Aggeliki Kordellou

Euripide’s Electra from Mikis Theodorakis’ perspective: an approach to philosophical, esthetic and compositional sources of the opera

Every composition of Mikis Theodorakis constitutes, according to the composer himself, a “part of a whole”. Consequently, tracking the creative process that lead to the genesis of the lyric tragedy “Electra” (1991-4, libretto of Spiros Evaggelatos (1940-2017) based on the Euripidian tragedy) presupposes the exam of various parameters not only musical, but extra-musical as well. As shown in the composer’s autobiography, in several studies about his musical work, his personal notes and sketches concerning the choice of this specific myth and its transformation to an opera, the following creative axes should be thoroughly considered: a. the philosophical aspect of the “Universal Harmony” and its “Laws” as described by the composer. b. his concern to maintain the hellenicity of this artwork, although it conforms largely to an operatic tradition foreign to its initial source which is the ancient Greek tragedy. c. his long-term experience in stage music, and particularly ancient drama’s music, which allowed him the formation of esthetic and compositional principles concerning the music setting of the tragic poetic content. d. the overall -and quite diversified- musical itinerary of the composer during a very long productive period extending from the decade of the 40s to the 90s. e. the fundamental interaction between Poetry and Music in Theodorakis’ repertoire and how it influences the adaptation of the Euripidian text in his opera.

Considering the creative context mentioned above, we will attempt in a first level to present shortly the main points of his philosophical, esthetic and compositional ideas related to the creation of this opera. On a second level, we will try through an approach combining the musicological and literary sources on one hand and music analysis on the other, to demonstrate in a brief and representing way the impact of these axes on the compositional procedure and the way they are transmuted finally in musical sounds. Firstly, we will focus on the macro-structure of the opera and how it reflects the innovative ideas of the composer about the representation of the ancient tragedy. Secondly, we shall examine the musical forms, the various types of vocal expression, the organization of the role and the musical part of each protagonist (including the Chorós), the musical language of “Electra” consisting on a variety of musical idioms. We will finally try to enlighten the meaning and the purpose of the quotations from previous compositions of Theodorakis in combination to the reference to musical elements originating from the Greek musical tradition.


University of Patras, Greece

She studied piano, singing and music theory and received a Bachelor degree with integrated master in Musical Studies from the National and Kapodistriako University of Athens. After earning a Master degree from the University Paris IV-Sorbonne, where she wrote a thesis on the musical theater of the 20th century, pursued her doctoral studies obtaining a PhD in music analysis. She has taught at the primary education, at Institutes of professional formation in Patras and Athens (Department of Sound recording) and the Superior Technological Educational Institute of Ionian Islands. Since 2017, she has been working as Special Teaching Staff at the Department of Theatrical Studies of the University of Patras. She has participated in several conferences about Greek music and music education, in Greece and abroad, and published several articles of musicological and pedagogical interest.