Mikis Theodorakis | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mikis Theodorakis 

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Best known in America for his movie scores (Zorba the Greek, Z), Mikis Theodorakis's rep back home rests as much on his political activities as on his music. Tortured and imprisoned (1967), then exiled (1970) for resistance to the 1967-'74 military junta, he later served in parliament and as a cabinet minister in the Greek government. Unlike his pal Iannis Xenakis (Greece's other important late-20th-century composer, known for his austere, mathematical "stochastic" structures), Theodorakis crafts his music for more immediate accessibility, weaving together such disparate elements as spiny orchestral passages, Orthodox liturgical chants, mountain folk idioms, and the funkiest rebetika (urban folk-pop). He coined the term "song-rivers" to denote his specialty, song cycles mortared together with orchestral passages and narration. In them he skillfully avoids slipping into melodrama while giving free vent to a luscious, overflowing lyrical impulse that accommodates imposing grandiosity and intimate understatement with equal ease. Theodorakis thinks big: he'll be conducting a 150-member orchestral and vocal ensemble with soloists including contralto Maria Farandouri, known for her work with Theodorakis and other Greek composers, and actor Costas Kazakos. The program includes Axion Esti and Epiphany--settings of poetry by Nobel laureates Odysseus Elyis and George Seferis, respectively--and The Ballad of Mauthausen, composed on poems of concentration-camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 PM, Medinah Shrine Temple, 600 N. Wabash; 559-1212.

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