Institute for Mediterranean Studies

French melodrama in the 19th-century Greek-speaking stage

French melodrama in the 19th-century Greek-speaking stage

The aim of the project is to locate and record Greek translations and adaptations of French melodramas which were performed by Greek repertory companies ad nauseam in the 19th century.

Project Director: Ioulia Pipinia

Description and aims of project

Melodrama was one of the most popular theatre genres of the 19th century. It gained momentum towards the end of the 18th century and is linked to the political and social developments of the revolutionary age. Its emergence initiated a long period of prosperity for minor theatres across Europe. For approximately a century, melodrama reigned on the commercial stages of Western cities. Almost daily, theatre companies performed old and new melodramas, either original or adaptations, which excited and thrilled the public.

In spite of its late arrival, melodrama and specifically French mélodrame was equally popular in Greece. The genre did not flourish in the newly founded Hellenic state during its prime, due to different historical conditions. However, in the latter half of the 19th century, Greek theatre companies, which toured the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, profitably included translations of the French melodramas in their repertoire. Under the name of “mythestorematiko drama” (‘fictional’ or ‘novel drama’) a significant number of French melodramas was performed regularly for Greek speaking audiences in multicultural cities and capitals such as Istanbul (Constantinople), Izmir (Smyrna), Alexandria, Cairo, Odessa as well as the larger towns of Greece, such as Athens, Patras, Ermoupolis.

The aim of the project was to locate and study the Greek translations and adaptations of French melodramas, whether in manuscript, printed or performed, primarily in the 19th century. The research was conducted in archives such as the Manuscript Collection of the Theatre Museum and libraries such as the National Library of Greece and Gennadeios Library. Catalogues of printed books and online resources (e.g. British Library, gallica/bnf) as well as listings of 19th century plays and performances were also filed in an attempt to gain an overall appreciation of the genre’s influenc on 19th century Greek drama and theatre.

Selected Publications

  • Ioulia Pipinia, “Melodrama in France, England and Greece: Issues of Terminology, Audience, and Reviewing”. In Savvas Patsalidis and Anastastia Nikolopoulou (eds.), Melodrama: Generic and Ideological Transformations, University Studio Press, Thessaloniki 2001, pp. 227-262.
  • “The French playwright Félix Pyat and the Greek Stage of the 19th Century”. In: Nikiforos Papandreou and Effie Vafeiadi (eds.), Researching the History of Modern Greek Theatre: Studies in Honor of Dimitris Spathis, Crete University Press, Heraklion 2007, pp. 153-176.
  • “Instructing the ‘proper Greekwoman’: Emilia Ktena-Leontias’ translations of popular French melodramas” Third International Conference in Greek Studies in Memory of Irina Kovaleva: Conference Proceedings, Lomonossov University, Moscow 2016, pp. 355-367.
  • “Melodrama revisited: Guillaume le débardeur and the late 19th-century Greek theatre”, Ta Istorika, vol. 65 (April 2017), pp. 81-93.

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