Online concert by Greek National Opera ”The Cornelian Secret: Love poems by Lord Byron”

Free online at until Ioannis Angelakis / Orestis Papaioannou / Aspasia Nasopoulou 69′


Music was the catalyst for seventeen-year-old (not-yet-Lord) Byron’s passionate love for the young chorister John Edleston at Trinity College, Cambridge: “His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever”, writes the fledgeling poet who would henceforth refer to their love by coded reference to a red cornelian brooch pin, gifted to him by Edleston.

Deeply shaken, some years later, by the unexpected death of his college lover from consumption at the age of twenty-one, Byron would compose a series of affecting elegies in which the biblical, female pseudonym “Thyrza” is used to mislead the public opinion of puritanical England as to the real, same-sex object of his desire – a potential scandal that would no doubt contribute to his decision to definitive go into self-imposed exile to Southern Europe in 1816.

These early monuments of queer poetry form the basis of the commission by the GNO Alternative Stage to three among the most interesting Greek composers of the younger generation, Ioannis Angelakis, Aspasia Nasopoulou and Orestis Papaioannou; their music, distinguished by its interiority, philosophical attitude and dizzying expressive breadth (ranging from neo-romantic sensitivity to hard-boiled, avant-garde sonic experimentations), attempts to give contemporary expression to the timeless lament of the Romantic poet for his “musical protégé”.

The production The Cornelian Secret and GNO TV were made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [] to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.

Filmed at the GNO Alternative Stage at the SNFCC on 17 January 2021. Greek and English subtitles available.

At a glance – Synopsis

Tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution
Cycle “Odes to Byron”
Curator Alexandros Mouzas

A sentimentalist as well as an ironist, a humanitarian as well as an animal lover, a person of ideas as well as one of passion, a man of action as well as a sybarite, a lover of men as well as women, “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, a philhellene to the (untimely) end and, most of all, a poet through and through, Lord Byron incarnated in an exemplary way and like no other figure the enthusiasms, achievements and contradictions of the Romantic movement. In an attempt to artistically render some idea of the magnitude of the work and impact of this precursor of the modern figure of the “superstar”, the GNO Alternative Stage presents throughout 2021 a multifaceted tribute, proportional to an inexhaustible personality that left behind, in only 36 years of life and in addition to 17 (!) volumes of poetry (opportune since its own time to all kinds of dramatic and musical appropriation), memorable political action, a slew of scandals and broken hearts as well as a reputation doomed, one might say, to transhistorical, as well as feverish, mythification.

The GNO tribute, curated by the composer Alexandros Mouzas, traverses the eras, genres and species of musical and theatrical discourse, covering a spectrum that extends from recital (the forgotten Hebrew Melodies, a collaboration between Byron and the Jewish musician Isaac Nathan in the spirit of the former’s Romantic interest for endangered “ethnic” cultures; new musical settings of Byron’s innovative, queer erotic poetry by three young composers) to Greek folk shadow theatre. Predictably, the largest share of the programming is dedicated to contemporary music theatre: a dramatisation of the poet’s letters from Greece by Mouzas; a multimedia tribute to Byron’s daughter and… computer pioneer Ada Lovelace by Yannis Kyriakides and, at the conclusion of the tribute, the new work by the distinguished Greek-American composer George Tsontakis, a treatment of Byron’s last days in Missolonghi.

Creative team – Cast

Ioannis Angelakis  
a music drama for Lord Byron for two male voices and seven soloists (2020)

Christos Kechris (tenor)
Vangelis Maniatis (baritone)

Marilena Dori (bass flute, piccolo)
Grammenos Chalkias (bass clarinet)
Guido de Flaviis (baritone saxophone)
Spyros Vergis (trombone)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Eleftheria Togia (viola)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Orestis Papaioannou
on poetry by Lord Byron for baritone and ensemble (2020)

Sotiris Triantis (baritone)

Marilena Dori (flute, piccolo, alto flute)
Grammenos Chalkias (clarinet, bass clarinet)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Apostolos Palios (piano)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Eleftheria Togia (viola)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Aspasia Nasopoulou
on poetry by Lord Byron for tenor, baritone and ensemble (2020)

Christos Kechris (tenor)
Vangelis Maniatis (baritone)

Grammenos Chalkias (bass clarinet)
Mislav Režić (guitar)
Costas Seremetis (percussion)
Apostolos Palios (piano)
Dionisis Vervitsiotis (violin)
Alexandros Botinis (cello)

Conductor Vladimiros Symeonidis

Ensemble ANAX – Cultural Projects
Ensemble coordinator Alexandros Mouzas

Video recording, TV director, editing Konstantinos Arvanitakis
Greek translation Lenia Safiropoulou

Biographical notes

Ioannis Angelakis Composer
Ioannis Angelakis is a composer of acoustic music. His works embrace sounds that remain not fully controllable by the composer or the performer, are inherently unstable and constantly moving, come with their own logic of unfolding, presuppose a particular body-instrument relationship, and call for a new kind of listening attention. He is interested in the formal implications of these sounds, and in integrating these implications into the concept of the work. His compositional approach points to a shift from an interval-based and gestural activation of sound to an encapsulation of timbre that pulls us toward the interior space of sound. His writing is the result of extended research on idiosyncratic aspects of the mechanism of acoustic instruments, and aims to develop a new form of lived space. His works often call for long durations and extreme musical specialisation, pushing against traditional concert formats of new music.

Orestis Papaioannou Composer
Orestis Papaioannou was born in 1993 in Sitia, Greece. He began his early studies at the Edessa Municipality Music School, New Music School of Edessa, and State Conservatory of Thessaloniki with degrees in harmony, counterpoint, clarinet, and chamber music. He continued with academic studies in composition at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Music Studies (class of Christos Samaras), Masters and Concert Exams at the Lübeck University of Music (class of Dieter Mack). From 2019 he is a doctoral candidate at the Hamburg University of Music and Theatre as a scholar of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He has won several first prizes in international composition competitions, such as “Krzysztof Penderecki” in Kraków, “Weimar Spring Festival with Contemporary Music” in Weimar, “Antonín Dvořák” in Prague, “Yorgo Sicilianos” in Athens, “Brahms Festival” in Lübeck and was a finalist at “Toolbox Percussion” in Hong Kong, “TONALi” in Hamburg, “Città di Udine”, etc. His pieces have been performed in many European countries by ensembles such as the Athens State Orchestra, Hamburger Symphoniker, Quasars Ensemble, Praga Sinfonietta, MHLübeck Orchester, MotoContrario, pre-art soloists, and have been broadcasted by the German and the Greek National Radio. His new opera The Fall of the House of Commons on a libretto by Alexandros Lountzis and Orfeas Apergis is set to be premiered in Hamburg in 2022.

Aspasia Nasopoulou Composer
Aspasia Nasopoulou (Athens, 1972) is a composer, pianist and curator based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her work has a poetic, evocative and dynamic transparency. It is inspired by literature, mythology and philosophy from various cultures. In her more than 90 compositions, she is frequently exploring the synergy between music and theatre by integrating new instruments, visuals and dance. Her pieces have been commissioned and are regularly performed by acclaimed soloists and ensembles internationally. Since 2016, she is organizing the residency for composers, Composer’s Treat, under the Cultureland foundation. Since 2019, she has been curating the new concert series for contemporary chamber music Nieuwe Noten Amsterdam along with the bass clarinettist Fie Schouten. Starting 2021, Nasopoulou will be the new artistic director of the orchestra for contemporary music “orkest de ereprijs”. Her works are published by Donemus. Aspasia Nasopoulou studied piano and composition –diploma and MA degree– at the Nikos Skalkottas Conservatory in Athens with Michael Travlos and at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Wim Henderickx and Fabio Nieder. She has a BSc in Geology from the National University of Athens.

Vladimiros Symeonidis Conductor
He is the artistic director of the Contra Tempo Chamber Orchestra. He was the director of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (2006-11). He has collaborated with numerous music ensembles in Greece and abroad such us Austrian Radio Orchestra, Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Athens and Thessaloniki State Orchestras, contemporary music ensembles Klangforum Wien, die reihe, dissonArt, Εrgon Ensemble, Utrechts Conservatorium Orchestra, Sinfonietta Beograd, Wiener Sängerknaben, Armonia Atenea, Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, etc. He conducted opera and ballet productions at the GNO and he recorded for the Greek and Austrian Radio, as well as for the Naxos record company. Since 2019, he has been assistant professor of Conducting at the School of Music Studies of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Also, he teaches orchestral conducting at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. He is a graduate of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna (conducting, under Uroš Lajovic, and composition diploma, under Erich Urbanner, both with Magister Artium degree), the School of Music Studies of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and the class of advanced music theory of Christos Samaras.

Christos Kechris Tenor
Greek tenor, born in Athens. His repertoire includes a wide range of roles and works from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, music of the 20th century as well as contemporary experimental musical creation. He collaborates regularly as a soloist with Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative Stage of the Greek National Opera, Athens State Orchestra, Armonia Atenea, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra, Athens Philharmonia Orchestra, Ergon Ensemble, Latinitas Nostra, Athens Municipality Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre of Greece, Greek Art Theatre Karolos Koun, Athens Festival, Athens and Thessaloniki Concert Halls, Onassis Stegi. He has collaborated with orchestras and theatres in Switzerland (Opéra de Lausanne, Opéra de Fribourg), Germany (Passau State Opera, Schlosstheater Celle, Amberg Symphony Orchestra, Stadttheater Landshut), Austria (Orchester Purpur Wien), Italy (Teatro Verdi Gorizia), Malta (Teatru Manoel), Lithuania (Banchetto Musicale Vilnius), Slovenia (Seviqc Brežice Festival), Turkey (Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic Orchestra), France (Opéra national de Lorraine), Croatia (Festival Kvarner) and the recording company Deutsche Grammophon.

Vangelis Maniatis Baritone
Greek baritone, he was born in Piraeus. He performs with special ability a wide repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to contemporary music. He had his first contact with European classical music as a member of the Saint Efthymios Chorus, Athens. While studying at the Physics Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, he began studying voice under leading baritone Wassili Janulako. He continued under soprano Despina Kalafatis, while in recent years he improves his technique with baritone Aris Argyris. He often works with the Greek National Opera, Athens State Orchestra, as well as with the Ensembles of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation and the Athens Municipality. He has performed roles in such productions as Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, La traviata, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Die lustige Witwe, Don Giovanni, Fidelio, The Murderess, La belle Hélène, Z, Věc Makropulos, Jenůfa, Manon, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Wozzeck and Andrea Chénier.

Sotiris Triantis Baritone
Greek baritone, born in Corfu. He studied clarinet at the Mantzaros Philharmonic Society, music theory at the Conservatory of Corfu and singing, with scholarship, at the Νikolaos Mantzaros Conservatory, from where he graduated with honours and first prize, as well as with Greek National Opera bass Tassos Apostolou. He attended seminars with Dimitri Kavrakos, Christophoros Stamboglis and Pietro Ballo (opera), Andreas Reibenspies (Lied) and Stephen Varcoe (oratorio). He performed as a soloist or chorister with Armonia Atenea at Salzburg and Αthens Festivals (The Penal Colony by Ph. Glass, Giulietta e Romeo by Ν. Zingarelli, Alcina by G. F. Handel, Kiss Me Kate by C. Porter, Sweeney Todd by S. Sondheim, Iokasti by G. Kouroupos), City of Athens Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Corfu, Hellenic Group of Contemporary Music, Rafi Music Theatre Company (Alcina by G. F. Handel and Frossini by P. Carrer). He performed as a soloist in productions of the GNO, the International Festival of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Festival of the Municipality of Kallithea. He has been teaching singing at the Corfu Conservatory since 2019.