For the first time in more than 14 centuries, Rome's Colosseum [sic] opened its doors, July 19, to host a theatre show (although of a very different kind from those staged in the amphitheatre in Roman times). The National Theatre of Greece performed the world premiere of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, in a new production directed by Vassilis Papavassileoiu, co-founder of The Stage company. That staging now ends its brief run at New York City's City Center, Oct. 8. Performances for the drama, which received mostly positive reviews (including a near-rave in the New York Times), opened Oct. 4.
Veteran Greek actor Grigoris Valtinos plays the leading role of Oedipus. The other major roles are played by Manos Stalakis (the Priest), Stephanos Kyriakidis (Creon), Costas Galanakis (Tiresia) and Jenny Gaitanopoulou (Jocasta). The show features sets and costumes by Yorgos Ziakas, music by Dimitris Kamarotos, choreography by Vasso Barbousi and lighting by Antonis Papaconstantinou.
In Oedipus Rex, written circa 400-500 BC, there's trouble in the land, and Oedipus, exiled son of the King of Thebes, finds out his murderous and incestuous past -- however unintentional -- is the cause.
The sold-out opening night in Rome was one of the main cultural events of the Italian summer, with the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and Ministry of Culture, Giovanna Melandri, attending the event.
The Colosseum is one of the most famous monuments in the world. Opened in the year 80 A.D. by Emperor Titus in a ceremony that included 100 days of games, the 75,000-seat amphitheatre was in continuous operation for more than four centuries. An accurate computer generated reconstruction of how the Colosseum looked like in the ancient times has recently been seen by audiences worldwide in the feature film "The Gladiator" by Ridley Scott. The event was organized by Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico (Inda), which promotes every two years a festival in the ancient Greek theatre of Siracusa (Sicily). For further information visit the Italian Ministry of Culture website.
--By Stefano Curti, Italy Correspondent
and David Lefkowitz