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In 1965 Maria made her first professional recording of a song by Spyros Papas and Yiannis Argyris: Someone is Celebrating, with Lakis Papas accompanying. In 1966, the soundtrack of Harilaos Papadopoulos’s film, Island of Aphrodite was released with music by Theodorakis. From this came Maria’s first recording of Theodorakis: Blood-stained Moon – a setting of Nikos Gatsos’ poem.  Shortly before this, Theodorakis had invited her to his house and played her the first work he had written specifically for her voice. It was called The Ballad of Mauthausen with lyrics by Iakovos Kambanellis and the song was to become identified with Maria’s voice throughout the world. Soon after, the composer wrote six more songs for Maria’s voice and named them Farandouri’s Cycle paying homage to the young artist who would become his major interpreter – his priestess! Although he has written many other songs for male and female voices, Farantouri remains the only artist to whom Theodorakis has dedicated a song cycle.

As an inseparable member of Theodorakis’s band, which toured in Greece and abroad, Maria visited the Soviet Union in 1966. There, the famous Russian composer Aram Illych Khachaturian heard her voice and asked her to stay on in Moscow for musical studies. But Maria followed Theodorakis instead on his musical travels. The live recordings made on the tour of the USSR would be regarded milestones in Greek music if they were available today.

Together with Theodorakis, who radically transformed Modern Greek music, especially song-writing, Maria Farantouri made the Greek public familiar with the poetry of the Nobel Prize-winning poets George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis and many other important Greek poets. The musical and political movement begun by Theodorakis and some of his colleagues did not end with the military coup d’état of 1967. The new regime banned Theodorakis’s music and after spending four months underground, he was arrested. Earlier, with on a paper chewing-gum wrapper, he had managed to send a short message to Maria, advising her to leave Greece and go abroad.  She was just twenty years old when she left Greece for Paris, and she did what she considered the obvious thing to do; she sang in a great many non-commercial concerts, the profits from which went to the anti-dictatorship movement. She became a symbol of resistance and hope, and, sensitive to social problems, she took an active role in the women’s movement, in ecological activism and the struggle against drugs. The international press called her a people’s Callas (The Daily Telegraph), and the Joan Baez of the Mediterranean (Le Monde). According to The Guardian, her voice was a gift from the gods of Olympus.  Long reviews were devoted to her performances by enthusiastic critics who recognized not only the quality of her voice and the modest style of her performances, but also her strong character and social commitment. In the Greek context, at least, Maria represented a completely new style of singer – a self-aware woman.

With her concerts in Europe and America, as well as her recordings, that were broadcast by the BBC and Deutsche Welle, Maria kept Theodorakis’s music alive. The composer, exiled in the remote mountain village of Zatouna, secretly supplied her with tapes of his new songs which he recorded crudely on a small tape-recorder and smuggled to her. It was Maria’s responsibility to organize musical arrangements for the songs he had recorded, playing them on the piano and singing them himself.  It was under these harsh conditions he first heard State of Siege, his setting of a poem by a woman prisoner, broadcast from London’s Roundhouse, on a radio he had kept hidden from his guards. At this historic concert Maria was supported by Greek artists such as Minos Volanakis, and actors from the musical Hair, who rushed from their show during one of the intervals to support their fellow artist. Sir John Gielgud, Alan Bates and Peggy Ashcroft also offered their help in a later concert Maria gave at the Albert Hall.

It was at this period that Maria met Telemachos Hitiris, a poet and student of philosophy at Florence, where she had been invited to give a concert by some Greek students. The years that followed and the birth of their son revealed that the couple had made a lifetime bond.


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