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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. Oresteia, Adapted from Aeschylus Tragedy (1903)

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2.1 About “Ancient Drama and Modern Stage”

The repertoire booklet of the year 1903–1904 of the Royal Theater, published in October of 1903, announced, among other theatrical plays, Aeschylus’ Oresteia: Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumenides, which was to be performed in a verse translation by the philologist Georgios Sotiriadis, according to the stage adaptation by Paul Schlenther, director of the Vienna Burgtheater with the music by the Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford, performed by the orchestra of the Royal Theater.627 After the first year where the theater had a limited repertoire, with the most important performance being The Pillars of Society and Doll’s House by Ibsen, Björnson’s The Bankrupt and Sudermann’s Magda and the second year highpoints being Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hauptmann’s Drayman Henschel, the project of Oresteia constituted the first attempt to perform an ancient drama. Moreover, it was the first time for Oresteia to be performed on the modern Greek stage, as well as its first time being translated into the modern Greek language. The latter fact was what made the project so pioneering, because during that period tragedy’s presentation was dominated by Georgios Mistriotis’ views that established a method of directing them in the ancient Greek language according to the theory of classical literature that required “respect” for the original text.628 As long as he established in 1895 the Company for the Teaching of Ancient Greek Dramas, he presented himself as the only inheritor of the way of producing ancient...

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