Mikis Theodorakis, who died on Thursday in Athens at 96, gave a memorable and highly emotional concert in 1974 a few months after the fall of the Greek military junta.
Theodorakis, a left-winger, was arrested in 1967 by the dictators, and was imprisoned and even tortured. His health began to deteriorate while he was detained at the Oropos political prisoner camp, and both Greek and foreign luminaries protested abroad for his release. Among them were composer Dmitry Shostakovich, playwright Arthur Miller, and actors Laurence Olivier and Yves Montand, who set up an international committee demanding his release.
Under incredible international pressure, the dictators had no option but to release Theodorakis, allowing him to leave the country on April 13, 1970. He would use France as a base for the next four years, as he continually toured the world and agitated for political reforms and human rights.
Still, despite the horrendous events he was living through, Theodorakis never ceased to compose music, continually sending his compositions abroad so that they would not be lost. The singer Maria Farantouri and actress Melina Mercouri, who were both self-exiled in Paris, sang his songs to tell the world of the terrible events unfolding in Greece.
Mikis Theodorakis directed and sang at the concert
The original plan was to hold one concert. But the Greeks, who were finally free, longed for Theodorakis and his music. The huge attendance of the first concert forced the organizers to hold a second concert. Popular artists joined Theodorakis on stage. Spectators turned the concerts into a huge wave of celebration for the new era that was coming in Greece.
The videos of Mikis Theodorakis directing on stage and singing with tears in his eyes and the huge crowd following him with passion made the rounds of the world and went down in history.
Theodorakis’ entrance into the stadium was accompanied by cheers from thousands of spectators who were chanting “Hand over the junta to the people.” The chants were followed by the performance of the famous song “Ena to helidoni” sung by Antonis Kalogiannis with lyrics by Giannis Ritsos’ “Axion Esti.”