Greek songbird Mouskouri bids farewell after 50 yrs

ATHENS (Reuters Life!) - After 50 years of song, Greek singer Nana Mouskouri bids farewell to the stage on Thursday, choosing the country of her birth and one of its most beautiful ancient theatres to say her final goodbye.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

A sell out crowd erupted in cheers at the first of two concerts on Wednesday as Mouskouri, in her trademark black glasses and a red dress, stepped onto the marble of the Herod Atticus theatre at the foot of the floodlit Acropolis.

It is the culmination of a remarkable four-year farewell tour which began in 2004 and has taken the 73-year-old singer to 85 cities across Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

“Beautiful things or bad things they always have an end, nothing lasts forever,” the singer told Reuters Television in an interview. “I thought it would be about time for me to leave the stage where I have lived for so many years ... All my life has happened through that stage.”

One of the biggest female artists of all time, with 300 million records sold in seven languages, Mouskouri on Wednesday revisited songs that began her career in Greece and those that rocketed her to No. 1 in the charts from Germany to Britain.

Among the crowd on Wednesday were the mayors of Berlin, Paris and Luxembourg who came for the performance.

“I have been known to sing in a certain way and my fear is to lose this way of singing which will disappoint a lot of people,” said the Cretan-born singer, explaining her retirement.

“It’s not that I abandon singing or that I will never sing again in my life anywhere now, but I will not go on tours anymore. I don’t want to have this fear all the time when you go on stage, this stagefright.”

Born in 1934 as Ioanna Mouskouri, she began singing at a young age after moving to Athens with her family and attending the conservatory there. She sang in her first Greek music festival at 25 and has never looked back since.

She has recorded 1,500 songs and has more than 350 gold and platinum albums from country to folk, jazz, opera, pop and world music. She has toured with Harry Belafonte, recorded with U.S. producer Quincy Jones and Spanish legend Julio Iglesias, and Bob Dylan even wrote a song for her.

“It was like a dream, everything happened like a fairy tale,” she said. “So I am really very grateful for what happened and in fact this tour ... was the opportunity to say thank you to the people. I wouldn’t really go without saying thank you.”

Mouskouri has dabbled in other professions. She presented a series for the Britain’s BBC TV in 1968, became a goodwill ambassador for UN child agency UNICEF in 1993 and was elected to the European parliament the following year.

Mouskouri said she now wants to involve herself more closely with humanitarian causes, as well as give advice to young singers, possibly through classes. And she looks forward to spending more time with her family.

Writing by Daniel Flynn, editing by Paul Casciato