Petros Epitropakis

(1894–1977)

Picture of Petros Epitropakis
The Greek tenor Petros Epitropakis was born in Athens on 22 December 1894. He is considered the "successor" of Nicos Moraitis. Epitropakis had an impressive career which ranged a wide field covering opera, operetta and lighter Greek popular songs. He was the first of 16 children of Nikitas Epitropakis and Eleni Pitsaki. Before music, he worked as a joiner and later in the office of a journalist and writer.
He studied in the Athens Conservatory where his teacher was Constantine Papadimitriou. He interrupted his studies to join the army, at the age of 20, in 1914 and was discharged on 20 December 1919. He served in Thessaloniki and later in Athens, where while still a soldier, he could continue his studies at the Conservatory now with teacher Nina Foka.
While still a student (and soldier) he made his opera debut at the Attikon of Piraeus on 3 February 1919 as Cavaradossi in "Tosca". In the following years he appeared in several concerts singing scenes from "Rigoletto", "Mefistofele" and other works.
In September 1920 he was granted a scholarship to study in Milan where he studied with Emilio Piccoli (the teacher of Tito Schipa), Giuseppe Borghi and the former tenor Raffaele Grani. He formed his repertoire with "Il barbiere di Siviglia" (Rossini), "Lucia di Lammermoor" (Donizetti), "L'elisir d'amore" (Donizetti), "Rigoletto" and "La traviata" (Verdi) and "Faust" (Gounod). His Italian debut was as Fausto at the Teatro Municipale in Marsala.
From 1921 to 1924 he sang at the Teatro Verdi in Milan, in Codisotto, Cremona, Lo Spezia as well as at the Teatro Regio in Parma, Teatro Carcano and Teatro Dal Verme in Milan.
He returned to Greece in early 1924 where he appeared from January to June in concerts and for the first time in opera in July. His appearances with the "Elliniko Melodrama" company scarcely extended beyond the operas mentioned aboved except for some "La boheme" performances.
In February 1926 he sang "Il barbiere di Siviglia" (for the first time in Greek) opposite soprano Aliki Vitsou, who later became his wife. They married in September and had a daughter. The couple traveled to Italy where they also sang "La Traviata" on December 10th, ath the Teatro Italia, in Milan.
Petros Epitropakis made several other tours. In November he sang at the Vienna Konzerthaus an
d recorded several records with Greek songs for His Master's Voice. From December 25, 1931 to January 17, 1932 he sang with the "Elliniko Melodrama" in Constantinople, "La traviata", "Rigoletto", "Lucia" and "Barbiere".
From November 1st 1936 to May 1937 the couple Epitropakis-Vitsou sang in Italy, mainly in concerts, in Milan, Piacenza, Fidenza, Parma, Modena, Bologna, Palermo. At the Teatro Carcano, in Milan, they sang a performance of "Il barbiere". Together with bass Nicola Moscona they gave a concert at the Gonzaga Institute in Milan on 2 May 1937 and at the Teatro Ariosto in Regio Emilia, two performances of "Lucia" with bass Giulio Neri. Epitropakis sang under the psedonym of Pietro de Pachi on 8 and 9 May 1938. In May he was in Egypt, in June and July in Constantinople and by the end of 1938 two concerts in Alexandria and Port Said.
Though his repertory was always the already mentioned, in 1929 he sang the role of Loris in "Fedora" and in 1934 he was Des Grieux in Massenet's "Manon" and sang the title role in "Les contes d'Hoffmann". Operas by Greek composers were not absent in his career. In June 1928 he sang the role of Yanakis in "To Dachtylidi tis Manas" (Mother's Ring) by Manolis Kalomiris and in January 1930 he appeared in the title role of "O Protomastoras" (The Master Builders) also by Kalomiris. In 1930 he added the role of The Prince in "Les Apaches d'Athčnes" by Nicos Hadjiapostolou, but not in the theatre but in the filmed version of this very popular operetta.
In 1936 he appeared for the first time on stage in an operetta, "O Babás Ekpedhévete" ("Daddy's Education") by Nicos Hadjiapostolou, but for six more years he continued singing in opera. On 2 December 1942 he began a sort of "second career": the operetta . His first success was as Count Danilo in "The Merry Widow" (sung in Greek, of course). By the time he retired, in 1959, he had participated in thousands of performances, in twelve operettas. Among them, "Eine Nacht in Venedig", "The Cretan Girl" (by Greek composer Spyros Samaras), "Die Czárdasfürstin", "Der Bettelstudent", "Das Dreinmäderlhaus", "Der Vogelhändler", "Ein Waltztraum", "Die Circusprinzessin", "Friederike" and "The Chocolate Soldier". However, there were still some sporadic appearances in opera ("Il barbiere", in 1943, 1944, 1946 and 1948), "La traviata" (1948) and a new role, Wilhelm Meister in Thomas's "Mignon" on 29 April 1947 (in Greek version). He sang (in 1934) with the famous baritone Riccardo Stracciari in "Il barbiere di Siviglia" and "La traviata" with Elvira De Hidalgo. On 7 October 1942 he sang in a concert at the Pallas Cinema in Thessaloniki that included soprano Maria Kalogeropoulou (later Maria Callas!). On 28 February 1943 they shared again the stage in concert, at the Sporting Cinema in New Smyrni.
His last stage performances seems to have been as Massacrov in "The Chocolate Soldier" in October 1958.
Petros Epitropakis appeared in the following films: "O mapánis ke e Kamariéra" (The Greengrocer and the Chambermaid" (Vitaphone, 1929-1930), "Les Apaches d'Athčnas" (1930), "Dyo Tragoudia stin Ellada" (Two Songs in Greece) (1945) and "O Satanikos Anghelos" (The Satanic Angel) (1949).
Epitropakis was the idol of the Athenian and Greek public in general for four decades. He was awarded the Golden Cross of St. Mark by the Patriarchate of Alexandria and was made Commander of the Royal Order of the Phoenix, in 1967.
Petros Epitropakis died during the night from 9 to 10 April 1977 in Athens. He was 82 years old.
Petros Epitropakis singsIl Barbiere di Siviglia: Ecco, ridente in cielo (second part)
In RA Format
I wish to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the record and picture.
I wish to thank George Leotsakos and Juan Dzazópulos for the biographical notes.

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