Mikis Theodorakis, composer of “Zorba” and rebellious Marxist, dies at 96 years old


As Greece’s most illustrious composer, Mr. Theodorakis has written symphonies, operas, ballets, film scores, stage music, protest marches and songs without borders – a work of hundreds classic and popular pieces that have sprung from his pen in good times and bad, even within the confines of drafty prison cells, squalid concentration camps and years of exile in a remote mountain hamlet.

He also wrote wartime hymns of resistance and socialist-style poems on the plight of workers and oppressed peoples. His most famous work on political persecution was the haunting “Mauthausen Trilogy”, named after a Nazi concentration camp from World War II used primarily to exterminate the intelligentsia from the conquered lands of Europe. It has been described as the most beautiful music ever written on the Holocaust.

The music of Mr. Theodorakis made him a wealthy Communist. Having paid his membership fee to society, he made no apologies for his privileged life as an MP, with residences in Paris, Athens and the Greek Peloponnese; for being celebrated at premieres of his work in New York, London and Berlin; or to count the cultural and political leaders of Europe, America and the Middle East as friends.

During World War II he joined a group of young communists who fought the fascist occupying forces in Greece. After the war, his name appeared on a police wartime resistance list, and he was arrested along with thousands of suspected Communists and sent for three years to Makronisos Island, the site of a camp for notorious prisoners. There, he contracted tuberculosis, and was tortured and mock executions while being buried alive.

Mr. Theodorakis studied at the conservatories of music in Athens and Paris in the 1950s, writing symphonies, chamber music, ballets and an assortment of rhapsodies, marches and adagios. He set to music the verses of eminent Greek poets, many of whom were Communists. He also deepened his ties to communism: when Greece became a Cold War battleground, he blamed not Stalin but the CIA

He was deeply affected by the 1963 assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, a prominent anti-war activist, who was overthrown by right-wing fanatics on a motorcycle during a peace rally in Thessaloniki. His assassination – a pivotal event in modern Greek history that was portrayed in barely fictitious form in the film Costa-Gavras as the work of the leaders of the next junta – sparked mass protests and a crisis. national policy.

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