Mikis Theodorakis: Greece's poet of freedom
He has not only influenced the music but also the politics of his native Greece. A look back at some highlights in Mikis Theodorakis' long and celebrated life.
Besides numerous film scores and many stage works, Mikis Theodorakis also wrote chamber music, cantatas, oratorios and hymns. In 1968, after the military junta again took power in Greece, he composed his "Songs of Freedom."
His greatest hero
The soundtrack to the cult film "Zorba the Greek" starring Anthony Quinn, and the Sirtaki dance that accompanied it, made Mikis Theodorakis world-famous. A concert was held in 1995 in Munich to celebrate the master composer's 70th birthday, and he was overjoyed to see Anthony Quinn turn up to congratulate him. The actor and long-time friend naturally performed the Sirtaki that night.
In 1997, the then German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (center) invited the two musicians Mikis Theodorakis from Greece and Zülfü Livaneli from Turkey to a dinner on the Petersberg mountain on the Rhine River. The occasion was the start of a joint tour that was to promote peace and reconciliation between Greece and Turkey. Theodorakis and Livaneli also founded the Greek–Turkish Friendship Society.
He wrote songs for the Greek singers Melina Mercouri and Maria Farantouri (pictured here), who famously sung his lyrics of struggle and resistance. The composer also created works for Vicky Leandros, Dalida, Edith Piaf and Agnes Baltsa, while Georges Moustaki, Hannes Wader and Konstantin Wecker are just a few of the long line of stars who performed his works.
The "last concert"
In early May 1997, the then 71-year-old composer and singer gave a three-hour concert in the sold-out Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Due to breathing difficulties, he had to go to hospital afterwards. On leaving, Theodorakis said to the audience: "That was my last concert."
In July 2005, Mikis Theodorakis celebrated his 80th birthday. Shortly after, the then Mayor of Aachen, Jürgen Linden, presented him with the prestigious UNESCO Art and Music Prize. It was the last time the prize was awarded by the International Music Council. Before Theodorakis, Yehudi Menuhin, Herbert von Karajan, Mercedes Sosa and Oscar Peterson, among others, received the esteemed award.
Mikis Theodorakis died on September 2, 2021, at the age of 96. He remained politically active until the end of his life, such as here at a rally in Athens in 2018. He had also criticized the Greek government for not supporting musicians who lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.