Canto General (Theodorakis)

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The Canto General is an oratorio for two solo voices, mixed choir and orchestra by the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis based on texts from the cycle of poems Canto General (“The Great Song”) by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda .


Theodorakis met Pablo Neruda in Paris in the 1960s. In 1970, during his exile in Paris, Theodorakis von Neruda, who was then the Chilean ambassador to France, received an official invitation to Chile. During this visit Theodorakis heard in Valparaíso a performance of the Canto General set to music by the Aparcoa group and he spontaneously decided to compose his own canto . At a subsequent meeting with the Chilean President Salvador Allende and later in Paris with Neruda, he asked the two of them to suggest a selection of poems for his setting. By 1974 the first seven parts of the work were available (1–3, 6, 9, 10, 13). In 1976 Theodorakis added Neruda's Requiem Aeternam to his own Latin-Greek text. 1980–81 Theodorakis completed his work with five more parts.

In 1972 Theodorakis used various melodies from Canto General for the soundtrack of the film The Invisible Uprising . The music was played there by the Los Calchakis group, partly on traditional Latin American instruments .

For 1973 Theodorakis planned a tour with the oratorio through various countries in America , Neruda himself was to recite his poems at the performances. Six parts of the work were in an instrumental original version for folk song orchestra and with Arja Sajonmaa and Petros Pandis as singers, but without a choir or similar. a. performed in Buenos Aires and Mexico City . Neruda's participation failed because of his cancer, the performance in Neruda's home country Chile had to be canceled because the elected Allende government was overthrown there by the military coup of Pinochet on September 11th . The planned venue, the Estadio Nacional de Chile , was converted by the military into a concentration camp-like prison camp. Neruda succumbed to his illness on September 23, 1973, just 12 days after the coup.

The first six parts of the oratorio were then premiered in their final orchestrated version on September 7, 1974 at the Humanité press festival in Paris , and shortly afterwards (1975) after the end of the Greek military dictatorship in Athens . The world premiere of the complete work took place on April 4, 1981 in East Berlin .

The first performance of Canto General in Chile took place after the end of the military dictatorship in April 1993 in the Teatro Monumental in Santiago under the direction of the composer and Franz-Peter Müller-Sybel and with the soloists Arja Sajonmaa and Petros Pandis.

To the music

In contrast to the film music for The Invisible Rebellion , Theodorakis does not try to imitate the South American instrumental sound in the Canto General . Rather, he uses his own socially motivated tonal language, which is rooted in traditional Greek music , which is also expressed in the use of the bouzouki in the orchestra. The work is kept in a simple, triad-oriented harmony and impresses with its rhythm , which takes up many models from Greek dances.

While the large texts of the Canto General are to be regarded as the choirs of an oratorio and are particularly effective due to their monumentality, the lyrical element predominates in the later completed, chorale-like smaller parts.


  1. Algunas bestias - Some animals
  2. Voy a vivir (1949) - I will live
  3. Los libertadores - The Liberators
  4. A mi partido - To my party
  5. Lautaro - Lautaro
  6. Vienen los pájaros - The birds appear
  7. Sandino - Sandino
  8. Neruda Requiem Aeternam - Requiem for Neruda (poem by Mikis Theodorakis)
  9. La United Fruit Co.- The United Fruit Co.
  10. Vegetaciones - plant kingdoms
  11. Amor América (1400) - Love of America
  12. A Emiliano Zapata - On Emiliano Zapata
  13. América insurrecta (1800) - Insurgent America

Duration: approx. 110 minutes


Mezzo-soprano , baritone , choir , 3 bouzoukis (or flutes ), percussion (5 players), 3 guitars , 2 pianos , electric bass (or double bass )


Six parts of the work have been available since 1998 in an arrangement for soloists, choir and symphony orchestra by Henning Schmiedt and Jens Naumilkat . The first performance of this symphonic version took place in Linz in 1998 with the Bruckner Orchestra and the Ad Libitum choir from St. Valentin (Lower Austria) under the direction of the composer. It is not yet available on phonograms. A further, seventh part (Los Libertadores) was orchestrated by Yannis Samprovalakis in 2005 and premiered on March 24, 2006 in the Thessaloniki Concert Hall by the Thessaloniki State Orchestra and the soloist Maria Farantouri under the direction of Myron Michailidis.

The oratorio was also the basis of an action ballet by the choreographer Harald Wandtke , which premiered on May 14, 1989 in East Berlin ( Palast der Republik ).

Another ballet arrangement of Canto General by the choreographer Rei Bara was performed in 2005 as part of the Greek Festival in the Athens Irodion and was repeated in 2006 in the Greek National Opera (Ethniki Lyriki Skini) Athens.

The Quijote group (Sabine Kühnrich, Ludwig Streng, Wolfram Hennig-Ruitz) from Chemnitz created a further adaptation of the Canto General . Sabine Kühnrich and Ludwig Streng copied seven parts of the work (1; 2; 3; 8; 9; 10; 13) in German. The chamber music arrangement for 3 voices (alto, two baritones), piano and guitar, supplemented by flute and bouzouki was done by Ludwig Streng. The world premiere of this version took place on September 22, 2013.

Sound carrier

The Canto General is available in various recordings:

  • A first studio recording from 1974 contained the four parts Vienen los Pájaros , América Insurrecta , Vegetaciones and Los Libertadores . Contributors were Maria Farantouri and Petros Pandis , Les Percussions de Strasbourg and the Chœur National de France (directed by Jacques Grimbert ). The overall direction was Mikis Theodorakis.
  • “The original live recording”, recorded with Maria Farantouri and Petros Pandis on August 13 and 16, 1975 in Piraeus and Athens , consists of the seven movements available up to then plus an introduction, spoken by the actor Manos Katrakis .
  • The live recording of a performance on February 14, 1980 at the 10th Festival of Political Song in the Palast der Republik , Berlin, with Maria Farantouri , Heiner Vogt and the Rundfunkchor Berlin , conductor was Theodorakis, consists of the same seven movements, supplemented by the historical one Recording of a reading by Amor América , spoken by Pablo Neruda.
  • The first recording of the complete, 13-part version was made in 1981 as a live recording in the Olympiahalle in Munich . It was recorded with Maria Farantouri, Petros Pandis, the Swedish St. Jakobs Choir and the Stockholm Orchestra. Mikis Theodorakis conducted it: it is indeed the musical integral that Theodorakis composed.
  • A recording by the Hamburg singer group conducted by Irmgard Schleier on September 28 and 29, 1985 with the soloists Arja Saijonmaa and Petros Pandis contains nine titles.
  • Another complete recording was made in 1989 as the only complete studio production in East Berlin for the ballet version. Participants were: Alexandra Papadjiakou , Frangiskos Voutsinos , the Rundfunkchor Berlin and an instrumental ensemble under the direction of Loukas Karytinos .
  • A recording of the Singakademie Chemnitz under the direction of Franzpeter Müller-Sybel with Bettina Weichert and Heiner Vogt as soloists from 1999 contains the seven movements of the first version and A Mi Partido .
  • A recording by the Oldenburg choir bundschuh plus (November 11 and 12, 2005 in the Garrison Church Oldenburg) under the direction of Robert Brüll with Annekatrin Kupke (alto) and Can Tufan (baritone) contains the seven movements of the first version as well as A mi partido (sung by Can Tufan) and Amor América (sung by Annekatrin Kupke). In addition, the texts by Eva-Maria Pichler will be presented in German.


  • Canto General - The great song by Pablo Neruda and Mikis Theodorakis (length: 40 minutes), director & script: Joachim Tschirner , specialist advice and translations: Asteris Kutulas , camera: Rainer M. Schulz , DEFA documentary film studio 1983. The film draws the parallel biographies of the two artists until their meeting and the creation of the oratorio. (Black and white film, artistically filmed with a 35 mm camera.)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Pablo Neruda: The German title of the edition are the great singing , German by Erich Arendt , DTV, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-423-11816-4 taken
  2. Information on the works of the Schott Music publishing house
  3. Oratorio en la escena del Teatro Solís ( Spanish ) In: La Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay . April 26, 2006. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  4. Fernando Manfredi: Las voces de la libertad ( Spanish ) In: El Pais, Montevideo, Uruguay . May 2, 2006. Accessed on May 19, 2009.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  5. Ballet performance in the National Opera (Ethniki Lyriki Skini) 2006 ( Memento of the original from December 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /