Monday, January 28, 2008

The Master builder.

Greek opera isn't exactly my cup of tea, but given the chance i 'm always curious about watching one "in vivo".

This time it was Manolis Kalomiris' "O Protomastoras" (eng. "The Master builder") in a new production of the Greek National Opera, that is going to represent Greece during the Cultural Olympiad of Beijing 2008.

Copying from an article of the greek newspaper "Kathimerini":

"Composed in 1916, “The Master Builder” is an emblematic work written during one of the most turbulent and fruitful periods of Greek history. An ardent supporter of the demoticists and of statesman Eleftherios Venizelos (to whom the opera was dedicated), Kalomiris wrote an opera/ metaphor on building a new world, a new country, at a time when Greece, in the turmoil of the Balkan Wars and World War I, was torn between the Liberal Party of Venizelos and the royalist supporters of King Constantine.

For the purposes of his metaphor, Kalomiris turned to another of the country’s great artists, Nikos Kazantzakis, and his Nietzschean tragedy “The Offering,” which was later renamed “The Master Builder.” Kazantzakis had drawn his inspiration from the popular medieval legend of the Bridge of Arta.

The story is about the sacrifice a man has to make in order to achieve his dream. The master builder on the Arta Bridge project sees each day’s work turn into a pile of rubble every night after he leaves the site. An old woman, a hermit, tells him that for his bridge to stand, he must offer the ultimate sacrifice to the river god.

He must entomb the woman he loves in the foundations of the bridge to rid it of its curse. While the master builder hesitates to reveal the name of his beloved and is ready to face the consequences, she, Smaragda, comes forth and accepts her cruel fate. Smaragda is built into the foundations, and the Arta Bridge continues to stand to this day, says the surviving legend.

Kazantzakis and Kalomiris both saw how fitting this legend was as a metaphor for the rebuilding of Greece, for the construction of a Greater Greece (the unification of Greek-speaking people).

Moreover, Kalomiris, who was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, in 1883 and settled in Athens in 1910 after having studied in Constantinople and Vienna, envisaged a national school of music along Central European lines, with himself at the head of the movement, himself as the master builder. The cultural rebirth of the country was seen by him as going hand-in-hand with its political and geographical rebirth.

The first version of “The Master Builder” premiered in Athens on March 11, 1916, in a production at the Athens Municipal Theater conducted by Apostolos Kontaratos. Kalomiris conducted the orchestra, while the stage director was Miltiadis Lidorikis. A reworked version was then presented in 1930 at the Olympia Theater under the baton of Dimitris Mitropoulos.

The Greek National Opera first staged “The Master Builder” on February 19, 1943, with Antonis Delendas and Anna Remoundou in the leading roles."

If this opera rings a bell but you 're not sure about it, then this might be of help:

The Masterbuilder is the only greek opera that Maria Callas ever sang in 1943 and then again in 1944 she sang the role of Smaragda at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, conducted by Kalomiris himself.

Read the complete libretto in english and in greek

Listen to the finale of the opera as recorded live last night- listen also to the dreadfull crack of the tenor
Avgust Amonov on the final note. On the other hand, soprano Kerri Marcinko sings a beautiful Smaragda.

The fragment i've uploaded begins with Smaragda's words
"14.1 Pity our fate, pity our destiny" - in case you want to follow the libretto or "14.1 Αλίμονο στη Μοίρα μας" -in greek.

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The overall impression of the performance was not a good one.
A rather boring production, an uninspired stage direction, a mediocre (to bad) Master Builder (Avgust Amonov) -friends told me that he is good but last night he had caught a cold and they had no cover (!!!)-even so, the audience had not been informed.
Kerri Marcinko - replacing Mlada Khudoley who was supposed to sing Smaragda- started off a bit cold, nervous and insecure but gradually gained control over her voice and she finally managed to deliver a beautifully sung second act.

Rumor has it: the part of Smaragda was initially offered to Dimitra Theodossiou but she denied...


radical royalist said...

Well, yes, it is true, in 1916 Greece was torn between Venizelos' supporters and King Constantine I's supporters. Venizelos wanted war, the King opted for peace. That's why in 1917 the King had to go into exile and Venizelos led Greece into war which cost 26,000 military deaths, 21,000 military wounded and 150,000 civilan deaths (according to

mahler76 said...

Kαι στην Ελευθεροτυπία, δεν άκουσα πολύ καλά λόγια... κρίμα.

djimDjim said...

Τι να πω;... Το έργο το χαντάκωσε η ανυπαρξία σκηνοθεσίας! Τόσοι θεματικοί άξονες που έμειναν ανεκμετάλλευτοι!

Lemez said...

Does anyone know if a recording of Callas' performance still exists?

Parsifal said...

A Callas recording of the Masterbuilder, unfortunately never existed...