Last Song from Nana

Multilingual Chanteuse Mouskouri on Farewell Tour

The Greek American Herald

TORONTO -- Nana Mouskouri wants to bow out of the international singing spotlight on her own terms. "I want people to remember me in my best, not to have pity on me," the 71-year-old legendary songbird said in a recent interview. "I want to finish now, to finish as I am, as people know me, as they are used to listening to me ... because I'm sure a lot of people who love me, they will be sorry if one day I go onstage and I can't sing as I want to sing. "It is better to decide when to go than to be forced by an illness or by something."

The multilingual chanteuse and former politician -- born Ioanna Mouskouri in Greece but affectionately called Nana by fans around the world -- is on her Last Song From Nana With Love tour. The Canadian leg kicks off April 27 in Quebec City. It's a fitting place for Mouskouri to begin her farewell to Canada.

The singer has a huge following in Quebec and mentions a poignant moment in the province when discussing her decision to retire. "I still remember, the saddest thing that I really felt in my life is when (opera legend) Maria Callas died, and I remember I was in Montreal," she said in an impassioned voice, wearing her distinctive black-rimmed eyeglasses. "I was going to do a talk show on the radio and just before I go in, they tell me outside, 'Nana, not to be surprised, something terrible happened and they may ask you about that,' and I was so sad when I heard it." What bothered Mouskouri so much, she said, was Callas had continued singing publicly despite failing vocal abilities. "She didn't finish as she should have finished, for me," Mouskouri said as she sat in a Toronto hotel room.

"Her life was very close to me and I wouldn't like to have a problem like this."
Classically trained, Mouskouri began her stage career in the 1950s and went on to record more than 1,500 songs in a dozen languages with more than 300 million records sold. She's also hosted her own TV series (1968-81) and became the Greek deputy to the European parliament (1994-99) as well as an ambassador for UNICEF -- all the while averaging 100 concerts per year. Despite the exhausting schedule, Mouskouri never seems to run out of energy, something she attributes to her father, a movie projectionist "who was a very great enthusiast about what he was doing." "I've never been tired to say, 'Oh, I don't feel like going to sing tonight,' " said Mouskouri, who has homes in Paris, London, Athens and Germany. "When you come out from the war ... you say, 'What a chance that I'm here.' The motivation for me was the music. A world without music would've been horrible. I couldn't survive."

Mouskouri hardly looks her age, with flawless skin and dark hair (which she still parts in the middle) as healthy looking as it was in her prime. Still, she does feel out of place in the music scene these days, saying simply, "The world is different now." "The young people ... they have to build the music scene of the future. I cannot build it anymore," she said. "I just live in it and I'm very happy ... and if I can help backstage for something, I will do it." One person who will likely benefit from Mouskouri's retirement is her 35-year-old daughter Helene (Lenou) Mouskouri, who just released her second solo album. "I think I could be useful to her being behind (the scenes)," Mouskouri said. "She's very talented." Mouskouri, who also has a son, Nicolas, concedes her career has been hard on her family.

"If I have a regret, it's ... maybe I haven't been a very good wife or a very good mother," admitted Mouskouri, who divorced her first husband, George Petsilas, in 1975 and started dating her current husband, music producer Andre Chapelle. "I had a wonderful woman who really looked after my children so they were all the time with me. You can't have life without regrets but all my regrets I tried to fix, little by little."

(Posting date 25 May 2006)

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