An Evening At The Greek Theater Of Syracuse
Greek theaters mesmerize tourists. I have visited the Greek theater in Ancient Ephesus, Turkey, as a 2003 Alexander Onassis Foundation scholar and Epidavros, Greece. Finally I was able to visit another majestic monument of classical Greece: the Greek Theater of Syracuse, Sicily in my June 2005 tour of Arba Sicula, the International Organization Promoting the Language and Culture of Sicily.
“The highlight of our trip was seeing “Antigone” at the Greek Theater of Syracuse,” said Dolores Lenard, a participant of the multiethnic 2005 tour. Our group of 30 persons arrived on June 3 to a packed outdoor theater filled to capacity. In Ancient times, the theater had a capacity of 15,000 persons. It is of limestone, built into the sacred Mount Temenite. The mountain’s name is derived from an ancient area, the Tenemos, dedicated to the god Apollo.
The music of Vangelis entranced us as “Antigone” was performed in Italian. The play was directed by Irene Pappas. The actors wore black Grecian costumes. The background consisted of white 12 to 20 feet statues from ancient Cycladic art. They represent the Greek dead who were being honored by Antigone with wreaths of garland. A circular marble stage projected a spectacular impression. We were at the top of the theater because of a problem with our reservations. A unique view of the play and Syracuse was seen by all. The acoustics were extraordinary.
I have seen “Antigone” countless times. I was impressed by this production’s chorus that performed a Pontiako dance to a Vangelis tune. The actors entered, exited and performed some scenes among the audience. “Antigone” concluded with this profound thought: “The key to happiness is wisdom. We cannot blame the Gods.” The Pablo Orsini Archaeologicalmuseum in Syracuse has an exhibit on the Greek colonies that states, “The glory and political expansion seen under the Greek Cities has never been repeated in Sicily’s history.”
Cicero, a Roman writer who represented Sicily at the Roman Forum, believed the Greek theater was the best. Plutarch and Diodoro Sicuto were convinced that it was the most beautiful theater in Sicily. Hieron II of Syracuse rebuilt a pre-existing theater of the fifth century during the 3rd-2nd century B.C. The Ancient Greek Theater is associated with Aeschylus, the first of the great Greek tragedians. The earlier theater witnessed the premier of Aeschylus tragedy “The Persians” and in 476 B.C. “The Women of Etna”. Epcharmus (6th-5th century B.C.), the Father of Greek comedy, was from Syracuse.
Bloody spectacles were never performed as in the Roman amphitheater of Syracuse. Works of Art, showing the serious and comedic side of human life were the themes of the Syracuse Greek Theater. Dr. Florence Russo said in Latin, “Graecia captu, Romci ce pit.” This means: having captured Greece, Rome grabbed all it could. For more information on the Teatro Greco Syracuse visit the Web sites:http://www.users.globainet.co.uk/~loxias/greek.drama.reviews.htm and www.tripadvisor.com/ Attraction_Review-g187891-d195179-Reviews_Greek-Theater
Catherine Tsounis is Adjunct Professor of Modern Greek at St. John’s University and a frequent contributor to this newspaper .