4/05 > 18:00
5.6.7/05 > 20:30
NL - Subtitles : FR

I am called Dionysus, because from now on this is a name that is going to matter around here. 'Here' is Thebes, and Thebes' ruler is Pentheus, the cousin opposed to the Dionysiac religion where it is reasonable to be unreasonable. All through a work that alternates between long monologues and short dialogues, Euripides devotes himself to defining moderation in excess and ecstasy. For ZT Hollandia, Bacchanten (Bacchae) is an opportunity to go back over the conflicts between ancient and modern culture, between power and deviancy. These are conflicts that find a place for reconciliation in Bacchanten's music. Arab composer Nuri Iskandar has been invited to compose a work following the traditions of the Orthodox Syrian Church, which are closest to the sounds of classical Greece, and will be accompanied by electronic sounds from a trio of western musicians.

Text :


Direction :

Paul Koek, Johan Simons

Translation :

Herman Altena

Music :

Nuri Iskandar, Paul Koek (Veenstudio), Johan van Kreij, Ton van der Meer (Veenstudio)

Actors :

Walter Bart, Elsie de Brauw, Aus Greidanus jr., Gonny Gakeer, Fedja van Huêt, Frieda Pittoors, Maartje Remmers, Marleen Scholten, Yonina Spijker

Musicians :

The Syrian Choir and Ensemble (onder leiding van Nuri Iskandar), Paul Koek, Johan van Kreij, Ton van der Meer, Yvin Hei


Paul Slangen

German Adaptation:

Paul Slangen, Anne Schöfer

Language Coach German:

Anne Schöfer

Set design :

Leo de Nijs

Costumes :

Jesse Boeyen, Greta Goiris, Joke Sommen

Lighting design :

Uri Rapaport

Sound design :

Will Jan Pielage

Assistant to the director :

Ilse van Essche

Assistent Ensemble:

Naurez Atto

Production management :

Marijn van Raak, Remko Romers, Marc Swaenen

Technical production :

Jean Luc van Engelen, Maarten Halmans, Luc van Heyst, Ate Jan van Kampen, Jules Kerssemakers, Jurgen Kuif, André Lasance, Maarten van Otterdijk, Ronald Roffel, Jannie Slagman

Production :

ZT Hollandia, Ruhr-Triennale

Coproduction :

Wiener Festwochen, Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Theater Der Welt (Bonn-Keulen), Cultural Olympiad (Athene) KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Sponsors :

HGIS Cultuurfonds, Syrische Minister van Cultuur Mw. Dr. Najwa Qassab Hassan, Nederlandse Ambassade Damascus, NCDO

Presentation :



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"How can a mother kill her own child? It's one of a number of questions that drew me to the work".

(Johan Simons, director).

The music

Greek tragedies are a never-ending source of musical inspiration for ZT Hollandia. No one can say what the original performances sounded like, but the simple metric translation of their verses provides a unique opportunity to rediscover their rhythm and melody. The music closest to the Greek classics is that of the Orthodox Syrian Church, which is why the music for the production has been composed - in close collaboration with the Veenstudio, ZT Hollandia's music laboratory - by the famous Syrian composer Nuri Iskandar. He is passionate about orthodox Syrian music.

Musicians and singers from the Syrian Choir and Ensemble perform the work live, with a trio of western musicians who have rewritten certain passages for electronic music. There is no competition between the trio and the Arab ensemble on a musical level - the trio is simply modernising certain passages. In the text there is a confrontation between the cultural merit of the ancient and the new, and this split is translated into music by the instrumentalists. Ancient sounds and chords that can still be heard in the contemporary Arab world are modified and amplified with modern techniques, electronically manipulated and enhanced. On the one hand, the music provides the panorama and backdrop against which Bacchanten (Bacchae) is told. On the other hand, musical commentaries are given on events. This is not about opting for one or the other, but about softening and easing the Bacchae's sorrow. Where there is oppression, exploitation and manipulation, the music seeks beauty and demands tolerance, respect and love for our fellow man.

The text

Thebes is on the alert. Dionysus has arrived, a man from distant Libya accompanied by a group of women who sing, dance and drink wine. The stranger proclaims a new religion, that of Bacchus, and new rites - a foreign culture and a foreign religion. Bacchus is Dionysus. He has come to take up his place again in the city of his birth, and to set up the cult of liberating ecstasy. But Thebes rejects a new god for the city. To avenge himself, he leads the woman of Thebes, who are in state of amnesic intoxication, away from the city - singing, dancing and drinking - to roam the mountains. Their intoxication seems idyllic until they turn into beasts - when they encounter people from the village, they use their bare hands to tear the people's cattle to pieces, and plunder and destroy their village.

The king, Pentheus, sees in Dionysus a threat for Thebes' cultural heritage, with life in the city and the countryside being profoundly upset by it. He uses everything in his power to repulse Dionysus and his followers, but Dionysus cunningly manages to convince Pentheus to disguise himself as a woman to go and spy on the women of Thebes in the mountains. The god Bacchus is both liberator and exterminator: the idyllic scene in the mountain suddenly degenerates into a savage massacre with Pentheus the victim this time. The women return to the city and regain consciousness, realising that they have to start afresh.

The performance

Like many of Euripides' tragedies, Bacchae places the dilemma between politics and culture on a razor-edge. In Athens, where Euripides lived, stability and well-being reigned. Then economic and cultural grandeur began to be a thing of the past. Democracy became eroded by demagogy, and hysterical outbursts by the masses inspired a second-rate political prudence. In writing Bacchae, Euripides wanted to warn the Athenians of the imminent threat of decline.

In Thebes, a city of great cultural merit that had become sterile, the population seems caught in a trap between politics and religion. The king, Pentheus, behaves like a dictator and Dionysus, the god of resurrection and fertility, wants to subordinate everything to his religion. When the women, in a religious and conceited intoxication, liken themselves to a god and murder Pentheus, then Dionysus, the son of a god, is - to put it mildly - jointly responsible.

The company and Greek tragedies

The first time that the ZT Hollandia company became interested in Greek tragedies was in 1989 with Prometheus Bound. These dramas were part of a series of plays dealing with third parties who curb the machinery of a society going mad. The story is that of a god who opposes the supreme god - Zeus - to offer men conscience, intelligence and education.

After Prometheus Bound, the company developed a series of projects for schools. Greeks (1991) was the combination of two abridged plays by Euripides that deal with infanticide, Heracles and Medea. In 1994, the company produced one of the most ancient works known to this day, Persians. This tragedy, from 472 BC, demonstrates the consequences of the failure of an aggressive and powerful world on a little city of stay-at-homes. It was the first time that the company worked with the translator Herman Altena. In it actor Jeroen Willems played three roles, as was the custom in antiquity. In Persians, on a musical level, tonal scales are piled up and thus chords become the goal in itself. The pace of the tempi gave a sensation of infinity.

In 1995, pieces from Orestes by the composer Iannis Xenaxis were performed in Veere's church, complemented by fragments from Aeschylus' text. The performance was broadcast live on television.

In 1996, there was the première of Euripides' Phoenissae. In this play, the personal battle for power between two young politicians leads to civil war. One of their potential successors, practically a child, offers his life to bring peace. The choir's singing formed theatrical images that were independent of, and did not follow, the tragic development of the story. In it they experimented with electronic voices: a computerised recording system was used that inverted the actors' voices with the sounds of the musical instruments in real time.

Prometheus Bound, Persians and Phoenissae were all performed in a scrap yard with bits from cars erected on the platform. Trojans was directed by Johan Simons. In 1997, the play went on tour in the major theatres in the Netherlands and Flanders. Once again, it was about the failure of an aggressive power, and the consequences for the losers' women.

In 1998, the decision was made once again to stage a production in a place full of significance: the atrium of The Hague's town hall. On the day of the parliamentary elections, they performed Iphigenia at Aulis, music composed by Cornelius de Bondt, about electoral scheming and the murderous power of the people. In it they experimented once again with the amplification and electronic treatment of voices.

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