The fascinating new opera for young audiences Prince Ivan and the Firebird by the leading composer and director Thodoris Abazis was presented with great success by the GNO Alternative Stage. Βased on a well-known traditional Russian tale which was also the inspiration for Igor Stravinsky's famous ballet, the work is an ideal introduction to the world of opera from a composer versed in the language of modern music and theatre.
The story talks about the firebird, a big, beautiful bird with magical powers and magnificent feathers in the colour of fire. But what's more important, is that it brings trouble to whomever tries to catch it. The firebird is an unusual being, magical and stunning. It symbolizes absolute freedom, and that's why conquering it is associated with the fulfillment of the hardest goals, the greatest desires.
Through a simple yet impressive setting, the Alternative Stage carries children and young audiences to a fairy-tale world. Using a magical wardrobe as a vehicle, we travel through lush forests, palaces and other-worldly places, where everything is possible. Vivid colours, magic tricks and on-stage transformations compose an unforgettable music-theatre journey.
Composer and director's note
The musical fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Firebird came up from Sofianna Theofanous' and my artistic need to work together again, after our first joint venture, the Snow Queen. The invitation from the Alternative Stage and Giorgos Koumendakis, who was in charge at the time, came at the right moment and this is how our new adventure started.
I was familiar with a part of the fairy tale of the same title, through Igor Stravinsky's music for the famous ballet The Firebird. While I was studying in the Netherlands, I was very passionate about this genius composer's work. Studying his orchestrations was an inextricable part of my everyday life.
Exploring the fairy tale's world we discovered that we can find a series of variations of the firebird in Russian literature. We adapted the fairy tale, while preserving the main axes, and we created a dense yet understandable story, fit to serve a libretto on the one hand, and attractive to young audiences on the other hand.
The fairy tale's core subject is arrogance, which is seen as a path that leads to isolation and in the end, destruction. The gifted prince Ivan believes he can achieve everything by himself. He tricks and takes advantage of everyone around him in his effort to gain absolute power, but he is taught a life lesson when Yelena, although deceived and hurt by him, saves him from exile and misery.
In my performances direction and music are born together. The relationships between the characters and the circumstances in the scenes are what leads the compositional thought, with the goal of serving the work's dramaturgy. At first, musical structures are created as a result of the musical representation of a stage action, but at the next stage, and while the total form of the performance is being shaped, music undertakes to lead the dramaturgy through compositional and orchestrational techniques. Thus, a large part of the total result has essentially been completed in my mind, long before the start of the rehearsals. Mise en scène, movements, the delivery of the set -or not set- text, chorality and the monologue and dialogue parts belong right from the start to the score of the performance. The core of my direction is clearly captured in the musical gestures and the stage directions accompanying them. And as in my case, the composer and the director are one and the same person, the risk of major conflicts between the creative team is avoided - a risk always lurking in the holistic negotiation I just described.
The musical vocabulary of the performance is completely free. As someone who adores colours, I often use chromatic scales which however alternate with diatonic parts, and sometimes -humbly winking at master Stravinsky- with octatonic or whole-tone scales. I try, just as with Snow Queen, to introduce children to the wonderful world of opera. I avoided long musical gestures, and as I am aware of the fact that children have limited attention spans, I made sure that the most "cerebral" musical constructions were followed by recognizable and easy tunes that children could "absorb" quickly and reproduce easily.
Opera for children and young audiences
Prince Ivan and the Firebird
Available on GNO TV until 31 December 2021
The production was recorded on 30 December 2017 in the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC. Subtitles are available in Greek .
Composer - Director Thodoris Abazis
Conductor Michalis Papapetrou
Libretto Sofianna Theofanous
Sets - Costumes Kenny MacLellan
Movement Stavroula Siamou
Lighting Nikos Sotiropoulos
Tsar Dimitris Nalbandis
Wolf Panagiotis Athanassopoulos
Wizard Koschei Vassilis Dimakopoulos
Ivan Yannis Kalyvas
Vasily Yannis Filias
Firebird / Yelena Vassia Zacharopoulou
Dimitri Nicolas Maraziotis
Nina Lito Messini
Apple Tree Maria Katrivesi
Christine Assimacopoulos, Vassilis Dimakopoulos, Angeliki-Zoi Karagouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Miranda Makrynioti, Lito Messini
Christine Assimacopoulos, Vassilis Dimakopoulos, Angeliki-Zoi Karagouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Miranda Makrynioti, Lito Messini, Dimitris Nalbandis
Christine Assimacopoulos, Angeliki-Zoi Karagouni, Maria Katrivesi, Michalis Katsoulis, Nicolas Maraziotis, Miranda Makrynioti, Dimitris Nalbandis, Yannis Filias
Dionysis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Yannis Stratakis (viola)
Sophia Efklidou (cello)
Vilen Karapetyan (double bass)
Marinos Galatsinos (clarinet / flute)
Thodoris Vazakas (percussion)
With the admission of 5€ the viewers:
Founding Donor of the Alternative Stage & Production donor
Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [ www.SNF.org ]