Nikos Kazantzakis is best known for his novels and his massive Odyssey, A Modern Sequel but he also wrote a large number of plays. They are performed infrequently. I have seen only amateur productions of dramatizations of the novels Christ Recrucified and Zorba the Greek.
The Toronto branch of the International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis had a reading of Kapodistrias at the Polymenakio Cultural Centre of the Greek Community of Toronto in 2018 and that’s about it.
Kazantzakis wrote Kapodistrias in 1946, at the outbreak of the Civil War and it deals with the first Governor of Greece after the War of Independence. He is generally considered a wise man and a great leader who was assassinated in Nafplio by members of the grand Mavromichalis family, his great political opponents.
The National Theatre produced the play in 1946 and again in 1976. The 1976 production was revived in 1981 and recorded for broadcast on the radio. That recording seems to have been unearthed and rebroadcast on March 21, 2021 on ERT 3.
I listened to the broadcast with a copy of the play in front of me. I could not have understood much without being able to follow the script and even with that there were some difficulties.
The play opens with Kapodistrias (Nikos Tszogias) reading slowly, a message that the Mavromichalis family will kill him. He is alone and says that he knows that. He thanks God for the heavy task He has given him. He is aware that Murder is following him but he is not afraid and asks God only for time to do his job. He has a vision of building foundations for a new Greek nation with a sense of justice and without fratricidal wars.
We meet familiar heroes of the revolution, fictionalized of course, as Kapodistrias leads us through the encounters that end up in his assassination. The honest and fearless Makrygiannis (Zoras Tsapelis), the gruff Kolokotronis (Thodoros Moridis), Papagiorgos (Lykourgos Kallergis), Giorgakis Mavromichalis (Tryfon Karatzas), Giannis Argyris (Konstantis Mavromichalis) and others from a cast of more than a dozen performers
Except for a few parts that are sung, the play is written in 13-syllable verses which make some intonation appear repetitive. Listening to all the actors even with obvious differences in voices was not always easy even with the text in hand. The reason for this was that the director made cuts to shorten the otherwise long play to about two hours.
Kapodistrias premiered on March 25, 1946 at the National Theatre of Greece. It was not a good time for our country. In a note in the 1946 program, Kazantzakis stated that he saw Kapodistrias as a pure, fiery ascetic who wanted to do the impossible for Greece, to establish order out of chaos. When he realized it could not be done partly because of himself he proceeded towards death not because he loved death but because he loved Greece.
The last words that Kazantzakis puts in Kapodistrias’s mouth, as he falls to his death on September 27, 1831, are “My children, peace.” He uses the word “omonoia” which could also mean concord and unity. In 1831 and 1946 that was nowhere to be found in the fabled land of Greece.
An audio recording of Kapodistrias by Nikos Kazantzakis was broadcast on March 21, 2021 by the Greek radio station ERT3, For more information visit: webradio.ert.gr/trito