Watch online the music play composed by Martha, a commission by the Greek National Opera. From Friday 16th July until 31st December.
In the turbulent years of the Greek Revolution, a lesser-known heroine of the Greek Struggle for Independence engages in a conversation with herself, her time, and the modern-day audience. Domna’s Song uses historical evidence (archival records, testimonies of the time, documents, ship logs, letters) as raw material, and processes it with various writing styles, ranging from the folk fifteen-syllable verse to experiential writing, to convey the external reality of events and the characters’ inner life.
The music of Domna’s Song is deeply influenced by the musical traditions of Greece and the Balkans. The composer Martha Mavroidi notes: “The composition takes place on two levels: a literal one, referencing the music of the broader Thrace region through the choice of instruments, rhythms and modes; and a metaphorical one, treating the musical idioms with freedom and utilising the instruments’ timbres in order to create soundscapes that address the subconscious. The writing is multilevel, developing simultaneous musical actions, parallel universes that co-exist at the same moment, so that the listener’s consciousness may expand and subsume them in a unified musical experience. The ney, the kemençe and the saz converse with the piano, the cello and the double bass, continually engineering new textures that go back and forth between action and evocation. The female voice features centrally in the work, harnessing song as vehicle of expressing the ineffable, but also as mode of empowerment, through the intertwining of voices in polyphonic parts that combine traditional polyphony and contemporary harmony. This musical work is also a profession of admiration in the face of the beauty and richness of traditional music and its enormous legacy of breathtaking verses and perennially pregnant melodic kernels – the legacy of those anonymous versifiers and musicians who held their art with care and sensitivity, enriching it before bequeathing it to their successors.”
Regarding the text, journalist/author Maro Vasiliadou notes: “The first time I saw Domna Visvizi was when I came across her bust at Pedion Areos park. She seemed somewhat stern to me, with her tightly tied headscarf, uncomfortably placed among the men of the celebrated Avenue of Heroes. I didn’t know her. And perhaps I still don’t really know her, although I’ve spent two years with her, first trying to recreate her life and then to put it on paper. I do love her though, as if she were a part of my family, an imaginary great-grandmother who came and stood close to my real grandmother: one was a Thracian woman who was uprooted in 1821, the other a woman from Asia Minor who was displaced in 1922. In Domna’s Song, the fates of many women cross, because Domna lived many lives in one lifetime. Each one of them has their own voice: the bride in love of the 1800s, the young mother who lulls her children at sea, the widow who takes over the leadership of a warship amidst the flames of the Revolution, the destitute woman who seeks justice standing day and night in front of the doors of a faceless central administration. Which one of them was passionate about the vision of liberty, which one was frightened, which one regretted her sacrifices, which one was enraged, which one wept and then swallowed her tears?”
At a glance – Synopsis
It all starts with a dream – or maybe like a dream? A young woman is preparing to marry the man she loves. Domna is 24 years old. She is dressing as a bride. She longs to travel across the Aegean alongside her husband, captain Antonis Visvizis. The place is Ainos (Enez), Thrace, a flourishing town with ancient roots, a stone’s throw away from mighty Constantinople (Istanbul). The 19th century had just begun. It would sweep people away, sow revolutions, create nations. It would also bear a small but free Greece. How does Rigas’ battle-hymn Thourios enter the bride’s dream? Why do her girlfriends embroider the revolutionary flag on her dowry linen?
In its own way –in four acts, through prose and music, interior monologues, choral interludes, lullabies, bridal songs and marches–, Domna’s Song tells the tale of Domna Visvizi, a Thracian captainess and heroine of the Greek War of Independence. Between the warps of the historical events –years of romantic ideas, patriotic visions, bitter frustrations–, the incidents of her turbulent personal life pass like weft: motherhood, widowhood, financial disaster. Domna weaves her fate alone, an “obedient patriotess” who sacrificed her possessions and family to “build the golden palace of liberty”. In the new Greece, homeless and destitute, she barely received a drop of help. She never asked for, nor was given any honours for her service to the motherland. She passed her last years in a little cottage by the sea of Piraeus. In her last afternoon before passing away in the age of 67, she may have lit the lamp in her room and heard from the window, before night fell, the breath of a familiar breeze from the north of the Aegean Sea.
Creative team – Cast
Music Martha Mavroidi
Text Maro Vasiliadou
Stage director Maria Magkanari
Set and costume designer Pavlos Thanopoulos
Lighting designer Maria Gozadinou
Vocal ensemble coach & conductor Eirini Patsea
Assistant director Maria Gozadinou
Domna Visvizi Syrmo Keke
Female vocal ensemble chórεs
Alkmini Bassakarou, Marina Emmanouilidou, Despina Georga, Vasiliki Konstantellou, Katerina Koutsonikola, Elisavet Loubardia, Daphne Nikolaou, Efrosyni Papadakou, Danae Stergiou
Vocal ensemble artistic director Marina Satti
Harris Lambrakis, Nikos Paraoulakis (ney)
Stratis Psaradellis (kemençe)
Martha Mavroidi (saz, vocals)
Yiannis Papadopoulos (piano)
Yorgos Tamiolakis (cello)
Giorgos Ventouris (double bass)
Video director, post-production Konstantinos Arvanitakis
English translation Robin Beer