Spyridon-Filiskos Samaras (also Spyros / Spiro Samara; Σπυρίδων Σαμάρας) (17 November/29 November 1861 Corfu – 25 March/7 April 1917 Athens) was a Greek composer particularly admired for his operas who was part of the generation of composers that heralded the works of Giacomo Puccini. His compositions were praised worldwide during his lifetime and he is arguably the most internationally lauded Greek composer before Dimitri Mitropoulos.
As a young man Samaras studied with Spyridon Xyndas (Σπυρίδων Ξύνδας) in Corfu. From 1875-1882 he studied at the Athens Conservatory with Federico Bolognini, Angelo Mascheroni and Enrico Stancampiano. His first opera Torpillae (now lost) premiered in Athens in 1879. He went to Paris in 1882 to study at the Paris Conservatoire and became a favorite of Jules Massenet. His other instructors included Léo Delibes, Théodore Dubois, and Charles Gounod. He worked successfully as a composer in Paris for three years and then migrated to Italy in 1885.
Samaras quickly became an important figure in the opera scene in Italy. His opera Flora mirabilis première in Milan in 1886 and in 1888 Medgé was successfully staged at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome with French opera star Emma Calvé in the title role. Samaras became closely associated with Edoardo Sonzogno, a Milanese publisher. Sonzogno founded the Teatro Lirico Internazionale and chose Samaras' La martire for the theater's opening on 22 September 1894. The opera had premiered previously that year in Naples and is based on a libretto by Luigi Illica with many naturalistic elements, which gave space to Samaras musical personality for an equal treatment.
Samaras' works enjoyed wide distribution with operas staged in Paris, Monte Carlo, Cologne, Berlin, Vienna, Malta, Bucharest, Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, Cairo, and of course Greece and Italy . He wrote a total of fifteen stage works, of which the last three were all based on texts by Paul Milliet; Storia d'amore or La biondinetta (1903), Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle (1905) and Rhea (1908). He returned to Greece in 1911 under the conception that he would be appointed the director of the Athens Conservatoire . Nevertheless, Samaras was not given a post at the Athens Conservatory partly due to the 'National School' controversy. He therefore supported himself by composing operettas intended at satisfying a variety of audiences rather than continuing in his usual creative vain. His last opera Tigra, although started during this time and containing some of his best work, was never finished.
Samaras is also known for composing the Olympic Anthem, the words of which were contributed by Kostis Palamas. The Anthem was first performed during the opening ceremony of the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympic Games. It was declared the official anthem of the Olympic movement by the International Olympic Committee in 1958 and has been used at every Olympic opening ceremony since the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Complete stage works
Original libretto's cover for Flora mirabilis
Torpillae, incidental music for a play, words by Gavziilidis and K. Triandafyllos, Athens, 1879.
Olas, opera in 4 Acts, libretto by Fravassili, now lost, 1882.
Flora mirabilis, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by Ferdinando Fontana, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1886.
Medge, opera in 4 Acts, libretto by Ferdinando Fontana, Teatro Constanzi, Rome, 1888.
Messidor, opera after Alexandre Dumas' novel Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge, written before 1891, now lost.
Lionella, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by Fontana, lost except for Hungarian Rhapsody, orch, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 4 April 1891.
La martire, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by Luigi Illica, Teatro Lirico Internazionale, Milan, 1894.
La furia domata, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by E. A. Butti and G. Macchi after Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Teatro Lirico Internazionale, Milan, 1895.
Storia d’amore o La biondinetta, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by Paul Milliet, Teatro Lirico Internazionale, Milan, 1903.
Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle, opera in 4 Acts, libretto by Paul Milliet, Teatro Politeama, Genoa, 1905.
Rhea, opera in 3 Acts, libretto by Paul Milliet, Teatro Verdi, Florence, 1908.
Tigra, opera in 3 Acts unfinished, libretto R. Simoni, 1911, only Act 1 exists.
Pólemos en polémo, operetta in 3 Acts, libretto by G. Tsokopoulos and I. Delikaterinis, Athens, 10 April 1914.
I pringípissa tis Sassónos, operetta in 3 Acts, libretto by N.I. Laskaris and P. Dimitrakopoulos, Athens, 21 Jan 1915.
I Kritikopoúla, operetta in 3 Acts, libretto by Laskaris and Dimitrakopoulos, Athens, 30 March 1916.
Selected piano music
Scènes Orientales, Quatre Suites caractéristiques, 1882 Paris
George Leotsakos. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie (1992), ISBN 0-333-73432-7 and ISBN 1-56159-228-5
Free scores by Spyridon Samaras at the International Music Score Library Project
Piano reduction of «Mademoiselle de Belle Isle» (Harvard University)
The Music Museum of the Philharmonic Society of Corfu
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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