"The Metamorphoses of Dionysus", Mikis Theodorakis’s first opera, from 1985 — it was followed in 1990 by "Medea", in 1993 by "Elektra", in 1996 by "Antigone", and in 2001 by "Lysistrata" — is based on a free variation and an individual reading of Greek history. It is at once a parable of the excesses and suggestive effects of power, but also of the relationship between art and politics. It centers around the suicide of the civil servant and poet Kostas Karyotakis, whose poems Theodorakis set for the opera. The libretto, by Theodorakis himself, incorporates various texts by Karyotakis and two fragments from the poem "The Good People" by Kostas Varnalis (1884–1974). The opera begins and ends with the suicide of the poet Kostas Karyotakis, whose poems are presented as arias in the opera, running through the entire work. They are framed with texts by Theodorakis, producing a collage of verses of poetry and his own texts, of melodic and grotesque passages, that becomes the opera’s essential structuring feature: the contrast between the arias, the set “tragic” poems by Karyotakis, and the musical farces, the music to Theodorakis’s “sarcastic” texts.
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