Mikis Theodorakis

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Theodorakis, Mikis

Theodorakis, Mikis , 1925-2021, Greek composer and politician, b. Chios island, Greece, Athens Conservatoire (1950). Theodorakis showed interest in music since childhood, staging his first concert at age 17. During World War II, he went to Athens to study music (1943-50), and became a member of the Greek resistance, beginning a long association with the Communist party. In 1953, he moved to Paris to study music there, where his first orchestral works in a European style were premiered and widely praised. In 1960, he returned to Greece and began developing a style of music that wed traditional Greek music and poetry with classical forms, achieving international fame for his score to the film Zorba the Greek (1964). In 1963, he resumed his political activism following the murder of Greek activist Grigoris Lambrakis by far-right extremists. (His murder was the subject of the 1969 film, Z, which Theodorakis scored.) When the Greek military overthrew the government in 1967, Theodorakis's music was banned and he was imprisoned; on his release, he was sent into exile in a remote mountainous region. Following international protests, he was released to live in Paris in 1970, but could not return to his native country until after the downfall of the military junta in 1974. He continued to be active in politics, serving in the Greek Parliament (1981-86 and 1989-93), and then became the director of the Hellenic State Radio's orchestras and choir. His best-known work from this period was his "Mauthausen Trilogy" (1988), a series of arias honoring the 50 anniversary of the liberation of Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp. In later life, he returned to composing symphonies and operas. In addition to his music, he wrote several books addressing world politics and several volumes of poetry. Among his awards and honors were the Lenin Peace Prize (1983), Officer of the Legion of Honor, France (1996), and the International Music Prize, UNESCO (2005). He was also named an Honorary Member of the Academy of Athens (2013).


See his autobiography (5 vols., 1985-95).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Theodorakis, Mikis


Born July 29, 1925, on the island of Khios. Greek composer and prominent social and political figure. Member of Greece’s Resistance Movement.

In 1948 and 1949, Theodorakis was imprisoned in a concentration camp on the island of Makronesos. In 1950 he graduated from the Athens Conservatory, where he had studied composition under P. Economidis. From 1953 to 1959 he attended the Paris Conservatory, studying musical analysis with O. Messiaen and conducting with E. Bigot. In 1959 he returned to Greece. Between 1964 and 1967, Theodorakis served in parliament as a member of the Union of the Democratic Left. Imprisoned shortly after the military coup in 1967, he was released in 1968 in response to world public opinion. In 1969, however, he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Oropos, near Athens. In 1970 he was permitted to go to France, where he resumed his musical activities. He returned to Greece in 1974.

Theodorakis has composed symphonies, chamber works, songs, and dances, including several syrtaki dances. Among his works are the musical revue and song cycle The Angels’ Quarter; the ballet scores Orpheus and Eurydice, Antigone, and Les Amants de Teruel; the musical tragedy and song cycle The Ballad of the Dead Brother; and a musical score for Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus. He has also written music for several films. His vocal compositions include the song cycles Epitaphios, written in memory of those who were killed during the antifascist demonstrations, and Romiossini, as well as the oratorio Axion Esti, a work about the Greek struggle for liberation from fascist occupation. Theodorakis has performed on tour in the USSR.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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