[Aspri tricha/White hair], Lavragas, Dionysios, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC

Along with the Athenian Variété, operetta was one of the most popular types of music. It is a fact that the variété was eventually taken over by the operetta world and during the 1920s operetta conquered and extinguished it.

This musical genre was not unknown to the public. Extracts from operettas had appeared in Athenian society in the mid-19th century by foreign melodramatic companies who visited the city. The first Greek operetta dates back to 1913 and since then was a pole of attraction even for the most famous Greek composers of the era such as Dionysios Lavragas and Spyros Samaras.

[Nyfi tou syntagmatos/Bride of the Regiment], Kaisaris, Spyridon, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC
[Nyfi tou syntagmatos/Bride of the Regiment], Kaisaris, Spyridon, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC

However, the character of the Greek operetta was shaped after 1920, by Theofrastos Sakellarides and Nikos Hadjiapostolou. These two composers, who were both active at around the same time, added various and different elements in the operetta genre and helped bring things forward.

[Aspri tricha/White hair], Lavragas, Dionysios, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC
[Aspri tricha/White hair], Lavragas, Dionysios, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC

Sakellarides, on one hand, composed works based on European rhythms and adapted French texts, while Hadjiapostolou, on the other, approached the folk element by incorporating rhythms and melodies from the folk tradition of Heptanisian music and the Athenian kantada. Unfortunately, the reign of the Greek operetta was meant to be short and the nadir point seems to be around 1928. Nevertheless, composers seemed to be rather productive since It has been estimated that around 1000 operettas have been composed through these years. The most popular songs deriving from these operettas were heard in unconventional places such as tavernas and these were printed in sheet music form.

[O Vaptistikos/ Godchild], Sakellarides, Theofrastos, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC
[O Vaptistikos/ Godchild], Sakellarides, Theofrastos, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” – Friends of Music Society, CC BY-NC