalism, imperialist wars and interventions, military coups, he was among the first.
Mikis comes from Chios, who conquered the world
Mikis Theodorakis was born in Chios on July 29, 1925. His father, George Theodorakis, Bizanachos, came from the village of Galatas (Chania), and his mother, Aspasia Pulakis, was from Cesme (Asia Minor). The parents met in Asia Minor shortly before the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Mikis Theodorakis spent his childhood in various cities of the Greek province such as Mytilene, Ioannina, Argostoli, Pyrgos, Ilia, Patras, and especially Tripoli, Arcadia, due to the frequent travels of his father, a civil servant.
From childhood, the boy showed interest and love for music, he began to compose his first songs, not yet knowing how to play musical instruments. At the age of 17, he organized a choir in the Peloponnesian city of Tripolis.
During World War II, Theodorakis participated in the Resistance Movement. He was captured by the Nazis and tortured.
During the civil war in Greece (1946-1949), the composer was sent into exile on the island of Ikaria, and then placed in a concentration camp on the island of Makronisos, where he was also tortured and beaten.
In 1950 he graduated from the Athens Conservatory, class of composition under Philoktitis Ikonomides. Then, from 1954 to 1959 at the Paris Conservatory, he studied musical analysis with Olivier Messiaen and conducting with Eugene Vigo. While living in France, he composed a lot. This period includes chamber preludes and sonatinas, symphonic works and three ballets.
In 1959, the composer returned to Greece. Organized an orchestra in Athens and a Musical Society in Piraeus. He was also engaged in political activities, in particular, he was a member of parliament from the United Left Democratic Party (1964-1967). In April 1967, shortly after the Black Colonels putsch, Theodorakis went underground. The colonels banned his music, and soon the composer went to prison, where he spent five months. In 1968 he was released under pressure from world public opinion and sent into exile, but already in 1969 he was placed in the Oropos concentration camp (near Athens). World famous cultural figures again stood up for him, in particular, D. Shostakovich, L. Bernstein, A. Miller, G. Belafonte. This had an effect, and in April 1970 the composer was released. Since 1970 he has lived and worked in France. In exile, he continued the struggle, arranging concerts in favor of the fighters against the junta. After the fall of the junta in July 1974, Theodorakis returned to Greece.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he was elected to parliament several times, was a minister in the government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis. His niece Maro Theodoraki is a famous Greek composer. All his life Mikis fought for universal values, for democracy in Greece. Founder of the Iskra Movement of Independent Citizens.
Died on September 2, 2021 after a long illness.
Works of Mikis Theodorakis
“If I had not experienced what I experienced, I would not have written this music,” said Theodorakis.
He composed pieces of music of all types and kinds. And he is the author of perhaps the most recognizable “Greek rhythm” in the world – Sirtaki, created for the film “Zorbas” (1964).
The composer also loved classical music, composed symphonies, oratorios, music for ballet, opera and chamber works.
“Music has never been an end in itself for me, it’s something empirical,” he said.
Theodorakis’ compositions have been performed by internationally renowned singers and bands such as The Beatles, Shirley Basey, Joan Baez and Edith Piaf.
He wrote music for such important films as: Phaedra (1962), Alexis Zorbas (1964), Z (1969) and Serpiko (1973). In 1970, he was awarded the BAFTA for Original Music for the soundtrack for the film Z, while he was nominated in the same category in 1974 for the film “Siege” and in 1975 for the film “Serpico”. He was also nominated for a Grammy in 1966 and 1975 for the theme song for the films Zorbas and Serpico, respectively.
His most important works are considered to be written in the style of “melodic poetry”, which uses poetry from award-winning poets of Greek and foreign origin such as Yannis Ritsos (Lenin Peace Prize 1976), George Seferis (Nobel 1963), Pablo Neruda (Nobel 1971), Odysbeas Elytis (1979). In 2000 Mikis Theodorakis was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.