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Ο Καλομοίρης και το Δαχτυλίδι της Μάνας

The archive of the complete works of Manolis Kalomiris – Description of the collection

On April 3rd, 1997, the “Manolis Kalomiris” Society donated to the University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Ionian University, the University of Indianapolis (Athens) and the Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” copies of the society’s archives in microfiche form.

The Manolis Kalomiris Archive is one of the most significant and voluminous musical archives in Greece and thus the initiative undertaken by the “Manolis Kalomiris” Society to duplicate it and distribute it to music organisations is especially important. Now that the archive has been microphotographed, the original material is safer and can be better preserved, since its frequent and often unnecessary use can be avoided, while the risk of a permanent loss of the works due to a natural disaster has been eliminated. In addition, the availability of Kalomiris’ works in microfiche form allows more Greek and foreign researchers to study them.

The microfiche collection consists of all the musical and pedagogical works of Manolis Kalomiris, as well as his book My Life and My Art (in the layout published by Nefeli Publications), the printed catalogue of the composer’s works, which was compiled by musicologist Fivos Anoyanakis, in Greek and in English, and printed texts by Kalomiris.

The microphotographed archive of the complete works of Manolis Kalomiris is organised in forty-three folders and the classification of the works follows the catalogue of the composer’s works compiled by Fivos Anoyanakis. The first microfiches contain photographs of Kalomiris’ five operas1 (The Master Builder / O Protomastoras, The Mother’s Ring / Το Dakhtylidi tis Manas, Sunrise / Anatoli, The Shadowy Waters / Ta Xotika Nera, Constantine Palaeologus / Konstantinos Palaiologos), followed by the vocal music works (solo and choral), the orchestra works (suites, symphonies, symphonic poems), the two concertos (for piano and orchestra and for violin and orchestra), the chamber music pieces, the pieces for piano and the works of incidental music (Kalomiris’ music for the plays Stella Violanti by Grigorios Xenopoulos and The Shepherdess’ Lover by Dimitris Koromilas). The pedagogical works of Kalomiris include his books on Theory, Harmony and Formal Analysis of music and his solfèges.

The microfiche collection contains the original manuscript form of the works, some published editions and the revised versions of the works. The latter applies mostly to the large musical dramas of Kalomiris, some of which were revised by the composer after their completion, by amending them or rewriting them. For these works, both the autograph scores and the printed piano reductions (spartiti) are included.

The archive’s microphotographs, and especially the revised versions of the works, make this microfiche collection an invaluable tool for researchers of Manolis Kalomiris’ work, offering a comprehensive view of the material and allowing its comparative study.

The archive of the complete works of Manolis Kalomiris in microfiche form can be found at the Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri”, where microfilm and microfiche readers are available.

Manolis Kalomiris’ place in modern Greek music history

Many researchers of Modern Greek music history consider Manolis Kalomiris to be the founder of the Greek national music school. Perhaps this is the case because of his ties with the movement of demoticism and the demoticists and because of a number of texts in which he presents his views about the basic principles guiding the foundation of a national school of music.

The programme notes for the first concert of his works to be held in Greece have been characterised by some musicologists as a “manifesto” 2. That first concert took place on the 11th of June 1908, in the concert hall of the Athens Conservatory, soon after Kalomiris and his wife Charikleia had returned from Kharkov, Russia, and included pieces for one or two pianos and songs for voice and piano. In the concert’s programme, written using the radical demotic vernacular of Greek, Kalomiris presents his opinions on national music. He uses symbolism to present his ideas concerning the creation of a national music school, at the same time mentioning Russian music. He likens music to a Palace and the composer to a craftsman. In Kalomiris’ words, one can discern great enthusiasm and perhaps a touch of the irredentist concepts of the Great Idea. Nevertheless, he does not claim that there is a specific way that a composer should follow in order to write national music. On the contrary, he writes: “And like the poet is free to seek inspiration wherever he finds it, sometimes in national traditions and sometimes in global problems, so will the musician do, sometimes calling upon the National Muse and sometimes invoking an Artisan from abroad”.

Going back to the childhood and early adulthood years of Kalomiris, we find that he was exposed to many different influences. The fairytales and the songs of his grandmother (his so-called Nené) and of Tsatsa Marouka, brought him into contact with popular folk tales and folk music. In his memoirs, the composer has written that these two elder women seemed like they had emerged from a fairytale. Alongside his Nené’s folk songs, he was later influenced by the piano instruction he received from a music teacher from Zakynthos, Digenis Kapagrossas, who taught in the school Kalomiris attended in Smyrni. During this period of Kalomiris’ life, piano instruction and study were carried out in an atmosphere of rigor, as was the norm at the time3.

One of the events that the composer describes passionately is a concert of Russian music he attended in Vienna. The programme included Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto and other compositions by Liadov and Mussorgsky4. The composer’s writings on this or other experiences he had –despite the sometimes apparent exaggeration or subjectivity– outline his mental outlook and personality and indicate the elements that influenced his choices.

In Manolis Kalomiris’ music, one will find elements of folk music in the use of melodies from folk songs (in their original form or altered), references to Byzantine melodies, as well as influences from Russian music which can be traced, mainly, in the use of folk tales serving as an inspiration for many of his works. The element of symbolism in Manolis Kalomiris’ music dramas and the use of leitmotivs could suggest an influence from Wagner.

Kalomiris composed works of various genres. He wrote five music dramas, three symphonies, symphonic poems, several orchestral works, two concertos (the first for piano and orchestra and the second for violin and orchestra), chamber music pieces, vocal music and many piano pieces. His pedagogical works make up a large part of his œuvre: both the theoretical ones and the child pieces intended for piano instruction.

Indisputably, Kalomiris was an interesting music personality and had a vision for Greek music. He was copious and was at the centre of Modern Greek music life for a long period of time. Because of his powerful personality and his zeal for the creation of the Greek national music school, sometimes Kalomiris criticized his contemporary Greek composers harshly, and this caused discontent and cast doubt on the objectivity of his remarks. However, such incidents were to be expected at a time of change and upheaval in the Greek art scene.

Many researchers, both in Greece and abroad, study Manolis Kalomiris’ works and this research has produced many publications.

The Mother’s Ring

The Mother’s Ring is the second music drama by Manolis Kalomiris. It was written in 1917 and revised in 1939. The composer calls it “a music drama in three acts” and it is inspired by Yannis Cambissis’ drama by the same title. The libretto was prepared by poet George Stefopoulos, who signs it using the pseudonym Agnis Orfikos. The spartito was published in 1937 by the Gaitanos music publishing house and contains an introductory note in which the composer presents the history behind the creation of the work, its plot –which appears not only in Greek but also in Italian, French and German– and a table of the persons appearing in the drama and the actors who had appeared in the performances that were staged up to the year of publication.

The action takes place on Christmas Eve in a village of Thessaly. The main character is Yannakis, a singer, who is a dreamer and has delicate health. The story is set off by the ancestral ring belonging to Yannakis’ mother, which is connected to a legend.

The Plot

Act One (At Home)

The first act of the play is set at Yannakis’ house. After a short dialogue between Yannakis and his Mother, in which he expresses his despair (“Mother, I know I’ll die!” / “Mana, to ksero tha pethano!”), Kyriakos, a simple peasant, enters the house. He comes to tell Yannakis’ Mother that a buyer has been found for her ring and that he will wait for her at the Church at midnight. The Mother is upset because she remembers the ancestral blessing and curse that forbids her from selling the ring.

At the same time, the church bells toll and the village girls enter the house to wish a happy new year to Yannakis who is ill. Among the girls is Erofili, the daughter of Kyriakos and Yannakis’ sweetheart. As soon as the girls leave, Kyriakos and the Mother move to the adjacent room to finish their discussion about the ring. The two youths are let alone and confess their love to each other (“Behold where you walk” / “Thiamazome san perpatas” – “Here I am trembling” / “Ki irtha na ’me, olotremi”). Later on, Kyriakos and the Mother appear again; this time the Mother is convinced to sell the ring in order to save Yannakis who is very ill.

Suddenly, Sotiris, Yannakis’ brother enters, along with the young boys of the village, to sing the Christmas carols. Kyriakos warns them to beware of the goblins. On this occasion, folk tales about the Calicantzaroi (Greek Christmas goblins) are heard in the play:

Deep within the fiery foundations of Hades in the centre of the flames,

like an eternal column, […]

stands the gigantic tree

Mes’ sta flogina themelia

tu Ádi, stis fotias to kendro

stilomeno os ti sindelia

steki gigandas to dendro

Gnomes and trolls go growling, howling

frenzied elves and dwarfs appalling

pricking, peeling, tearing

T’ agria pagana maniazun,

riazonde, to dendro adrazun

me ta dondia, to kseskizun

in full endeavour the tree to fall.

With evil vengeance, fury rabid,

and hunchback’s might

they fling their hatchets.

Ke me lissa pelekane

pelekan me ta tsekuria

ke m’ agona polemane

na to riksun m’ agria furia.

Immediately afterwards, Kyriakos and his daughter Erofili leave. When the Mother is left alone with her children, Yannakis asks her to tell them the tale of the ring. She is scared but she narrates its story nonetheless. The curse of the ring is heard in it:


Whosoever owning its glory

denies the ring and its story,

must beware of the Mountain Fairy,

who comes to take it away.

Ti Doksa tu opu arnisti pia

ke pai na to ksekani,

na ‘rthi i Neraida tu Vunu

ke piso nan to pari.


But then Yannakis shouts:


And if the Mountain Fairy takes

the ring, I am worthy to climb

the unscalable peaks of her mountainous

kingdom and seize her.

Ki an i Neraida tu Vunu

to pari ego ime aksios

n’ anevo os tis psiles korfes

tin idia yia n’ adrakso.


The Mother takes the ring to tie it on her neckerchief, but it slides and falls on Yannakis’ bed. She puts Yannakis to sleep singing him a lullaby [ ] and after the other children fall asleep, she quietly leaves the house.


Act Two (Yannakis’ Dream)

The scenery for the second act depicts a rich Palace of Arabic-Byzantine architectural style. In the background one sees the throne of the Dame of the Palace and on the left the loom of life. Yannakis enters, led by an Old Woman who reminds him of his Mother, and asks where he can find the fairy who stole from him the ring of the seven gems.

In a few moments, the Dame enters with her entourage of other fairies. During this entire scene, a mythical atmosphere is created with the singing and dancing of the fairies and the magical spell of the Dame which makes the whole palace evaporate. Suddenly, the mountain fairy appears on one of the mountain’s peaks, resembling Erofili, dancing and singing. She shows the ring to the other Fairies; then Yannakis bursts forward and pulls the veil from her hair, subduing her. He asks her to give him the ring and take him to the highest peak. The Mountain Fairy tries to avert him (“Do not seek the impossible” / “Mi girevis palikari t’ akatorthoto”) and asks him who he might be to stand in the face of Fate and Death. He replies: “I am Yannakis the troubadour, the widow’s son” (“Eimai o Yannakis o tragudistis tis chiras o gios”). The voice of his Mother is heard, trying in vain to prevent Yannakis from climbing to the top.

Later, after the Sun starts to rise, Yannakis who has climbed high up on the mountain asks the Mountain Fairy to wait for him because he is very tired. He says that he will shortly die and never make it to the top. He then asks to see his beloved Erofili. The Mountain Fairy is transformed into Erofili. The scene closes with the fairies saluting the Sun with their songs.

Act Three (At the Church)

It is Christmas Eve, at the village square. In the background we discern the Church in light, while the Byzantine Christmas chant “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Heavenly One” (“I Parthenos simeron, ton yperousion tiktei”) is heard.

Erofili and her father enter. The girl is anxious and upset; the Mother enters, desperate because she can’t find the ring. She is afraid that the curse of the ring has come true.

At this point, Sotiris enters and announces that he had a bad dream in which he saw Yannakis struggling. He tells them that Yannakis was trying to get up to find his Mother and that he started raving and dying.

The Mother and Erofili run to the aid of Yannakis who is staggering, still lost in his dream of fairies. After speaking harsh words to his Mother and believing that Erofili is the Mountain Fairy, he collapses half-conscious in front of the Church. The Christmas chant is heard again. Before he dies, he rises to make a prayer to Mother Mary and to sing to Erofili. While the Mother starts grieving for him, the Christmas service ends and people come out of the church, singing Christmas carols.

Leitmotivs are a basic element in the structure of The Mother’s Ring as each one of them is connected with a character of the play, an object or a concept. There are motifs referring to Yannakis, Death, the Mother, the Calicantzaroi, Kyriakos, the love between the two youths, etc. Usually they are heard distinctively when characters or objects appear for the first time, and during the entire play they are heard again, by themselves or in conjunction with other motifs in order to state an idea, a symbolism, an element of the plot or to remind the listener of something. George Zack, in his dissertation on Manolis Kalomiris’ operas, includes tables with the motifs heard in each one of his operas.

In The Mother’s Ring, Kalomiris uses entire Byzantine and folk melodies and develops them. Characteristic examples of this are the Christmas carols (“Christougenna, Protougenna”), the Christmas chant (“I Parthenos simeron, ton yperousion tiktei”), the Mother’s lullaby at the end of the first act (“Na mou to pareis ypne mou”) and the song of the village girls (“Afenti ontas gennithikes se taisan t’ aidonia”) which is heard in the first act.

The recording of the performance of The Mother’s Ring by the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Giannis Daras is remarkable; the play’s characters are personified by Greek, mainly, and Bulgarian singers. The clips found in this article are taken from this recording which was released on vinyl records in 1983.

Note: When referring to various characters and objects of the play, we followed the convention (to capitalise the first letter of the name) used in the description of the plot as it appears in the published spartito. This also denotes the symbolic character of these persons or objects.

Christina G. Vergadou
Translated by George Christodoulides


Bibliography – Discography

Kalomiris, Manolis. I zoi mou kai i techni mou (My Life and My Art). Athens: n.p., 1983

Kalomiris, Manolis. I zoi mou kai i techni mou (My Life and My Art). Athens: Nefeli, 1988

Kalomiris, Manolis. To dachtilidi tis manas (The Mother’s Ring), spartito. Athens: Gaitanos, n.d.

Kalomiris, Manolis. To dachtilidi tis manas (The Mother’s Ring), vinyl records, CP 955. Athens: Concert Athens, 1983

Katalogos ergon Manoli Kalomiri 1883-1962 (Catalogue of Works of Manolis Kalomiris 1883-1962), compiled and annotated by Fivos Anoyanakis. Athens: n.p., 1964

Leotsakos, George. I istoria, i epochi, i simasia tou Dachtilidiou (The history, the era, the importance of the Ring). Note in the booklet accompanying the record. Athens: Concert Athens, 1983

Siopsi, Anastasia. “Ellinismos” kai germaniki paradosi stin opera tou Manoli Kalomiri “To dachtilidi tis manas” (1917, anatheoriseis to 1939). I ypodochi tis operas sti Volksoper tou Verolinou to 1940 [“Hellenism” in Manolis Kalomiris’s Music: Myth and Germanic Tradition in his opera “The Mother's Ring” (1917, revised in 1939). The reception of the opera at the Volksoper, Berlin, in 1940]. Mousikos Logos 1 (Spring 2000)

Fragkou-Psychopaidi, Olympia. I ethniki scholi mousikis: Provlimata ideologias (The National School of Music: Problems of Ideology). Athens: Foundation for Mediterranean Studies, 1990

Catalogue of works of Manolis Kalomiris 1883-1962, compiled and annotated by Fivos Anoyanakis. Athens: Rondas, 1986

Der Ring der Mutter: Deutsche Urauffuehrung in Berlin-Volksoper 2-2-1940. Athen: Die Freunde der griechischen Musik, s.d.

Zack, George. The music dramas of Manolis Kalomiris. The Florida State University, Ph.D., 1971


1 This term is used in the catalogue of the works of Manolis Kalomiris to refer to the large music drama works of the composer. We should, however, make clear that the composer himself does not use the term “opera” which is connected to the opera form that flourished in Western Europe. Kalomiris labels his music dramas in various ways: “musical tragedy” (in The Master Builder), “music drama” (in The Mother’s Ring), “musical fairytale” (in Sunrise), “music drama poem” (in The Shadowy Waters) and “musical legend-tragedy” (in Constantine Palaeologus).

2 “The National School is proclaimed in Kalomiris’ Programme-Manifesto for the 1908 Concert and is established in 1915 with The Master Builder”; see Fragkou-Psychopaidi, Olympia, I ethniki scholi mousikis: Provlimata ideologias (The National School of Music: Problems of Ideology), Athens: Foundation for Mediterranean Studies, 1990, p. 48.

3 “Thus, Digenis Kapagrossas became my first teacher but also a tyrant of music. He made me unable to tolerate “this instrument” for some time and to stand in front of it in awe, as if its only purpose was to torture the children’s fingers.

My only joy was, and I still remember this, when Mrs Evdokia would send me to “practice” on this instrument. We didn’t have a piano at home, then.” [Excerpt from the book I zoi mou kai i techni mou (My Life and My Art), p. 25].

4 “That evening was unforgettable! Or rather, what will never be erased from my soul is the astonishment I felt upon hearing “Scheherazade”! It felt like something so novel and original, but at the same time it spoke to my heart as if it was something I knew and loved, something almost as familiar as the songs and fairytales of my Nené and Tsatsa Marouka!” [Excerpt from the book I zoi mou kai i techni mou (My Life and My Art), p. 98].


Translated by George Christodoulides

The Mother’s Ring libretto: English translation by Joan Carvelas


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