a music drama for 2 male voices and 7 soloists
commissioned by the Greek National Opera (GNO)
Premiere: Alternative Stage at Greek National Opera, January 17, 2021
Duration: 24 min
Conductor: Vladimiros Symeonidis
Singers: Christos Kechris, Vangelis Maniatis
Bass Flute/Piccolo: Marilena Dori
Bass Clarinet: Grammenos Chalkias
Baritone Saxophone: Guido de Flaviis
Trombone: Spiros Vergis
Percussion: Kostas Seremetis
Viola: Eleftheria Togia
Cello: Alexandros Botinis
The work draws on Lord Byron’s poem Away, Away, Ye Notes of Woe, which was written on the occasion of John Edleston’s sudden death, Byron’s lover from his years in Trinity College. It is also part of GNO’s series of events dedicated to the celebration of the two hundred years after the Greek Revolution of Independence in 1821.
In the first part of the work most sounds are raw and primitive, tactile and embodied, distorted and saturated. The two singers are introvert, struggle for vocal articulation and expression, but they constantly fail, just like two lovers whose communication collapses under the fear of coming out. The second part of the work marks a shift of perspective: the two voices become extrovert, yell, express themselves, but they only do it in extremely loud sections, where they are fully integrated into the sounds of the ensemble and no meaning can be clearly communicated. It is only in the third part that they get “naked”, that is, exposed. They are uncomfortable and uneasy, but nonetheless their uniqueness is embraced for the first time so clearly. In the last part this kind of expression becomes explicit when the two voices start to speak, and the words of Byron’s poem, in English, but also translated into Greek and Turkish, start, finally, to provide some minimal, coherent, linguistic meaning: “Yes, Thyrza! yes, since dust thou art… And all that once has harmony is worse than discord to my heart… I must not think, I might not gaze, on what I am, on what I was.”
The instrumentalists of the work are “vocal satellites”: they form a circle, they extensively use their voices modulated through their instrument, and stand in a relation of dependency with the two male singers who lead the action of the group. Because the voice is a turning point and the underlying unity of the work, I cannot avoid asking the question, “what is the voice?” Is it an extrovert means of communication? Is it expression? My answer is ‘no’ or, at least, ‘not-only.’
The bluntness of the voices and the violent use of the instruments are not simply sound events, but also demarcate cruelty, brutality, and atrocity as political concepts, which are underlying in Byron’s poem. Byron’s love poetry is not simply revealing because of its adventurous topics but, rather, because it sheds new light on the fragility and vulnerability of human essence, and gives prominence to the political concepts of modernity, that is, freedom, change, justice, and emancipation, which even today remain fragile. It is the fragility of the cultural victory of modernity and the modern form of life that we ought to be celebrating two hundred years after the Greek Revolution, and it is precisely Lord Byron’s love poetry that so inherently embodies this fragility.
You will have to open this LINK, which is the online platform of GNO, create an account, and then watch the concert Cornelian Secret. My work is the first piece of the concert, lasts 24 minutes, and is followed by works of Orestis Papaioannou and Aspasia Nasopoulou. There is also an option for subtitles in English and Greek. All descriptions and notes are bilingual (English and Greek). The concert is available for FREE until the end of 2021.