Rare Performance of Euripides’ Herakles in the Original Greek in New York

Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama’s production of the play Herakles. Photo by Pamela Sisson, National Review

A unique experience of ancient Greek drama was presented to the audience at the Minor Latham Playhouse in New York recently.

Euripides’ famous tragedy ”Herakles” was performed on April 6 — but this time, the heartrending story was presented in a different way.

The entire performance was presented, not in English, with a translated version of the play, but in ancient Greek, using the original script from the fifth century BC.

The audience had the rare opportunity to enjoy a performance which did not only transmit the original sense and atmosphere of the play, but the original sound of its language as well.

The performance also added an ancient Greek instrument called an aulos to its chorus, something which lent a completely different dimension to the play, musically highlighting the dramatic tension of the story.

The producers of this magical event aimed to present to the world how ancient Greek tragedies still resound in our contemporary, everyday lives, thousands of years after they were written.

No matter how far back in time these plays were written, their substance and their meaning remain still relevant and modern, as they speak to the universality of the human psyche.

“Herakles” is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides; it was originally performed 2,435 years ago in Athens during the city’s ”Dionysia” Festival.

The plot finds Herakles (Hercules) in the underworld, obtaining Cerberus for one of his labors. His father Amphitryon, his wife Megara, and his children are later sentenced to death in Thebes by Lycus.

Herakles arrives in time to save them, although the goddesses Iris and Madness cause him to kill his wife and children in an uncontrollable fit of madness.

Herakles is the second of two surviving tragedies by Euripides, in which the family of Herakles are portrayed as suppliants.

The play was directed by Caleb Simone, the vocal melody was composed by Anna Conser and the aulos music was composed and performed live by Callum Armstrong.