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The Reception of German Theater in Greece

Establishing a Theatrical Locus Communis: The Royal Theater in Athens (1901-1906)

Michalis Georgiou

The author examines the vigorous reception of the German theater in Greece, a phenomenon that took place along with the process of establishing in Athens, in 1901 the Royal Theater. The multiple aesthetic, social and political forms of this phenomenon provided a "locus of contact" with the German culture and accomplished a function, regarded as the instrument for the development of the bourgeois theater in Greece. This happened through the work of theater practitioners and intellectuals, as well as through the transfer of institutions, theatrical plays, and scripts of direction instructions, decorations, and props. The performances staged were the iceberg in the process of this reception, as they provided a strategy toward the revitalization of the Greek theater, realized in a productive way.

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2. The Performance of Aeschylus’ Persians (1889)

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2.1 “With man and steed and chariot, so God crushed them”

On the 27th of October 1889, the wedding between the Greek Crown Prince Constantine I and Princess Sophie of Prussia was to take place in Athens. Constantine was the eldest son of King George I and Queen Olga of Greece, while Sophie was the daughter of Friedrich III, the German Emperor who had died the previous year, and the sister of Wilhelm II, who was then ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Greece was developing and growing in population with more than 2,000,000 citizens, and the wedding that was to be celebrated with great richness was combined with the expectation for the reinforcement of the political relationships with Germany, something that could provide causation for the realization of the Great Idea. Moreover, Constantine had received his name from his maternal grandfather, Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov of Russia, and was seen by the Greeks as the legitimate successor of the last reigning Byzantine Emperor Konstantinos XI Palaiologos, the one who would re-conquer Constantinople (Istanbul). Because of the wedding, many different cultural events had been organized by the Municipality of Athens for the celebratory event: The Philharmonic Company of Athens was to play in the neoclassic Zappeion Megaron Hall of Athens German music in honor of Sophie, dancing companies would interpret Greek traditional dances, and the National Dramatic Society would perform Sophocles’ Philoctetes at the newly opened Municipal Theater in Athens. Nevertheless,...

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