As the Greek flag flies at half-mast over the Acropolis in Athens for Mikis Theodorakis, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, tributes to the veteran composer and activist have been coming in from his many admirers at home and abroad.
A towering and defining figure of modern Greek history, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou hailed Theodorakis as a “Panhellenic figure” who at the same time was “a universal artist, an invaluable asset of our musical culture.”
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni noted his volume of work and contribution to music. “Today we lost a part of Greece’s soul. Mikis Theodorakis, Mikis the teacher, the intellectual, the radical, our Mikis, has gone.”
Singer Maria Farantouri, who was one of Theodorakis’ closest musical collaborators and performed some of his most memorable songs, said he spoke with the universal language of music and poetry about people, their struggles, joys and sorrows.
“Mikis is global, but above all he is Greek and is a worthy continuation of our great tradition,” she said.
Tributes from abroad
“His death is an irreplaceable loss not only for Greek people but for the entire world,” Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
Mentioning that Theodorakis had been decorated with several Russian and Soviet medals of distinction, she noted that his music became “a symbol of Greece for Russian citizens and for peoples across our country.”
Zakharova described the Greek composer as a “familiar person,” as “I think I grew up with his music, and I learned about his name.”
In public schools like the one she attended, Zakharova noted, his works were taught in music class and his biography was also studied. She also quoted him during her press briefing as saying that he felt very close to Russia, in admiration and gratitude for its sacrifices to save the world from Nazism.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church sent its condolences to Theodorakis’ family:
“His achievements in the art of music were repeatedly honored with international and national awards, including the highest distinction of the Russian Federation, the Order of Apostle St. Andrew the First-Called,” noted Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
“Together with the Greek people, admirers of music all over the world and in Israel will mourn the passing of Mikis Theodorakis,” the Embassy of Israel to Greece tweeted on Thursday.
“His work, mirror to his soul and Greek history, echoes in Israeli music and life. The ‘Ballad of Mauthausen,’ an important and beautiful musical piece on the Holocaust, speaks for the many, whose voice was lost forever,” the embassy said.
“Despite some differences and arguments, we remember him and cherish his contribution to the world of music and humanity which will continue to live on.”
“Mikis Theodorakis was much-loved in China and had an effect across the world,” the Chinese Embassy to Greece tweeted on Thursday.
“His work and ideas had a global impact and he was known and loved in China, while he was always in favor of strengthening bilateral relations,” the tweet stated.
“May his memory live forever,” it concluded.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Embassy in Athens posted on its Facebook page: “Today the Embassy of Spain remembers the life and work of the great Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, who helped to strengthen the cultural ties between Spain and Greece by putting music to the verses of Spanish poet, García Lorca.”
“France was Mikis Theodorakis’ second home since the 1950s and offered him refuge during the Greek dictatorship,” the French Institute in Greece said on Thursday, in its tribute to the late great Greek composer.
On its website, the institute posted a photograph of Theodorakis after he was appointed Commander of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit.
“At the conferring in the French Embassy in 2007, Theodorakis noted that his most popular songs were written in Paris, where both his children were born,” the institute said. He also recalled his friendship with French statesman François Mitterrand.
“Freedom, music and politics: for Mikis Theodorakis these three words were inextricably linked with Paris and France. Mikis Theodorakis is immortal,” the institute added.
Zulfu Livaneli, a Turkish poet and songwriter who also collaborated with Theodorakis, described him as the “last great Greek.”
“The essence of the music he took from his people, he created it with new compositions. This is what all great composers do. So did Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, with the German spirit. And Theodorakis took the Greek spirit and the Greek musical tradition, created it and transformed it,” he said.
In a tribute from the European Commission, a spokesperson said: “Mikis Theodorakis was a “part of Greece’s soul,” an “exemplary citizen” and a “symbol of resistance against tyranny and totalitarianism.”
“I’m sure that most of you remember him from his famous sirtaki from the film ‘Zorba the Greek,’ which has probably become one of the most recognizable and emblematic piece of Greek music,” said Dana Spinant, deputy chief spokeswoman and Director for Political Communication for the Commission, as she opened a regular press conference.
“But his impact was not just in music. He was a symbol of resistance against tyranny and totalitarianism, and shown in his emblematic ‘Ballad of Mauthausen,’” she added.
“We can all take inspiration from his famous words: ‘I’m not a hero. Heroes die young. I’m just a citizen who does his duty. Today we join Greece and the Greek people in paying tribute and homage to this exemplary citizen.”