“Barbarians” Opera to Premiere at Tasmania’s MONA FOMA

Composer Constantine Koukias

The Barbarians, an opera in two parts by Constantine Koukias, based on the poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” by Cavafy, will premiere January 18 – 23, 2012, at 7.30 pm and Jan 21 -22 at 2pm at City Hall Hobart, Macquarie Street, Tasmania, Australia. Tickets are AUD$25 and are available at www.mofo.net.au or at MONA Reception, 655 Main Road Berriedale Hobart MONA Ferry Terminal, Brooke St Pier. The Barbarians is a production of IHOS Music Theatre and Opera.

The Barbarians was commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art for the 2012 MONA FOMA festival. Inspired by the poem Waiting for the Barbarians (1904) by the iconic Greek Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy, THE BARBARIANS will be performed in modern Greek with bilingual narration. The opera is the product of a large collaboration of designers, musicians and singers, with a Greek Chorus of ten men.

Composer Constantine Koukias serves as stage/music director for the production. Principal Performers include Athanasia Houndalas, Christos Linou, Nicholas Dinopoulos, Ayrton Rose, and Grace Ovens.

According to composer/director Koukias: “Otherness is a central theme of Constantine Cavafy’s poem Waiting for the Barbarians; written in 1904, it is one of Cavafy’s most important works. The poem echoes the dramatic traditions of Ancient Greek Theatre and resonates with today’s eco-political environment.

The Barbarians, (poem and opera) is structured as a series of both questions and answers (why – because) and reflects on the timeless elements of the State (the emperor, consuls, politicians), the Polis (the chorus, community), and in referring to the Barbarians (the others) how we deal with hope, fear and uncertainty.

Cavafy drew his themes from personal experience, the depths of history and mythology. Though he was not always comfortable with his role as nonconformist, he critically examined aspects of Christianity, patriotism, politics and homosexuality.The opera explores the many contradictions of Cavafy’s life, the labyrinth of political correctness across the ages and the impact of his sometimes radical ideas.”

Constantine Koukias is one of Australia’s most prolific composers in the genre of opera and music theatre.His avant-garde approach to the presentation of opera has resulted in hybrid opera such as Days and Nights with Christ, To Traverse Water, MIKROVION (Small Life 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life), The Divine Kiss and Tesla – Lightning in His Hand. His works range from large scale site – specific to gallery pieces. Compositions written prevalently for orchestra / voice or for various ensemble line-ups, have been always remarkable for their peculiar, mesmerising atmosphere created by temporal, spatial and sound effects. Into his recent works, exotic flavours have been introduced through Eastern timbres and melody-design. His work Prayer Bells – Pentekostarion, which draws on traditions of religious chant, was commissioned for the Melbourne Federation Festival in 2001 and has toured extensively with US & European premieres taking place in 2010 & 11. Constantine has been the recipient of numerous international commissions and awards. In 2004 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. Within a Prayer at Lamplighting was commissioned by the China National Symphony Orchestra Australian Tour, to commemorate thirty years of diplomatic ties with China. In 1997 his Incantation II for soprano and digital delay won the International Valentino Bucchi Vocal Prize in Rome. Since the formation of his company IHOS in 1990, he has created and presented five full scale operas, nine music theatre works and commissioned nationally 29 short to 50 minutes Laboratory works for his IHOS Young Singers Laboratory Program.

IHOS is a performing arts company with an international reputation for original music-theatre and opera. Works are multicultural, multilingual and exploit multiple art-forms, blending voice, dance and sound with installation art and digital technology. IHOS has origins in the Greek-Australian tradition. The company was established in Hobart in 1990, by composer and artistic director Constantine Koukias, and production director Werner Ihlenfeld.

MONA FOMA ( “MOFO” for short) is a “happily eccentric” international arts festival curated annually by Brian Ritchie of the rock band, the Violent Femmes. Taking place each year in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, in association with the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), MOFO gathers the noble troubadours of the weird, world famous and never- heard-before music, dance, theatre, visual art, and sound. Mofo.net.au

The Barbarians is designed for mature audiences of 15 years and over.

This project was assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for the Arts.