AGAMEMNON, THE LIBATION BEARERS by Aeschylus
KREFELD AND MÖNCHENGLADBACH THEATRE gGmbH, GERMANY
The Krefeld and Mönchengladbach Theatre gGmbH, the biggest theatre in the Lower Rhine region in the west of Germany, presents the two tragedies of Aeschylus’ trilogy Oresteia, Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers (The Choephori), translated by Peter Stein and directed by Matthias Gehrt.
Agamemnon, the victor of the ten year war of Troy, returns to Argos. There his wife Clytemnestra, mother of Orestes and lover of Aegisthus welcomes him as a victor and murders him shortly after he has entered the palace, without any qualms, as a revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia. At the same time she assists Aegisthus to become King of Argos. In the second part of the trilogy, The Libation Bearers, the exiled Orestes returns home to take revenge for his father’s murder.
Aeschylus decodes profound realities of the human soul and thought.
▪ With Greek and English surtitles
After ten years of war, Troy is destroyed. Those Greek victors still alive are returning home. Among them is Agamemnon, the military commander of the Greek army, who returns to his kingdom Argos and his wife Clytemnestra. He arrives at Argos bringing with him as his concubine Cassandra, the enslaved daughter of the Trojan king Priam. Clytemnestra rolls out the red carpet for Agamemnon, but shortly after he has entered the palace she murders him, partly as a revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia ten years ago, partly because of Clytemnestra’s lover Aegisthus, a cousin of Agamemnon and the sole survivor of the dispossessed branch of the Atreus family, who believes the throne of Argos rightfully should belong to him.
The Libation Bearers
Orestes and Pylades return to Argos after Agamemnon’s assassination. As he secretly offers libations at his father’s grave, asking for his assistance for his revenge, Electra and the Chorus arrive to ask her father’s assistance as well. As she sees the signs on the grave she suspects that Orestes is there and indeed he appears and they recognize each other. They lay out the plan of their revenge and they execute it. They enter the palace announcing Orestes’ supposed death to Clytemnestra and she calls Aegisthus. Orestes kills him and then comes face to face with his mother. He hesitates to kill his own mother but after Pylades’ urging he murders her. He then dresses as a supplicant and starts out for the Oracle to conjure the blood from his hands, while the Furies are hunting him.
The Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus is the only surviving example of a complete trilogy of ancient Greek plays and consists of the three linked plays Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides. The trilogy as a whole was originally performed at the annual Dionysia festival in Athens in 458 BCE and is characterized as one of the greatest tragedies of ancient drama.
Not only is The Oresteia one of the texts that mark the origin of European theatre, it is also the origin of my own interest in theatre. I was in the middle of my 20s when I hitchhiked from Berlin to the Italian town of Ostia to see a guest performance of The Oresteia by the Berliner Schaubühne in the local amphitheatre. It turned out to be a key moment for me. The performance of the three parts of the full text started at 7pm and ended at dawn. Seated on stone benches, I occasionally dozed off. And maybe it was exactly in this dozy state somewhere between two worlds when a powerful realization manifested in my soul: this experience of theatre, this text, this context are important, they are important to me. This night in Ostia became a crucial condition for me to devote myself to theatre completely as I was lucky enough to witness the power of what theatre can do, what it can do to me. I later worked as a director’s assistant to Peter Stein who was the director of the performance of The Oresteia I saw in Ostia. He then became my mentor. Eventually I became a theatrical director myself, always hoping for and thinking of the moment when I would be able put my own perspective and capacity into working with this Oresteia.
The Oresteia is a constituent text not only for European theatre but also for European culture and politics. More than 2.500 years of age, it is a text that still touches us and still matters to us. In the Oresteia a society is reflecting itself, with narrative elements found in traditional myths. In a sharpened way Aeschylus tells in his trilogy (the only handed down to us from the 5th century) the historical development of Athens from the clan society to the ‘polis’, the very first democracy in global history. Obviously, women, landless people and slaves were no part of this democracy, but still: With political institutions like the court, which Aeschylus has invented by Athena in his trilogy, for the first time ever, a kind of conflict resolution is created that is based on democratic processes, the balancing of conflicting forces through negotiations and compromises, in short: political action, which makes for no triviality in post democratic times of expert driven politics and marauding troikas.
Theatre company profile
KREFELD AND MÖNCHENGLADBACHTHEATRE
The Theatre Krefeld and Mönchengladbach gGmbH is the biggest theatre in the Lower Rhine region in the west of Germany, with an audience of more than 200.000 per season. The theatre presents three different sectors of the performing arts – opera, drama and ballet -, including a symphony orchestra. Fourteen actors belong permanently to the drama ensemble, lead since the year 2010 by the director Matthias Gehrt. The literary program of the theatre focuses mainly on the exploration of classical texts on the one hand (from Sophocles to Shakespeare and Goethe) and of the performance of contemporary plays on the other hand (from Roland Schimmelpfennig to Elfriede Jelinek).
A special emphasis in the program is a series of non-European performances. Since 2010 each season a theatre artist from outside of Europe is invited to Krefeld and Mönchengladbach to produce a new play of her (or his) own choice. Up to now theatre directors from Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, Lebanon and Brazil and Armenia have accepted the invitation, there are more to come in the following years.
Translated by Peter Stein Directed by Matthias Gehrt Stage Designer: Gabriele Trinczek Costume Designer: Sibylle Gädecke Music: Jörg Ostermayer Choreographer: Robert North Dramaturge, Production Manager: Martin Vöhringer Stage Manager: Petra Hackbarth Assistant to the Director: Sascha MeyCast: Clytemnestra: Eva Spott Agamemnon, Choir of elders of Argos: Joachim Henschke Cassandra, Choir of slave women: Helen Wendt Aegisthus, Choir of elders of Argos: Bruno Winzen Orestes, Choir of elders of Argos: Cornelius Gebert Electra, Servant: Esther Keil Pylades, Choir of elders of Argos: Ronny Tomiska Choir of elders of Argos: Jonathan Hutter Choir of elders of Argos: Adrian Linke Choir of elders of Argos: Paul Steinbach Messenger, Choir of elders of Argos: Christopher Wintgens Servant, Choir of slave women, Nurse: Lena Eikenbusch Choir of slave women: Paula Emmrich