“Heroes would rather die than become slaves”, sings Despo, the heroine of Souli. Then, to make her point, in a fitting operatic finale, she blows up the family fortress (with them all still in it), to avoid surrendering to Ali Pasha’s Turkish army.
To mark 200 years since Greece’s struggle for freedom from the Ottoman Empire, the Greek National Opera has respun this enduring one-act melodrama, penned in 1875 by the father of patriotic Greek operas, Paolo Carrer, by fusing it with another monumental Greek classic: Nikos Skalkottas’ 36 Greek Dances for orchestra.
The result is a soulful new opera and dance performance in two parts. In collaboration with the Greek National Opera Ballet, it aims to connect the dots between the inherited national narrative and our own time: two centuries after the Greek War of Independence that led to the foundation of the Modern Greek State.
“How to assimilate a legacy of the past into a melancholic contemporary world, marked by defeat and decay? How to redefine one’s historical identity under the shadow of persistent, dystopic failure?” These were the big questions pondered by choreographer Patricia Apergi, one of the creative forces behind this poetic new production.
At this stage, it’s highly unlikely we’ll get to see the live performances originally intended to coincide with Independence Day on March 24 & 25. But fear not Greek patriots – and contemporary culture fans - you can watch it when it lands on the Greek National Opera’s new digital platform GNO TV in May.