Hospital source: ‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Mikis Theodorakis dies aged 96

Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis conducts the Skopje’s opera orchestra during a rehearsal in the Macedonian capital, April 9, 1997. — Reuters pic
Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis conducts the Skopje’s opera orchestra during a rehearsal in the Macedonian capital, April 9, 1997. — Reuters pic

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ATHENS, Sept 2 — Renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, who scored the 1964 classic Zorba the Greek and was an icon of resistance to the former military junta, has died in Athens aged 96, a hospital source said today.

A prolific talent and political maverick, Theodorakis was adulated in his home country for his inspirational music and defiance during the junta that ruled from 1967-74.

But he was perhaps best-known around the world for his film title scores which also included Z in 1969 and Serpico in 1973.

His work ranged from operas to choral music and popular songs, providing a soundtrack to the life of his country.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said “today we lost a part of Greece’s soul.

“Mikis Theodorakis, our Mikis, the teacher, the intellectual, the radical passed away.”

President Eikaterini Sakellaropoulou hailed him as a “pan-Hellenic personality” who was also “a universal artist, an invaluable asset of our musical culture.

“He was given a rich and fruitful life that he lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality and social solidarity”.

Born into a family of Cretan origin on July 29, 1925 on the northern Aegean island of Chios, Theodorakis joined the resistance against the German and Italian occupation of Greece when he was 17, during World War II.

After completing music studies in the Paris Conservatory, Theodorakis was elected to parliament as a leftwing deputy in 1964.

That year he also scored the theme of Zorba the Greek, to which actor Anthony Quinn danced the popular “sirtaki” that went on to be known as the “Zorba dance”.

When a dictatorship seized control of the government in a 1967 coup, Theodorakis was among the first leftwing politicians to be arrested.

Pardoned a year later, he was involved in setting up the clandestine Patriotic Front, which led to another detention and a ban on his works.

Even in old age, he maintained an active interest in Greece’s politics and its slide into economic crisis, living largely out of the public eye in a home beneath the Acropolis.

He was highly critical of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whom he accused of betraying his leftwing roots by agreeing to impose EU-mandated austerity reforms after coming to power in 2015. — AFP

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