Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Monday, June 25, 2012

First Theaters, Made Contemporary!

Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The cradle of theater is considered to be the theater of Dionysus, an open-air stage set at the foot of the Acropolis at roughly 432 BC. Later, during the Roman rule, around 161 AD, Herodes Atticus built a theater in remembrance of his wife Regilla on the other side to match the Theater of Dionysus. He named it the Odeon, or the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Yes, there was an Odeon before the trendy watering hole in Tribeca NY.

Excavated around 1857, Athens has fully renovated this spectacular outdoor arena, and this week, I had the pleasure to see a production of the opera Il Trovatore by Verdi there.

The Hand and Eye stage set
Despite the upcoming elections and debt crisis, Athen's society was out in full bloom for this event. People dressed in their summer finest, and enjoyed drinks in the Odeon's outer courtyard before the event. This was almost an entire event in itself--to be seen and see others.

My favorite was one of the male leads, a Korean opera singer named Rudy Park. His performance was so heartfelt and emotional that I found myself crying. Be on the lookout for this rising star. Watch him in action on this You Tube clip. The Odeon's acoustics were spot-on. I'm not even sure that the singers wore mics, that's how perfectly the sound traveled. Above are some of the sets: a giant hand, and eye, a ball of tortured souls. As the sun set, the moon was reflected in the onstage pools.

This opera was a wonderful counterpoint to the day's visit to the Acropolis and its fashionable new museum, devoted to showing the painstaking renovation of the Parthenon's "lost" statuary and art.

I'm reminded of the great outdoor spaces like Red Rocks in Denver, Colorado and Tanglewood in Massachusetts. 
What other great outdoor entertainment spaces do you know of? 
Great summer performances?


  1. Sounds like you are having fun.

  2. It sounds absolutely fabulous! I love the set decoration -- that giant hand is wild! :-)

  3. Yes, I was blown away by how cool the sets were, including two reflecting pools that the characters waded through, knelt in and generally got their costumes sopping wet!

  4. 'My favorite was one of the male leads, a Korean opera singer named Rudy Park. His performance was so heartfelt and emotional that I found myself crying.'

    Just beautiful when art can elicit such a genuine response!

  5. Wow! What an interesting place to see an opera. And your mention of the good attendence despite the economic situation reminds me of how during the Great Depression the entertainment industry boomed. Entertainment is something people crave in difficult times.

    Wrote By Rote

  6. Arlee, I hear ya, that's when Wizard of Oz came out!

  7. I don't know of any great outdoor places where I live, but I do go and listen to the live music from the Wasatch Jazz band that plays around the corner every Tuesday outside on the patio at Sugarhouse Coffee.

  8. Those amphitheaters are amazing venues and I can understand how the Greek people must flock to them for this kind of entertainment, especially in these hard times.

    So glad you were able to attend during your visit and that you shared the experience with us. :-)

  9. Wow, I'd love to attend one some day. Sounds wonderful.