In the language of music

Greek pop star Mihalis Hatzigiannis will hit the stage of Melbourne's iconic Sidney Myer Music Bowl, in what will be his first performance with a music body the calibre of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Presented by the Melbourne Festival and the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, it is a Greek artist who has made headlines this year on the occasion of the festival that will feature over 100 artists from different countries.

The Greek pop star Mihalis Hatzigiannis was a choice of the Melbourne Festival. He was seen as having the calibre to perform with an orchestra with the reputation of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

The internationally acclaimed Melbourne orchestra will be backing up the Greek superstar as he takes to the stage of the iconic Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where hundreds of Greek Australians are expected to make their way tonight.

And the connection of Hatzigiannis with the Greek diaspora of Australia is not a recent one.

“My relationship with Melbourne and my fans in Australia is a relationship that began in 2005, in Melbourne, when I appeared at the Concert Hall. It has since developed into a stable and meaningful artistic relationship. I found myself close to the Greek community of Melbourne, and Sydney as well, both through the concerts I gave in the past and through my personal contacts,” Mihalis tells Neos Kosmos.

“I learned things about the life of the community, I have established strong personal relationships … I would say that I have friends now.”

Last year, as the guest star of the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival, Hatzigiannis sang to thousands of fans, in the rain that the devoted audience fought off with umbrellas rather than leaving the performance.

For the Greek artist, this is one of the first things that comes to mind when talking about his expectations from the Melbourne audience tonight.

“The last time I performed at the biggest festival of the Greek community of Melbourne, Antipodes, the experience was thrilling for two reasons. First I came very close to the Greek people and secondly, during my concert it rained constantly and though it wasn’t easy, what struck me most was that the majority of the fans didn’t leave the concert.”

The invitation from the Melbourne Festival to perform with Australia’s oldest orchestra, with more than a century of history behind it, came as an honour for Mihalis, but at the same time was artistically challenging.

“I will present my pieces in one of the most important festivals in the world, with one of the greatest symphonic orchestras in the world, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra,” Mihalis says.

And in performances like this, he explains, the agony is well above expectations, as there is a need for the final result to be done to perfection and for the audience to enjoy it.

With thermometers set to hit 24 degrees today, the performance is expected to be a more pleasant one, weather-wise, than last year’s Antipodes festival concert.

With miles separating him from MSO members, Mihalis says it was through orchestrating scores that the connection with the orchestra developed until he arrived to Melbourne earlier this week.

“I have worked in the past with symphony orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra of ERT in Greece, or a smaller symphonic bodies in my first appearance in Melbourne – but never with such a big orchestra. “The challenges of such collaboration are in the way you perform the pieces that do not belong to the category of classical music and you should find a way to perform those in a symphonic and cinematic style. I would like this partnership to give a new dimension to my pieces, which I am looking forward to sharing with the audience.”

With numerous Greek Australian fans expected to fill the lawn of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the artist is keen to see all those who speak the language of music attend the concert.

“I very much want the Greeks of Australia to be with us, but when you travel so far away for your shows you want to see people who do not necessarily speak your language but the language of music.”

With the full strength of the MSO behind him, Mihalis will bring his trademark mix of anthemic pop and traditional Greek music to the glorious surrounds of the iconic Bowl.

Apart from his famous hits that will echo on Melbourne’s balmy spring night, special pieces will make their way to the repertoire for the night.

“I hope that some of my pieces will be pleasing to the ears of people who speak English. At the same time I selected five classic songs of Greek music, such as some of my favourite songs by Hatzidakis and Theodorakis. But I prefer not to reveal all the songs that will be performed, to avoid losing the element of surprise for the audience,” he tells.

And with expectations high on the day of Mihalis’ performance as part of the Melbourne Festival, he is ready to give 110 per cent of his abilities for the Greeks of diaspora who he doesn’t get to see often.

“Overseas, the audience culture is different, and you feel their participation in a different way. You also feel greater ‘thirst’ that distinguishes it, because that frequent contact with them is missing. These differences are what push and motivate you as an artist to give 110 per cent of yourself on stage.”

After the concert in Melbourne, Mihalis will be performing for audiences in Sydney and Adelaide. After that, his fans in Greece are eagerly waiting for new concerts and a new disc.

“My last album ‘Love Strengthens’ has been on the market for 18 months. Very soon three songs will be released, with music by Costas Cacoyannis, that I performed for the TV series Vow of Silence, currently playing in Greece and Cyprus.

“For now, I hope the concerts we’ll be doing in Australia this time will be the best that we have ever done here. See you at the concert.”

Mihalis Hatzigiannis will perform at Sidney Myer Music Bowl tonight, at 8.00 pm. For tickets, visit melbournefestival.com/mihalis

In Sydney, he will perform at the Enmore Theatre, on Saturday 25 October at 7.30 pm. For more information, visit http://www.enmoretheatre.com.au/