July 20, 2000 , Macedonian Press Agency

A place linked with violence and martyrdom was sanctified with Sophocles' "Oedipus" yesterday. After 15 centuries, the Colosseum, Rome's famous arena, reopened with the world premiere of the Greek National Theater Company.

An audience of 700 people, among them the president of the Italian republic and leading members of the Italian political leadership "traveled" to the ancient Theva through the ancient Greek tragedy.

The culture ministers of Italy and Greece were also in Colosseum's opening night, which aspires to become a theater from an arena that it was in the past. Both ministers stressed that the restoration work that has been made is very important as it is very important the fact that Colosseum reopened with a ancient tragedy.

Drama now at Rome's Colosseum is Greek, not gore

Thursday, July 20, 2000

The Associated Press

ROME -- After nearly 1,500 years, it's showtime again at the Roman Colosseum. Spectators are bustling into the ancient arena, performers are fending off stage fright.
But the show this time is supremely civilized: classical Greek tragedy instead of gladiators and gore. No howling Roman mobs, no snarling wild beasts.  The National Theater of Greece's striking production of "Oedipus Rex" christens an eight-year restoration of the Colosseum capped by the replacement of part of the arena's long-missing floor. About one-seventh of the original arena's floor space is now covered, leaving open the vast subterranean labyrinth that once housed animals, gladiators, sets, and props. The stage makes it possible for the first time in centuries to stand where gladiators once stood, gazing up at the towering tiers of the ancient amphitheater.  Even the cast and crew of the play were a bit awe-struck by the astonishing venue. "This grandeur, this strength! The strength of the Romans," Jenny Gaitanapoulou, the veteran Cypriot actress who plays Jocasta, the mother/wife of Oedipus, exclaimed at dress rehearsal Tuesday.

"Oepidus Rex" began a three-day run Wednesday, the first of a trilogy of Sophocles' tragedies in the Colosseum this summer. It will be followed by "Antigone" and the opera "Oedipus," an adaptation of the play "Oedipus in Colonus." For many people involved in the Sophocles project, the performances are a way of infusing the ancient killing ground with a new spirit. Culture Minister Giovanna Melandri said the trilogy brings the Colosseum back to life, but "not for cruelty. It's for art."

During its more than 440 years of use, tens of thousands of lives were sacrificed in the arena to entertain the bloodthirsty Roman crowds and it could take more than eight summer nights of Sophocles to banish the ghosts. It's not clear whether the Colosseum will become a regular performance venue. Melandri called the Sophocles series an "experiment." Experts will have to assess the wear and tear, she said. And even more important is the unique nature of the place; some preservationists are already complaining.  "We don't want to overuse it," Melandri said in an interview. "We want to keep it special."

It is an enormous structure, even to modern eyes: more than two football fields long, 1,730 feet in circumference, 164 feet high. In ancient times it had 80 arched entrances and could seat at least 50,000 people. The oval arena was 29,000 square feet.

2000 Bergen Record Corp.

By Raffaella Malaguti - Reuters

Rome, July 19, 2000 - The Colosseum, Rome’s ancient arena of death and slaughter, is preparing to stage its first major spectacle before a paying audience in 1,500 years. Starting today, the amphitheater will host a two-week-long theater festival Completed under Roman Emperor Titus in A.D. 80, the amphitheater will not be hosting the gory combat brought vividly to life in the recent box office smash Gladiator, but a more civilized festival of Greek tragedy.
"This is a historical event for this monument and this country," Italian Culture Minister Giovanna Melandri told reporters after unveiling the $724,500 stage built over part of the floorless Colosseum.

Restorers at Work — for Years
The performances were made possible by building a wooden structure over a section of underground labyrinth that once housed gladiators and wild beasts, capping years of restoration work. The passages, clogged with earth over the centuries, were dug out on the order of French Emperor Napoleon at the end of the 18th century.
"We are not going back to [the Colosseum’s] gruesome and tragic origins but will instead give space to art and culture," Melandri said.
The festival will include three tragedies by ancient Greek playwright Sophocles performed between July 19 and Aug. 6.
Oedipus Rex by the Greek National Theater will be followed by Antigone by the Dramatic Arts Center of Tehran.
Rome’s prestigious Santa Cecilia Academy will end the festival with the opera Oedipus by 19th-century German composer Felix Mendelssohn, adapted from Sophocles’ Oedipus in Colonus.

Fit for an Emperor
Workers were preparing seats and standing room for 700 spectators at the eastern end of the Colosseum near the podium where the emperor, his court and senators used to give the thumbs-up or down to decide the gladiators’ fate.
When ancient Rome ruled the Western world, the then-marble-clad building provided entertainment for up to 70,000 citizens, rich and poor.
Prices this time round are more than the couple of denarii the masses once paid. Standing room costs 40,000 lire and 100,000 lire (about $19 to $48) will get you a seat.
The new wooden stage covers some 4,300 square feet of the 29,000-square-foot arena. Actors will reach the stage via a wooden bridge linking the structure to the western end of the Colosseum and spanning the underground passages.
The decision to build the stage is part of a project to protect the remaining stone passages from further damage.
"The spirit behind this initiative is that of uniting preservation with cultural activities," Melandri said. "The stage is important because it also protects the monument."
Officials said it was not clear what will happen next as archaeologists will need to study the impact of the wooden structure on the ancient walls.
"This is an experiment. We’ll see how it goes and then we will decide," Melandri said.
She said the Culture Ministry would be very rigorous in choosing future cultural initiatives for the Colosseum.

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