Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, December 5, 2022

Interview: Elina Englezou creator of Goditha – The Rock Opera

Greece: the birthplace of democracy and philosophy, western medicine and and the Hippocratic Oath, the Olympic Games, drama and theater; land of olives, feta cheese, souvlaki and ouzo, the sirtaki dance, and… Elina Englezou, creator of the first rock opera written by a woman in world discographies! Let us take you to the Middle Ages through the story of betrayal, madness, revenge, constant balance of good and evil.

Hi! Congratulations on a very successful and grandiose project! How is the feedback by now, since the album was released in September?
Hi Ivona! Thank you for your interest in our music. We didn’t really expect such positive response from everyone since Goditha is an opera and not an album that one can dance in their living room and have fun. Still, we got great reviews and although we didn’t hope for any commercial success the physical CDs and our merch are selling out. I guess there are people who like rock operas out there and we didn’t know. 

Where does the opera name Goditha come from?
It’s a real female name which comes from Medieval Times and it is comprised of 3 words that give the whole meaning of our work. God / Itha ( ethics ) and Goth ( darkness ) and it was a present from my best friend Nadja V while I was looking for a suitable title. So it symbolizes the eternal fight between good and evil. Some critics have also translated it “The Dark Ethics of God“.

As I know, you started this project four years ago. What was the most demanding part of the job for you, the most challenging?
Definitely the recordings were the hardest part. We spent more than two years rehearsing every scene, trying this and that and recording over and over again until every one out of our 16 vocalists gave their best performance, passion and expression they wanted to give. Many times after the song was finished they called me and said : “I ‘ll come again. I can sing it better.” They were all amazing, they loved it so much and tried hard and one can hear the vocal result in each song.

Four years is a long period of time, a lot of people were involved so I guess there were a lot of anecdotes while you were working. Can you share some with us?
Yes, it was hard work but we had fun too. Especially at the filming in the theater where we had to face several technical problems: we had many funny moments with the costumes and the sets. The men had difficulty fitting in their boots, two girls jumped on Judge Alston’s table to take a selfie and it broke in two, a roof wasn’t stuck well and it started peeling off over someone’s head, the air-conditioning stopped and everyone was sweating so much but ok. We laughed about it all and continued filming as if nothing happened.

You signed on the list of most successful metal operas. Actually, your opera is classified as a rock opera, but it abounds in elements of power metal. Do you have any favorites from this sub-genre?
Goditha has some rock and many power metal elements according to the needs of every song. You will also find some medieval instruments and classical orchestrations. Rock Opera is a general term that can include all that. My favorite power metal bands are Kamelot, Nightwish, Anvantasia, Angra and many more.

Goditha – The Rock Opera is a concept album, starting with an introduction in which the plot is summarized. Narrator is Stratis Steele. Tell me something more about his engagement?
Stratis is a well-known and very respected actor here in Greece. Because of his experience in musical theater he was very appropriate for narrating the album but he is also an amazing singer and he gave the most dramatic performance as the Royal Judge.

Maybe a little unusual, but I’d like to go over the plot together if you agree? Please correct me if I misspelled someone’s name or forgot to mention some character.
Sure, let’s do that! 

The plot is set in the Medieval Age; we have the main character Goditha, a young girl who is in love with a local landowner, but… What happens to her?
Goditha is happily in love and about to get married to D’luvien the land owner. But Naida, the beautiful daughter of a merchant steals him from her with her charms and her riches. We don’t know if he chose Naida out of love or benefit. Goditha turns mad, scars herself so that she becomes disgusting and hides away in a cave to die.

“And so it happens, Goditha left lying on the ground, helpless and blank, a heart empty of feelings, a body empty of a soul”… She mutilated her face so no one would ever love her again, and she hides in the cave. This motive is so common in Balkan folklore. What inspired you to write a story about a crippled and blinded girl and her love torment?
I guess the stories I heard from friends who were in the same situation and all they wanted was revenge. It’s very common indeed to see a woman suffering like that. It happens all the time through the Ages.

”There He Is” is a very spooky song, here you involved another character, Father Alvin. Can you tell me something more about his significance and of course who took his role?
Father Alvin wants to protect the villagers from the undead creature that haunts the village. Later we will find out that this creature is D’luvien looking for salvation (cursed by Goditha and her sister Agatha). Father Alvin and Daeva the Princess of Darkness are a couple, the two total opposites, but their common goal is to get more souls on their side using different methods. Father Alvin by showing kindness and Daeva by making promises and tricking them. Yiannis Papanikolaou (lead singer/songwriter of Diviner) was perfect for that role not only because he is an exceptional performer but also because he has been a monk for 7 years in a monastery and knew exactly the meaning I wanted to point out in the story.

Besides Goditha, one of the main characters is Daeva (Iliana Tsakiraki) who offers powers to Goditha and asks for a small price. Which one?
Daeva is tricky. She shows her how to cast her curse and get her revenge but the small price is her soul.

In “We Are The Lucky Ones”, D′luvien (Henning Basse) and Naida (Angel Wolf-Black) want to get rid of Goditha, but Naida wants to know who is his true love. Have you had such doubts in your life?
Yes, of course. I think all women like to feel safe in love matters. Naida stole D’luvien so she has more reason to fear he will have a change of heart.

Goditha has a sister, Agatha (Constantine Alex) who wants to help her to revenge, to kill D′luvien. Can you draw the line between revenge in Middle Ages and in XXI century? It seems nothing much changed; people are ready to do anything for love.
Yes, love can drive you mad especially when your ego is hurt and you could do anything. But nowadays we are educated on what is right and wrong and social rules prevent such extreme actions. But still the basic instinct remains the same. Usually when a man hurts you your first thought is: “I’ll kill him“, and of course you never get that far.

Other characters are involved in the next song “Falling Stars”: Hazel (Margarita Papadimitriou) and Heylan (Dion Christodoulatos). But there is more than a friendship here. Tell us something more about that.
It’s a classic love triangle. Heylan loves Naida, Naida loves D’luvien and later we see that Elvira loves Heylan but Heylan still loves Naida. So the circle closes leaving everyone suffering for someone they can’t have.

“In Hell” brings us a fight in the cave, and the ultimate question: how I could love you? What made her to ask that question?
Love usually turns into hatred when one is hurt. Daeva makes sure this happens so that she gets her chance to pour her evil into a good soul.

“Fearless” introduces us with Olaf (George Eikosipentakis) and his friends Merek (Marios Karanastasis) and Kristan (Christos Kounelis). Also some female characters are appearing: Iriana (Margarita Stamouli), Edeline (Anastasia Papadopoulou) and Yrel (Mora). This song is divided into two parts. Was this the most demanding act you have written in this opera?
I think yes it is. It’s full of counterpoint choral parts and very dynamic dialogues. It’s the part where D’luvien’s friends set out to kill him not knowing that the creature they hunt is their dead friend. And then his best friend recognizes him from the cloak he’s still wearing and they are all confused.

Father Alvin believes he can save Goditha from Daeva. Who will win?
Father Alvin is too late to save her. Now Goditha has no soul anymore so even when he tries to exorcise her he fails.

In “Secrets” Naida is sleeping, asking her how foolish people become. Looking from our perspective, in XXI century, what do you think: how foolish people become?
D’luvien persuades Naida to give her life so that they can be together in another world. Now, that’s very foolish but not unrealistic. Even in our time we hear about couples who can’t be together in this life so they both decide to die to be together in the next. Like I said above. Love makes you lose perspective of reality and makes you do crazy things. This scene is another example of that.

“Please Think Again” we have Heylan and Hazel asking blind love is. When you were writing those characters who are trapped in love challenges, did you involve your emotions in it or even personal experience, are there a moment now when you are listening your own music when you have to ask yourself whose side would you choose if this story is real?
The funny thing is that (like in real life) from their own perspective all the characters are good. Even Daeva who is a she-devil thinks that she is helping people solve their problems. But still they do evil things through their love challenges. If these characters were friends of mine in real life I would tell them all the words Elvira said to Heylan in this song, (which are by the way my favorite lyrics in this project)
“ Wishes are feathers with no weight at all. Wishes are treasures buried and lost. “

“Hang Her” obviously talks about the punishment, more characters are involved, Royal judge Alston appears and Stratis Steele took another role. Can you be absolute honest and tell me is he a better singer or an actor looking from your perspective?
Look, we have got so close with all of the guys through this effort and I really feel like a mother to them. And a mother can never tell which of her children is the best. Stratis is the most experienced in musical theater and has the most dramatic voice and excellent performing skills. He steps up on the stage and everyone stops and listens. He is also a composer of Cinematic Music, lead singer / songwriter of Endomain and a great personality. We all admire him very much.

In “Follow Me” Naida goes to the cave begging Goditha who gives her a potion so she can be with D′luvien again, but…
But Goditha gets her chance and she tricks her saying that she will help her but she gives her a potion that will turn her into an ugly wrinkled old creaking woman.

Goditha has evelish voice; almost you can see her as a witch not as a victim. How do you created her, to be a victim or a witch?
Both! She is the victim who decided not to be a victim anymore. Every second in life is a choice. You can choose to be the victim or you can choose to be the witch.

We have a twist at the end. Father Alvin and Daeva are getting married. Now, D′luvien is devastated and goes to Goditha. Which symbolism did you want to present with this act?
Like I said above Father Alvin and Daeva are a couple. Total opposites attract, the good and the evil. Father Alvin can’t resist Daeva’s charms and Daeva can’t have any fun without him. Although I am a very religious person and I believe in God, I don’t like seeing the Church become a business and a marketplace. Symbolically, a priest who puts money in his pocket is not much different from Father Alvin who is attracted to Daeva’s pleasures. Let’s not reveal the ending of the story for anyone who would like to find out themselves. 

Most vocalists/musicians are from Greece, but we have one intruder here, Hanning Basse. Along with Bob he was a part of Firewind. How did you work with him? Obviously he recorded videos in Greece, but how was with vocal parts?
No, Henning recorded everything in Germany where he lives. With guidelines from us of course and he was so great in his performance. I consider him one of the best metal vocalists ever and I’m really honored that he agreed to take part . As for the videos unfortunately we managed to have only a few scenes with him and not for all his songs so we will have to find a way to cover up for his role in the next clips.

The main motives are betrayal, madness, revenge, constant balance of good and evil. Can you compare that motives that you placed in dark Medieval Age with what is happening with us today?
The same happens today only we handle everything differently of course. The human instincts are what they have always been. Pain is pain and madness is madness. But we wouldn’t let a Goditha free, running around killing people in a modern civilized society.

What wins at the end love or a benefit?
It’s for the listener to decide but in my eyes D’luvien made all his choices out of benefit and according to his personal interest. He cared only about himself. And in the end when “Fate repaid him with the same price “ he realized how lonely he was.

If we talk about the orchestra, how many people were involved here and how much time did you need to record all the parts?
Aggelos Pavlos Goufas played all the violins, violas,cellos, Marios Christopoulos played the flute, the saxophone and Vassilis Koilakos played the oud. It didn’t take as long to record the instruments as it did the vocals. Comparing it was much easier.

The heart of the Goditha are you and Bob Katsionis. Both of you are multi instrumentalists. What is the key factor working with Bob?
I liked his previous work very much. His orchestrations were full of great ideas and his playing the keys, bass and guitars is exceptional. I trusted him and I knew that he could help me create it as I had it in mind. It turned out much better and I’m glad I chose to work with him.

Besides writing libretto, you played 12 string classical guitars, ocarina and balalaika. What amazes me is that you said you are non-professional song writer, but your work is far better than many professional musicians. Where do you find inspiration, motivation, what drives you in the creative process?
Thank you! I’m non-professional because I only deal with my own music and I don’t get paid to produce music for someone else. As for your question, I’m afraid I can’t answer it because I really have no idea where the inspiration comes from. For me it’s either it comes and I start writing one song after the other or it doesn’t and I just wait.

Bob was in charge for bass, guitars and keys. Knowing his previous work, I must ask, is he a perfectionist? Have you had creative discussions while working?
Oh yes! He is a perfectionist. He was re-recording some of his own guitar parts because he found a string that made a tiny noise (that no-one ever heard in the mix) but he did and he couldn’t leave it like this. We communicated perfectly. He is a brilliant artist, a teacher and without him Goditha wouldn’t be the same. We were so absorbed and so full of excitement while we worked. I think if a bomb fell on the next building we wouldn’t notice.

Unfortunately, we live in a material world, so I need to ask you how expensive this project can be?
I was told that what I wanted to do would be financial suicide and I didn’t believe them. Goditha, cost a small apartment and left me with many debts and that’s the reason why we don’t often see projects like that.

Can you tell me something about the vocal selection? How hard it was to choose 16 vocalists and gather them around the project? What was a crucial factor to include someone in the opera?
I did a lot of research on YouTube trying to find the most suitable vocalists in terms of tinge, vocal range and also appearance for my characters. Then, I contacted them to explain the demands of this project. Most of them were happy to take part in something like that.

Kurt Bachmann of Believer has stated that “If done correctly, metal and classical fit quite well together. Classical and metal are probably the two genres that have the most in common when it comes to feel, texture, creativity.” What is your opinion about metal meets classic?
I love classical metal. Generally, I think that all acoustic instruments can make a metal mix sound very interesting and enhance the mood and the atmosphere of the orchestration.

You have recorded several videos by now in Altera Pars Theatre. How difficult was to arrange video shooting, especially now in this crazy time and including vocalist from Germany.
The filming took place before the pandemic. It was very difficult to arrange all that especially because we couldn’t find common suitable dates for 25 people, out of whom Henning Basse and Constantine Alex were based in Germany and Angel Wolf-Black was based in the UK. So unfortunately we had some performers missing from our shooting and we have to use supplementary scenes in the videos we’re uploading.

Who stands behind the costumes and scenography?
Well, that was a lot of work, too. I picked the costumes myself and some I sewed from scratch, others I modified. I wanted the styles to be realistic with non-matching colors just like in Medieval Times. Also, I picked and designed all the sets and handcrafted many items with the help of my partner Andrey who always supports my crazy ideas.

How much you had to study the history, customs and habits of the people of Medieval Ages to write this masterpiece?
I read lots of stuff before I started designing anything. Dresses, shoes, houses… I even wanted to know what kind of vegetables and fruits were available then so that I can put those in the baskets on the stalls. I really took the whole thing very seriously.

So, what is next, are you already planning some new opera?
There are always plans and ideas which I can’t support financially anymore so I hope I will be able to find some sponsors for my next projects.

I have to mention artist Artwork Kostas Tsiakos. For all those who are not familiar with his work can you tell us what he wants to present through cover art of Goditha – The Rock Opera?
Kostas wanted to point out the fight between good and evil over the suffering of a common woman. His painting tells the story.

Just when I thought I have no more questions… For all those who after this review and listening Goditha will become your fans, introduce us briefly to the other projects in which you participated.
I have collaborated with many musician friends here in Greece. I have written songs or lyrics for some bands but mostly I created my own music and songs. In 2012, I released a CD with the participation of some other vocalists because my voice is not good at all and I was destroying the songs. Later in 2016, I created a metal version of a Medieval traditional song and in 2017 I started Goditha.

Thank you so much for your time and patience, I wish you all the best! Take care!
Thank you for your hospitality. Happy holidays and a great 2021!