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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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4. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1904)

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4.1 A Mental Journey in “Europe in a theater in Munich or in Berlin”

Goethe’s Faust I performance at the Royal Theater was Oeconomo’s personal choice and for this reason he encouraged a translation by Chatzopoulos in the modern Greek language. Oeconomo had already played in the performance of Faust I at Meiningen Theater in 1899. By the 1872–1873 season, Duke staged his first performance of Faust I, while until then he had presented only Gounod’s opera in 1866.705 Nevertheless, Faust I had not been one of the principal productions of the Meiningen. Among Goethe’s plays, only Iphigenia in Tauris was taken on tour, and it was given 14 times.706 Faust is of course a part of German ideological history and was authored by Goethe, in order to express the situation of his time, namely the transformation of Europe’s society from the spirit and religious context of western Christianity into the Reformation and then the Age of Enlightenment. I would say that Faust functions as the representative of the cultural tendency of modernity, as among other things, the homonymous protagonist of the play attempts to receive knowledge and recognition in a period that started seeing the radical changes in European’s orientation and the advent of the Industrial Age. Thus, the individual feels the futility of human desires and aims by trying to understand and explain the totality of processes in the spirit of modern scientific innovations, while his religious beliefs bring him into internal division....

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