Tag Archives: Greece

Callas and Epidaurus

Epidaurus Callas

When Maria Callas returned to Greece to inaugurate the 1957 Athens Festival her demand for an unusually high fee created much antagonism, and she vowed that she would not perform in the country again.

However, in 1959 Κostis Bastias (1901–72) took charge of the administration of the Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī (Greek National Theater) and invited Callas to star in an opera in the ancient theater of Epidaurus. Since its opening in 1954, the Epidaurus Festival had only included performances of ancient Greek dramas by Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī; performances by other troupes were not allowed.

Finally, Callas consented to present Bellini’s Norma at the festival in 1960, and decided to donate her fee to a scholarship foundation. The performance was a resounding success, and she returned to Epidaurus a year later to present Cherubini’s Médée, further eroding Ethnikī Lyrikī Skīnī’s monopoly.

This according to “Callas: The conflict for Epidaurus” by Georgia Kondyli (Hellenic journal of music, education and culture III/1 [2010; open access]).

Today is Callas’s 90th birthday! Above, a Greek stamp commemorates her Norma at Epidaurus; below, a slide show includes photographs from the Epidaurus production of Médée.

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Carnival in Monastīraki

Arapīdes, also known as Carnival, takes place on 5 and 6 January (Epiphany Eve and Epiphany Day) in Monastīraki, Greece. Rooted in ancient Dionysiac worship, the ritual involves performances by four groups: arapīdes, masked men in black capes holding wooden swords; gkiligkes, men wearing women’s local dress; pappoudes, men wearing men’s local dress; and tsoliades or euzōnoi, men dressed as guards.

Starting in the morning, the assembled troupe visits each house in the village and dances with the head of the household, who then presents a donation. In the afternoon the troupe performs in the village square; then all of the villagers join in the dancing, which lasts into the night.

This according to “Ritual acts and dance: The case of the Arapides in Monastiraki” by Ioannis Prantsidis (Studia choreologica VIII [2006], pp. 81–120). Below, the troupe dances in the village square in 2011.

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Filed under Dance, Europe

Publications of the Mantzaros Museum

The Filarmonikīs Etaireia Kerkyras (Φιλαρμονική Εταιρεία Κέρκυρας, Philharmonic Society of Corfu) launched the book series Dīmosieumata tou Mouseiou Mousikī “Nikolaos Chalikiopoulos Mantzaros” (Δημοσιεύματα του Μουσείου Μουσική ‘Νικόλαος Χαλικιόπουλος Μάντζαρος’, Publications of the Nikolaos Chalidiopoulos Mantzaros Museum) in 2010, in conjunction with the museum’s opening and the society’s 170th anniversary.

The first volume in the series, Exi meletes gia tī Filarmonikī Etaireia Kerkyras (Έξι μελέτες για τη Φιλαρμονική Εταιρεία Κερκύρας, Six studies on the Corfu Philarmonic Society), includes an overview of the society’s history, a report on its archive, and explorations of selected topics in its history.

Below, the Filarmonikīs plays for the Holy Friday procession, Easter 2010.

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Pitch perception B.C.E.

Although the notion of pitches being relatively high or low was well-established by the first century C.E., when Pliny used the terms summus, medius, and imus, there is no evidence that earlier Greek theorists espoused this metaphor. The terms νήτη (nētē, “down-located”) and ὑπάτη (hypatē, “up-located”) were used, but they referred to the physical placement of kithara strings, not to a spatial concept of pitch; in fact, the higher the pitch in our terms, the further down-located it was on the instrument.

The commonest adjectives for pitch in ancient Greek writings are ὀξύς (oxys, “sharp, piercing”) and βαρύς (barys, “heavy”). Ptolemy wrote that the former quality was a result of λεπτότης (leptotēs, “fineness”) and πυκνότης  (pyknotēs, “close spacing [of notes]”, and that the latter was caused by μανότης (manotēs, “thickness”) and  παχύτης ( pachytēs, “loose spacing”) . The idea of higher and lower sounds, and their eventual depiction as such in notation, was a later development.

This according to “The development of vertical direction in the spatial representation of sound” by Eleonora Rocconi, an essay included in Archäologie früher Klangerzeugung und Tonordnung: Musikarchäologie in der Ägäis und Anatolien (Rahden: Leidorf, 2002), pp. 389–392.

Many thanks to David Bloom for help with this post!

Related article: The perfect-pitch puzzle

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New Year’s fertility dances

During New Year’s celebrations, transplanted Northern Thracian farmers perform fertility rites to coax a bountiful harvest from the earth.

Three forms of the important wedding dance type συγκαθιστό (syngathisto)—which is seldom seen outside a matrimonial context—are performed during New Year’s rituals; two of them, ντιβιτζήδικoς (divitzīdikos, “camel driver’s dance”) and κατσιβέλικος (katsivelikos, “gypsy’s dance”), employ phallic objects and involve improvisation. The three forms differ in style, kinemics, and morphokinemics.

This according to “Structure and style of an implement dance in Neo Monastiri, central Greece” by Rena Loutzakī, an essay included in The 16th symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology (Studia musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae XXXIII/1–4 [1991], pp. 439–452). Below, a syngathisto in its usual cultural context.


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