1896 - PHEIDIPPIDES... run again!
PLAN OF THE OPERA -
FORM MAIL -
The Opera, with libretto of the same composer, was awarded at the International Composition Competition "Dimitris Mitropoulos - World Work Project 2001" in Athens. Two scenes of the I Act were performed in the Athens Concert Hall in November 2001 from the Orchestra of Colours conducted by Miltos Logiadis (see photo).
Now, in addition to the complete libretto, some orchestrated scenes of the first of the three acts and some pieces for voice and piano are available. Filling in the form mail you can received the indicated scores and tapes...
The Opera, centralized on the First Modern Olympic Games, which took place in Athens in 1896, wants to put in evidence the olympic spirit, that De Coubertin wanted to revive, and, at the same time, the passion, the hope, the delusion, the anxiety and finally the joy of several partecipant athletes and spectators.
The several characters, all who really existed, recite and sing texts drawn from official documents (Bulletin of the CIO, Official Report of the Games), from newspapers of that time, from memories of the U..s. athlete participants, in a "free historical reconstruction" interlaced with poetical texts, like Pheidippides of Robert Browning (English poet of the nineteenth century), Greek and Latin classics, including passages from the Iliad of Homer ("the games celebrated from Achilles in honor of Patroclus") and from the Aeneid of Vergilius ("the games celebrated from Aeneas in honor of the dead father").
In order to respect the international characters of the spirit and the olympic ideals, the Opera is intentionally multilingual; every character, in fact, uses his own language, in an ever growing game of expressions and references.
The differentiation of the language emphasizes, moreover, the various points of view and the various ways of participating in the Games. At the base there is a precise formal search of overlapped and parallel plots and everyone of them in a different language. The French of De Coubertin is the official voice; the Greek and the Latin classics show the continuity of the event in time; the English gives the unconventional tone to the U.s. athletes; cheers and the choruses of the fans evidence the passionate and popular participation; and, finally, the Italian of Carlo assumes the comic tone of the Opera buffa.
It is possible, however, to conform the text into one single language (preferably English); in this case interpreters of the single characters will have a clear accent of the original language (above all in the recited parts, obviously). The passages drawn from the Olympian Odes of Pindar, that open every act, and the "Olympic anthem" remain in the original language.
The presence of actors, singers, mimes and dancers, to which the photo projection of that time can be added, renders the Opera varied and kaleidoscopic.
The Opera is set in the immediate period prior to and during the First Modern Olympic Games, which took place in Athens in 1896.
The first act ("Preparations") starts with a passage drawn from the Olympian Odes of Pindar, that recalls the foundation of Olympia and of the Olympic Games by Hercules.
At the end, out of stage music is heard, during which there is the first intervention of De Coubertin, that, at first in the pit and then on the stage, relives his speech at the Paris Congress of 1894 (the texts of this and of successive interventions of De Coubertin, whose idea it was to resume the Olympic Games, is drawn from his official speeches and from writings of that time).
In the II scene, Carlo reads the news of the next Olympic Games on a newspaper and he decides immediately to take part, abandoning his job and his father, in the hope of an olympic victory and above all of glory and money, mis-interpreting the word "amateur" (he is Carlo Airoldi, professional runner, the winner of various international races including the famous Turin-Marseilles-Barcelona, where he crossed the finishing line hand in hand with a French runner; Airoldi marched from Milan to Ragusa - today Dubrovnik -, then he took a ship for Corfù, one for Patrasso and finally continued his march reaching Athens on the eve of the opening of the Games).
Michel appears in the second half of this scene, singing his own praises, (he is the French philologist Michel Brèal, that proposed the development of the marathon to the organizing committee, offering a cup as the prize).
This scene leads to the following one where Michel remembers passages from the monologue Pheidippides of R. Browning and the voice of the Historians recites passages of classic authors about the mythical Greek runner that ran, searching for aid for the war of Marathon against the Persians, from Athens to Sparta and back. Clio, the muse of the History, is present.
At the end of the second intervention of De Coubertin, interposed with the reappearance of Carlo racing towards Athens, the scene of the trip of the U.s. athletes is opened; the trip is told from the voice of Thomas off-stage. On stage Ellery and James, with a defiant and playful spirit, pass the time training and remembering the vicissitudes previous to their departure (the text of this scene and of all those in which the American athletes are involved are drawn from the memories of the same athletes).
Here the dancers make their first apparition, in the garments of the engaged American athletes during training on the bridge of the ship, in continuous movement for the waves.
An other short interval with the race of Carlo, now slower and more tired, leads to the final scene of the unveiling of the statue in honor of Averoff (Greek benefactor, who, thanks to his munificence, allowed the construction of the indispensable structures for the development of the games).
During this scene there is the arrival of the U.s. athletes, accompanied by a fanfare, and of Carlo. The definition of "amateur", from the official regulation, combined with the words pronounced from Carlo, make it obvious that the runner cannot be admitted to the contests, and after having been accused of professionalism, retraces his steps.
The second act ("The Games"), which starts with an other passage from the Olympian Odes of Pindar (celebration of the Olympic Games), relives the first day of the Games, preceded by the official opening with the "Olympic anthem" of K. Palamas.
From the third scene there is an alternation between:
- classic citations: "the games celebrated from Achilles in honor of Patroclus" from the Iliad of Homer and "the games celebrated from Aeneas in honor of the dead father" from the Aeneid of Vergilius (the remarkable similitudes present in these two texts are evidenced from the parallel recitation). Calliope, the muse of the Epic Poetry, is present.
- official regulation with rules of competitions
- contests (sprint race, triple jump, throw of the discus) with the continuous U.S. victories.
Charles also makes his appearance. He is a French runner who runs with white gloves through respect for the king; he trained one day running as a sprinter and the following day a lot more slowly for long distances.
The enthusiasm of the U.s. fans, that continuously see their flag raised and they hear their national anthem, is in contrast with the sadness of the Greek fans.
The chorus of the Greek fans, sad for the continuous U.S victories and, above all for the lack of a long awaited Greek victory, closes the second act.
The third act, that starts with a passage from the Olympian Odes of Pindar (the expectation of the great victory) too, is centralized on the marathon, the most awaited contest of the fans.
There is an alternation between the narration of Thomas and the announcements of the Messenger on the development of the contest.
Melpomene, the muse of the Tragedy, also makes her appearance.
The news from the contest bring an increase of the tension (the news of the Messenger is magnified by the public of several nationalities) until an ulterior general disheartenment, when it seems that the Greek runners are far from victory, because the leader of the marathon is an Australian athlete.
A general silence, followed by the chorus of the sad Greek fans and from the contemporary lamentation of Melpomene, closes this scene.
A change of scene shows the outside of the Stadium, where Michel is. He is always taken up with his classic memories and recalls Pheidippides. He wonders who will be the winner.
A gun shot, followed from the cheers of the crowd and the Greek anthem, make it obvious that a Greek athlete has won!
The enthusiasm of the crowd inside the Stadium is uncontrollable.
Last passage from the Olympian Odes of Pindar (joyful and triumphal songs).
It is evening. The enthusiasm has been moved elsewhere, silence reigns. Alone, Charles, the French runner who already made his appearance in the second act, slowly approaches the Stadium, at the end of his marathon, with his white gloves...
PLAN OF THE OPERA
I ACT - Preparations
THE U.S. ATHLETES' TRIP
THE UNVEILING OF THE STATUE AND ARRIVALS
II ACT - The Games
THE EPIC RACE
THE OLYMPIC RACE
THE TRIPLE JUMP
SAD FANS' CHORUS
III ACT - The Marathon
THE WAIT AND ANNOUNCEMENT
ECHO OF VICTORY
THE LAST ODE
DE COUBERTIN / AUTHORITIES / MESSENGER, French
THOMAS (voice out of stage) / ELLERY, U.s. athletes
HISTORIAN I / VERGILIUS, Latin
HISTORIAN II / HOMER, Greek
CLIO / CALLIOPE / MELPOMENE, muses
JAMES, U.s. athlete
CARLO / CHARLES, runners
MICHEL, French philologist
HISTORIANS / CROWD / PUBLIC / FANS
"CLASSIC" GREEK ATHLETES (racers, discoboli and archers)
ATHLETES (U.s. sprinters, jumpers and throwers)
- lyra (traditional instrument) or violin
- "Musical" voice (tenor)
The original libretto is intentionally multilingual; in any case it is possible to use the English version (only the Olympian Odes by Pindar and the Olympic anthem by K. Palamas remain in Greek). In this case the actors have to play using clear accents and inflexions in the original languages of the characters they interpret.
1. Pierre De Coubertin.
2. The members of the International Committee around Prince Constantine.
3. Cup offered by Mr. Bréal for the winner of the Marathon race. (Act I, Scene II)
4./ 5. The Panathenaean Stadium before and after the restoration works.
6. The U.s. athletes engaged with the training on the deck of the steamship Fulda. Blake, Curtis, Hoyt, Clark, and Burke ham it up for the camera. (Act I, Scene V)
7. The Greek athletes.
8. The Royal Family is entering the Stadium on March 25th, 1896.
Immediately after, the King declares the opening of the first International Olympic Games in Athens. (Act II, Scene II)
9. First day, first event: the 100 m. (Act II, Scene IV)
The discus. (Act II, Scene VI)
The discus event in Athens was a major upset for the Greeks, whose champion, Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos (10.) was lost to the U.s. athlete Robert Garrett (11.)
Bulletin du Comité International des Jeux Olympiques (CIO), July 1894 - April 1896
Pierre De Coubertin
Pierre DE COUBERTIN, Le Manifeste Olympique, Les Éditions du Grand Pont, Lausanne 1994
Pierre DE COUBERTIN, Una campagne de Vingt-et-un ans, Librairie de l'Éducation Physique, Paris 1908
Pierre DE COUBERTIN, L'Idée Olympique, Carl-Diem-Institut
Pierre DE COUBERTIN, Olympie, Burgi, Genève, 1929
Pierre DE COUBERTIN, Mémoires Olympiques, Comité International Olympique, Lausanne 1931
Charalambos ANNINOS, Les Jeux Olympiques de 1896, Charles Beck Editeur, Athens, 1896 (official report)
Otto MAYER, Rétrospectives olympiques, Cailler, Genève, 1961
Thomas P. CURTIS, Olympic Games of an Elder Day, MIT's alumni magazine, Technology Review, July 1924
Thomas P. CURTIS, High Hurdles and White Gloves, The Atlantic Monthly, December 1956
Jonathan SHAW, The Unexpected Olympians, Harvard Magazine, January 1996
The 1896 Olympic Games
Burton HOLMES, The Olympian Games in Athens 1896, Grove Press, N.Y., 1984
Bill MALLON, The 1896 Olympic Games, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina (vari articoli)
Richard D. MANDELL, The First Modern Olympics, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1976
Ath. TARASSOULEAS, Jeux olympiques a Athenes, 1998
Books, photos, graphic, visual and sound based information on the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games are available also in the "Olympic Museum" of Lausanne.
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