is the pseudonym of Gerasimos Nicholas Tsandoulas. The composer was
born (no year given) in Arta in the province of Epirus in Northwestern
Greece. He was not introduced to classical music until well into his
teens, when he was sent to the United States to be educated at Phillips
Exeter, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania. "Professional
career pressures" (the booklet does not say what) took precedence,
and it was not until the 1980s that he was able to devote himself
to serious composition. DiArta's music is fully in the Western tradition
- tonal romanticism, with a classical purity of line, simple and direct
expression - heavy on the romanticism.
DiArta based Frossini
on Greek-Turkish history as expressed in the epic poem Kyra Frossini
by the 19th Century poet A. Valaoritis. He also added poems by Lorentzos
Mavilis, C Palamas, and Cavafy. The opera concerns Ali Pasha (1741-1822),
governor of European Turkey, with the city of Yannena in the Greek
province of Epirus as the capital. Ali Pasha was quite ruthless, devoid
of morals. Although nominally in the service of the Sultan of Constantinople,
Ali Pasha managed freely with the European powers, including Napoleon.
He was even visited by Lord Byron, who makes a cameo appearance in
the opera. Ali's rebellion against the Sultan failed and he was imprisoned
on a small island in Lake Yannena. He was eventually shot there by
the Sultan's agents. The opera's central character is Frossini, a
Greek woman of great beauty living in Yannena. She became the mistress
of Mouchtar, Ali's eldest son. Mouchtar's Muslim wives plotted against
her and caused her downfall. Another tradition says that Frossini
attracted the unwanted attentions of Ali himself. When she resisted
his advances, Ali accused her of treason and had her executed by drowning
in the lake of Yannena.
The disc contains ten
extensive excerpts from the opera, including what seems to be almost
the entire final scene (Act 3, Scene 2). A hauntingly beautiful orchestral
Intermezzo from Act 2 begins the recording. The excerpts are settings
of individual poems (of the poets listed above) interpolated into
the story. An extended aria for Frossini's death concludes the work.
It is a little difficult to follow exactly what is happening, for,
despite a fairly detailed plot synopsis the libretto is represented
only by four of the sung poems in English translation, with the original
Greek text in Greek script. Still, it is easy enough to understand
the outline of the story. What is truly impressive here is the music.
It has a gentle melancholy, a wistful tunefulness about it, steeped
in full-blown romantic tradition. It's very listenable and quite moving
in a vague sort of way. I wish the entire opera had been recorded.
The performances are quite
fine, especially mezzo-soprano Ann Agathonos as Frossini's devoted
maid Chrissi. Agathonos has a rich, warm, smokey voice, lushly produced.
I could wish for more tonal allure (a bit less edge) from Malakate's
Frossini, but she is deep into the role's dramatics and is a pointed
contrast vocally to Agathonos. Conductor Suben and the Slovak Orchestra
make much of their orchestral assignments, with lots of atmosphere