by Gail Holst
Szene from the production "Enas Omiros" by Leonidas Trivias
When Leonidas Trivizas decided to stage Brendan Behan's "The Hostage", which had been well translated into Greek by Vassilis Rotas in 1962, it was regarded as an important cultural event in Athens. The play itself was seen not only as a daring piece of modern theatre but as a play with a message which had obvious parallels for Greek audiences. The Cyprus issue was headline news in the Greek press and the role of the British was seen by most Greeks as one of oppressive colonial interference in another country's internal affairs, an interference which had helped cause the current hostilities. The American involvement in both Cyprus and mainland Greek politics was regarded as a continuation of the same sort of bullying, big-power politics. Behan's portrayal of his country struggles for independence struck an immediate chord with Greek audiences and Theodorakis's setting of the "Smiling Boy" (later used as the theme song for the film "Z") was soon adopted by young Greeks as a protest song against NATO involvement in Greece. Both the "Smiling Boy" and "Open the Window" from the "Hostage" cycle were immediately banned on Greek radio for their "political" associations.
The Irish setting and the wry humour of "The Hostage" caused Theodorakis to compose his score in a style very different from the "Dead Brother" and indeed from any other of his song cycles. There is a light, jaunty quality about the music which is emphasised by the original orchestration of the songs for harpsichord, bouzouki and tympanum. Some of the melodies suggest English folksongs, particularly the three pieces with a 2/4 time signature composed in Theodorakis's favourite major keys of D and F. (...)
The songs of a cycle such as "The Hostage" are thought of as a whole tied together by melodic and rhythmic devices, tonality, orchestration and voice as well as by their lyrics and mood.
From: © Gail Holst: Theodorakis. Myth & Politics in Modern Greek Music. Adolf M. Hakkert - Publisher - Amsterdam, 1980.