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Idolatry and sacrilege: Offenbach’s operetta in nineteenth-century Athens

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The ‘descent’ of the heroes of Greek mythology, Orpheus and Helen, to the modern Greek-speaking world took place secretly between the decades 1860 and 1870, when French troupes first started visiting Athens in order to perform at the Winter Theatre of the city, provoking a storm of reactions. This article aims to examine the impact of French light music on the newly formed urban Athenian society of the mid-nineteenth century, highlighting the dichotomy between the West and the Orient that characterizes modern Greek history. Their performances rekindled the controversy raging in the musical life of the new Greek state throughout the nineteenth century and became the bone of contention for the duel between European opera troupes – which enjoy the financial and moral support of the court, the government and ‘high society’ in general – and local drama troupes fighting hard to become established.
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Keywords: Athens; Offenbach; nineteenth century; opera; operetta; theatre

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Crete

Publication date: June 1, 2014

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