After a lengthy, recently-completed restoration effort that saw the expansion of Pompeii’s spectacular archaeological menu, the city is not only unearthing more of its secrets, but also claiming a leading role as a world-class performance venue.
Pompeii is certainly not strange to events; Elton John and David Gilmour are some of the celebrities who have previously performed in the city’s ancient theatres.
2017 will take that world stage to a new front by offering, for the very first time, a prestigious program of classical Greek drama; Pompeii Theatrum Mundi 2017.
This premium event will be hosted in Pompeii’s very own ‘Large Theatre’, a Greek-style outdoor auditorium built in 2 B.C., hence combining ancient Greek drama with a perfectly fitting stage.
A selection of plays from the three grand masters of ancient Greek tragedy, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, will be presented between the 30th of June and 16th of July 2017 by some of Italy’s finest theatre production houses; the Teatro Stabile di Napoli, the Terzo Piano Teatro and the Teatro Stabile di Torino.
Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, who belonged to the ‘Golden Age’ of Greek drama (5th century B.C.), were instrumental in both pioneering the tragedy genre and influencing future playwrights to this day.
The thrill of experiencing tragedy in the exact place where Pompeiians had, almost two thousand years ago, very probably enjoyed the same live performances is hence a rare occasion to link past and present, ancient and modern.
The festival will begin with Orestea (Oresteia) and Prometeo (Prometheus) by Aeschylus, who is regarded as ‘the father of tragedy’. Orestea is the only surviving trilogy of ancient Greek tragedies, bound together by such themes as revenge and justice, and the contrast between personal vengeance and legal trial. Promoteo is equally symbolic, basing itself on the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus who, by giving fire to humans, defied the gods and was condemned to eternal punishment.
Following Aeschylus comes Sophocles and his masterpiece Antigone, a story injected with conflict between Antigone, who breaks the law by giving her brother Polynices a proper burial, and the King of Thebes, Creon, whose recent law forbids anyone from burying Polynices, considered a traitor. Duties vs. values, honour vs. law and private vs. public good are some of the controversies that emerge.
Finally, the season will close with Euripides’ greatest tragedy, Baccanti (The Bacchae), a captivating tale depicting the core tension between instinct and rationality, when Dionysus, the god of wine, pleasure and festivity, sets out to punish Thebans for refusing to worship him.
The open-air arena of the Large Theatre, its natural acoustics, enchanting character and theatrical role in history will hence play perfect host for the modern interpretation of powerful drama that, just like Pompeii, survived the test of time.
Orestea 22 and 25 June 2017
Prometeo 30 June and 2 July
Antigone 5 and 6 July
Baccanti 14 and 16 July
These are 30 euro per person
Not just Pompeii
A Pompeiian experience cannot be completed without visiting the Naples National Archaeological Museum, which houses extensive relics from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum, and is considered one of the most important archaeological museums in the world.
Pompeii and Herculaneum are a short 20-30 minutes’ train ride away from either Naples or Sorrento with the new tourist train ‘Campania Express’. The train runs between March and October and has at least four trains operating daily in each direction.
Why not combine the archaeology delights of the Bay of Naples with the island of Ischia for a full sea, sun, food and history roundup this summer.
Check-out our holiday ideas for some inspiration