UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture Presents Premiere of Experimental Chamber Opera Polymnia

Published: January 9, 2023

Los Angeles — On Saturday, January 21 at 7 pm, the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture will proudly present the premiere of the experimental chamber opera Polymnia, the story of a young woman whose family was tragically expelled from its village by the Ottoman Turks. The performance will take place at UCLA’s Little Theatre. A second performance will be held on January 22 at 2 pm.

Written and composed by emerging artist Theodosia Roussos, the opera presents the story of Roussos’ own great-grandmother Polymnia Athanasiades Pappas and draws from fragments of Sappho’s poetry, Kassiane’s hymns, as well as four generations of private family writings and oral history. The opera, which is sung in both Greek and English, shares a story of resilience in the face of war and trauma and self-invention as Polymnia creates a new life in the United States, far from her homeland.

According to Roussos, “Polymnia is the story of how my family survived the ethnic cleansing of the Greeks in the early 20th century, a story that will resonate with people the world over who share similar histories. It is a love letter to my ancestors, but also a way for so many people who carry intergenerational trauma to envision healing.”

Foregrounding the voices of Greek and Armenian sopranos, the opera authentically captures a story that is shared by many in diaspora. The opera emphasizes the critical role of women in safeguarding family history, both told and untold and questions the legacy of secrets and the consequences of their being revealed.

UCLA SNF Hellenic Center Director Sharon Gerstel noted: “Polymnia tells a story that is universal, moving from ancient days to our own time. Using her unique voice, Theodosia Roussos brings to light a tragic episode in human history, yet leaves us with tremendous hope. This is the story of an exceptional woman told in the ethereal voice of her loving great-granddaughter. We are honored to host this impactful work, which showcases the talent of a Los Angeles-based composer and performer with strong roots in Greece and Cyprus.”

The opera is produced by Plain Wood Productions and directed by Diana Wyenn. The cast includes Theodosia Roussos, Natalie Buickians, Michele Patzakis, Anthony Moreno, Joanna Lynn-Jacobs, and Jon Lee Keenan. Michiel Delanghe conducts the orchestra. The production features scenic design by Tanya Orellana, lighting design by Pablo Santiago, video design by Yee Eun Nam, and costume design by Wendell C. Carmichael.

Composer, librettist, and primary artist Theodosia Roussos is a Greek Cypriot American composer, soprano, and oboist. She recently composed what The Guardian calls a “magnetic score” for the Netflix doc Naomi Osaka alongside Devonte Hynes. Her original opera art film Polymnia, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, National Sawdust and All Arts TV, was described as “haunting and beautiful” by Opera News. Her oboe and English horn playing can be heard on Emile Mosseri’s score for The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and her vocals are featured on Mosseri’s score for Miranda July’s Kajillionaire.

Theodosia’s latest film scores can be heard this year in upcoming releases of the documentary film Being Mary Tyler Moore, and Jennifer Esposito’s film Fresh Kills.
This performance is being held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and is made possible through the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
For more information, press accommodations, or artist interviews, please contact Kathy Sanchez at ksanchez@humnet.ucla.edu.

world premiere

presented by the UCLA Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture

Saturday, January 21, 2023
7:00 p.m.
UCLA Little Theater

Sunday, January 22, 2023 (2nd performance just added!)
2:00 p.m.
UCLA Little Theater

Theodosia Roussos, composer/librettist
Michiel Delanghe, conductor
Diana Wyenn, director
Tanya Orellana, scenic designer
Pablo Santiago, lighting designer
Yee Eun Nam, video designer
Wendell C. Carmichael, costume designer
Peter Kazaras and Diana Wyenn, dramaturgy


Theodosia Roussos, Polymnia/Theodosia
Natalie Buickians, Paula
Michele Patzakis, Maria/Church Lady
Anthony Moreno, Nikolaos
Joanna Lynn-Jacobs, Anthie
Jon Lee Keenan, Costa/Tax Collector/Turkish Soldier

Polymnia, described by Opera News as “haunting and beautiful,” is a debut experimental chamber opera that tells the story of a woman who responds with resilience to war and trauma, and relates how her experience echoes across generations and communities. Drawing from fragments of Sappho’s poetry, Kassiane’s hymns, as well as four generations of private family writings and oral history, composer and performer Theodosia Roussos shares the story of her great-grandmother Polymnia Athanasiadis Pappas, a young woman whose family was expelled from its village by the Ottoman Turks during the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Roussos draws influence from her Greek Cypriot American background and weaves elements of Byzantine and Greek folk music into the score.

Presented in both Greek and English, Polymnia reveals the very personal and also political experience of diaspora—what is lost, what is retained, and what cannot be forgotten.

This event is being held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and is made possible thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Polymnia is produced by Plain Wood Productions.

For inquiries, please contact hellenic@humnet.ucla.edu.




Sunday tickets will be available for purchase soon.

*If you have purchased a ticket and need accommodations (wheelchair, walker, etc.), please contact us at the email above.

Parking information

Parking information for ticketholders: The Little Theater is located in Macgowan Hall at UCLA. Please park in Parking Structure 3 North, which is near the northeast corner of the campus, close to Hilgard Ave and Sunset Blvd.

  • To save time, you may purchase your parking permit for $15 in advance using Bruin ePermit: https://bruinepermit.t2hosted.com/pnw2/selectevent.aspx. Select “UCLA Campus Event,” then “Polymnia.” With the advanced parking permit, you can park anywhere in Parking Structure 3 EXCEPT in the Pay-by-Space section. For instructions on how to use this portal, please click here.
  • To purchase a permit upon your arrival at Parking Structure 3, please park in the Pay-By-Space/Visitor Parking area in the North building, and proceed to the Self-Service Pay Station machine.
  • No parking attendants will be on-site at the parking structure, so please allow extra time for parking and walking to the theater.
  • Accessible parking: If you have special accessibility needs, you may park in the Pay-By-Space/Visitor Parking area of this structure, and proceed to the Self-Service Pay Station kiosk to pay by credit card.  Please visit our Campus Accessibility Map to view additional accessible parking areas on campus and related information. Guests can be dropped off in the Macgowan Turnaround, east of the theater/building (see above map).

COVID-19 Protocol

Current UCLA Covid protocols as of 12/9/22: We will NOT require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for entry at the theater.  Wearing masks at this indoor event is OPTIONAL and encouraged.  Please check back for updates on protocols prior to the performance.