Music is the language which has the ability to connect civilizations and transfer their values regardless of place and time by minimizing the differences among them and by developing, at the same time, a powerful spirit of understanding and fondness.
In my own worldview, music is a treatment for the spirit, since its influence on the auditor’s emotional and mental state has the power to enter the subconscious, to determine and shape his moral compass and to suppress passions and desires in a way which is superior to speech. In order for the lines of a song to have influence, first, they should be comprehended by the mind.
On the other hand, music is the worldwide lingua franca, since it has the special ability to communicate directly with the heart and function as a forceful means of communication, which is also straight and stimulating, and elevating for the spirit. The song (“tragoudi”), where the word tragedy comes from, is a historical action which describes the attitude of our people towards life and death in a confessing and deeply experiential way. It is the umbilical cord, which inextricably links the past to the present and maintains the historical memories and traditions of this place unalterable in time for three thousand years by making the place sacramental and pilgrimage.
I strongly believe that, if we promote the Greek language in our musical culture through pieces of new composers and if we stop being fond of reproducing foreign productions which are being repeatedly performed on the famous stages of the country, we might be able to discover our lost musical identity. The Greek language is as necessary for songs as the first violin for the orchestra. It is a melodic and necessary instrument, distinctive for its songful sound and its infinite expressive capabilities, which pleases hearing and charms the soul in the same way that Orfeas’ lyre tamed the wild beasts with its musical melodies. We are the heirs of the muses’ language. A language whose musicality is similar to universality as the internationally renowned Greek composer, Yannis Xenakis, would say. This is our comparative advantage.
When we talk about cultural diplomacy and more specifically refer to the term Opera Diplomacy, we mean the practice of a cultural policy based on the musical theatrical kind of the opera, which is not, as many people believe, a cultural innovation of the West, but maybe an extremely important and practically essential contribution to the further development of the ancient Greek drama.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that, at the end of the 16th century, the whole European world was reborn in the ashes of the medieval obscurantism by searching for its roots in the ancient Greek civilization. In support of what was mentioned above, it is worth referring to some of the most famous operas of the previous centuries which meet their themes in the Greek mythology. These are the operas “Dafne” and “Euridice” by Jacopo Peri, “Orpheus” by Claudio Monteverdi, “Jason” by Francesco Cavalli, “Orpheus and Euridice” and “Iphigenia in Tauris” by Christoph Willibald Gluck, “Idomeneo” by Mozart, “Medea” by Luigi Cherubini, “The Siege of Corinth” by Gioachino Rossini, “The Beautiful Helen” by Jacques Offenbach, “Oedipus the King” by Igor Stravinsky, “Dafne”, “Electra” and “Ariadne on Naxos” by Richard Strauss.
Pavlos Karrer (1829-1896) was a Greek composer from the Ionian Islands. Theatrical composer of vocal and instrumental music.
Arts have never been cut off from politics. If we give a historical overview of the past, we could understand in a more clear way the role of arts and classical music in politics. An excellent historical example is that of the great German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Although, at first, he had dedicated his 3rd Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte after having distinguished his liberal ideals, later he withdrew his dedication, when, in 1804, Napoleon declared himself the Emperor of France and governed in an authoritarian way. Therefore, the symphony which was first entitled “to Napoleon Bonaparte”, was then renamed “Heroic” and dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz.
On the other hand, Tchaikovsky praises the Russians’ victory over Napoleon’s forces in his overture1812. In Greece, the revolutionary pieces by the composer Pavlos Karreris from Zakinthos, such as “Despo the heroine from Souli”, “Markos Botsaris” or “Kira Frosini”, stress and honor the heroic battles of the Greek national revolution in 1821. In Italy respectively, the revolutionary opera “Nabucco” by Giuseppe Verdi (which was named after the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar) offered a major revolutionary symbolism during the Austrian occupation. The name of the composer itself was a secret call for unification to the initiated Italian Carbonari, since the acronym V.E.R.D.I., as it was written in the theatrical invitations, meant “Vittorio Emanuele Re D’ Italia” and its goal was the repatriation of the exiled Victor Emmanuel II. In the same way, the Austrian composer Johan Strauss composed the popular march “Radetzky March” dedicated to the Austrian general Joseph Radetzky von Radetz due to his great victories over the Italian army at the battles of Custoza and Novara in 1848-1849 during the first war for the Italian independence. Nevertheless, a huge amount of similar examples can be found nowadays. New Year’s concerts in Vienna or in the theatre “La Fenice” in Venice represent some of the greatest examples. Exactly the same thing takes place at a geopolitical level. There is a typical example of the natural gas pipeline Nabucco that would connect Georgia with Austria and was named after a meeting of representatives from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey at the opera hall of Vienna, where they watched the homonymous opera by Giuseppe Verdi.
Spyridon-Filiskos Samaras (1861 – 1917) was a Greek composer particularly admired for his operas.
Cultural diplomacy remains an aspect of diplomacy which has not been fully used in the formation of better diplomatic relations among countries until today and, although it could be the bridge which would connect countries and improve their relationships, it has been underestimated and neglected in many cases.
Referring to the Greek Cultural Diplomacy, the cultural action, entitled Opera Diplomacy, which has taken place on my own initiative in Greece and Europe in June, mainly focuses on the dissemination of the Greek music and language through Greek arias by famous Greek composers, such as Kalomiris, Mantzaros, Lavrangas, Karreris, Samaras and many more who are forgotten unfairly nowadays. It is an initiative based on culture by definition, which should not be perceived as a typical glamorous celebration or a meeting of the members of cosmopolitan elite, but as a missionary effort, which intends to disseminate the Modern Greek classical civilization and to reexamine our social values and models. My strong belief and conviction has always been that financial measurements cannot be efficient unless a cultural background that will reactivate the Greek citizens is constructed.
Such a cultural expression based on Opera Diplomacy, apart from music and entertainment, also includes a series of other actions which can lead our country to a greater emotional closeness with people of different nationalities and successfully transfer the modern Greek classical civilization to an era when its image is horribly damaged.
Some of these are the provision of V.I.P. services and hospitality to the political elite and journalists, foreign musicians and official guests from any field, press conferences with the artists, open orchestra rehearsals or even the creation of music workshops for the young people.
Peter Dennis Kapsaskis
pHD Candidate in Cultural Diplomacy
Peter Dennis Kapsaskis for PLOUTOSS