An evening loaded with ancient drama

The National Theater’s Experimental Stage last night presented its first of two «Medea» performances at Epidaurus after premiering the production at a recent international festival in Ohrid, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The play, directed by Stathis Livathinos and starring the gifted actress Tamila Koulieva as Medea, for the first time in her career, will also be performed tonight before embarking on an eight-date tour of other provincial cities. Tonight’s performance at Epidaurus coincides with two other noteworthy productions, «Phaedra» at the Herod Atticus Theater in Athens and «Medea» – in the rarely performed 18th century melodrama form – in ancient Corinth. «Phaedra,» on at the Herod Atticus, is based on the play by French 17th century literary giant Jean Baptiste Racine. All funds raised by the performance, starring Mary Vidali as Phaedra and Costas Arzoglou as Theseus, will be donated to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. «Medea,» set in ancient Corinth and based on a work by 18th century composer Jiri Antonin Benda, who was largely responsible for bolstering the popularity of the melodrama form in his era (a rarely performed style today), will feature the well-known soprano Jenny Drivala. «Melodrama is a form that no longer exists. It blossomed in the second half of the 18th century and, since then, has been rarely performed,» Drivala told Kathimerini. «In contrast to opera, melodrama is prose and music in sequence… It’s a long monologue,» she added. Benda’s work covers Medea’s return to Corinth and vengeance she wreaks on Jason and their children. «Benda’s Medea is very human. The composer presents the audience with the heroine’s emotions and the consequences of her actions,» said Drivala. «In Euripides’ version, everything takes place behind the curtain.»