Sagunt a Escena, A Splendid 40th Anniversary

In Stage 18 July, 2023

Chloé Hasgaard

Chloé Hasgaard


The Sagunt a Escena Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary in its magnificent and historic venue, which is over two millennia old. The Roman theatre of Sagunt (Valencia, Spain), whose ruins were converted into a cultural space through an intervention that was not without controversy at the time, attracts thousands of spectators to its stands every summer. In the next edition of the festival organised by the Generalitat Valenciana through the IVC, the northern slope of the capital of Camp de Morvedre will once again host a multidisciplinary programme, which includes the Off Romano and also spreads through the streets, squares and cultural centres of the city.

From 3 to 27 August, the monumental venue that houses Sagunt a Escena will offer contemporary dance, classical theatre and music, flamenco, puppetry, circus and comedy, with first-rate guests such as Magüi Mira (Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts), Andrés Lima, Pepe Viyuela, Bambalina, Belén Rueda, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Maria del Mar Bonet and María José Llergo. The director of the festival, Inma Expósito, stated in the presentation of the event that she wanted to combine authorship (Aristophanes, William Shakespeare and Sophocles) and renowned direction (Magüi Mira, Jaume Policarpo, Andrés Lima and Eva Zapico), adding national actors and actresses with proven track records and international proposals by Josef Nadj, Christina Pluhar and Vinzenzo Capezzuto. In the words of its director, A programme that generates stimuli among the public, that awakens concerns, that explores the relationship between theatre, memory and history.

Sagunt a Escena

The poster for this commemorative edition has been partly created using artificial intelligence by designer Eusebio López. The result conveys a dreamlike vision that plunges into the mythology of the Nereids. In the centre of the image, a mysterious and ethereal woman stands out, emerging from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Her serene figure merges with the aquatic environment, symbolising the connection between the human world and the world of dreams. As the author states: The deep blue of the sea predominates, evoking the vastness and serenity of the ocean, a clear reference to the stage about to begin the performance.

Off Romano

Theatre beats in the squares and streets of Sagunto, and the arts of movement are a distinctive element of the festival, which year after year brings its alternative programme to a heterogeneous public that can enjoy it in their everyday environment. Thus, on 17 August, at the Casa dels Berenguer, Cristina Gómez will perform De hueso y piel, a duet based on the theatre piece Anhel, winner of three Valencian Performing Arts Awards in 2022. On the 18th, the Glorieta will be the stage for the Institut Valencià de Cultura’s street dance production Voràgine, in which Pepa Cases denounces the impunity of sexual aggression. An open-air circus tent will be set up in the same enclave with performances by the companies Truca Circus, D. Moreno & C. Calleja and Capicua. The former will bring together five dancing diabolos, a forest of ropes, a bicycle duel, balls with lots of rhythm and a helicopter with feet and hands on the 4th of August in Sopla! The second group will raise a grand piano to a height of eight metres in Flotados on 11 August in a combination of music, dance, acrobatics, lights and video projections. And the third group will bring together five female acrobats who work, sew, dance, laugh and climb on 13 August in Nüshu.

Sagunt a Escena

Cristina Gómez, De hueso y piel. Photo: Josep Escuin.

The circus arts will also be performed at three other venues in the city. Up Arte will visit the Triángulo Umbral Auditorium on 20 August with its acrobatic and dance piece Desprovisto. On 23 and 25 August, the Centre Cívic will host, respectively, the intimate proposal by Miguel Barreto and La Pequeña Victoria Cen Disculpa si te presento como que no te conozco and the encounter between an acrobat and a juggler in Baktana, by Lazuz. Finally, on 27 August, in Tarongers square, Xampatito Pato will construct in So a delirious universe of gestural theatre inhabited by an obsessive, square and meticulous character. Cia Kimani also dispenses with the spoken word, and on 9 August, in the Glorieta, reflects on the obsession with the cult of the body with a poetic, ironic and surrealist tone in Cospress. On 25 August, Eva Zapico directs Shakespeare’s classic Coriolà at the Umbral Triangle Auditorium, where tragedy coexists with satire in the portrayal of the abuse of power. The end of the Sagunt a Escena festival will take place on the 27th, in the Glorieta, with a fusion of cumbia, reggae, rumba, folk and Valencian roots music by the group El Diluvi, the architects of a Mediterranean mestizaje, whose success has been absolute.

Sagunt a Escena

Coriolà. Cia Eva Zapico. Photo: Caixa Fosca.

Roman theater

The Sagunt a Escena festival will take off on 3 August presenting the puppet version of the tragedy of the king who could not escape his fate. Bambalina Teatre Practicable premieres Èdip rei, a new version of the myth of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles with musicians, a live chorus and an expanded cast of the original production by the Valencian company led by Jaume Policarpo.

On Saturday 5 August, the Roman theatre will host the performance of Pandataria, by Chevi Muraday / Losdedae. Pandataria is an island in the Pontine archipelago (Tyrrhenian Sea), where, at the time of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the women of the empire who did not conform to the rules were exiled. Julia the Great was the first, followed at different times by her daughter and granddaughter. Pandataria, as an island-prison, came to represent the paradise of the forgotten. This new creation by director and choreographer Chevi Muraday features the leading role of actress Cayetana Guillén Cuervo and original music by Mariano Marín. It is a Losdedae production, in collaboration with the Festival de Mérida.

Sagunt a Escena

Christina Pluhar – L’Arpeggiata and Maria del Mar Bonet.

Music arrives on Thursday 10 August with the concert by Christina Pluhar – L’Arpeggiata and Maria del Mar Bonet. This proposal aims to take the audience on a voyage through the warm Mediterranean waters. Along its shores rocked by the waves and an enchanting sound, which arises from the dialogue between guitars, theorbo and all the plucked instruments of the Mediterranean tradition played with the baroque strings of L’Arpeggiata and the warm voices of Maria de Mar Bonet, who joins this project together with Vincenzo Capezzuto and under the direction of Christina Pluhar. The concert is a co-production of Sagunt a Escena, Festival de Pollença and Festival de música de Torroella de Montgrí.

Sagunt a Escena

Pandataria, Chevi Muraday / Losdedae.

On Saturday 12th Shakespeare will be the star of the evening at the Roman Theatre, with The Comedy of Errors, directed by Andrés Lima. In it we start with a death sentence and everything becomes a party by mistake. By mistake we change partners believing we are right and by mistake we end up in prison believing we are honest. We learn from mistakes, but it is a mistake to think so if we aspire not to make mistakes. Albert Boronat’s version features actors Pepón Nieto, Antonio Pagudo, Fernando Soto, Rulo Pardo, Avelino Piedad and Esteban Garrido. The Comedy of Errors is a co-production between Mixtolobo and the Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico de Mérida.

María José Llergo and Sandra Monfort will bring flamenco, the breath of folk and the beat of electronica to Sagunt a Escena on Wednesday 16 August. María José Llergo’s flamenco can boast both light and dark Arabic roots. Sandra Monfort brings together the breath of folk and the beat of electronica. Her songs have a strange magnetism, which is nourished by the ancestral, dreamy poetry, digital echoes and the breath of nature.

On Saturday 19 August, classical Greek comedy comes to Sagunt a Escena’s amphitheatre with Paco Mir‘s version of Aristophanes’ The Clouds. The action takes place a few days after the inauguration of the theatre in modern-day Mérida. Strepsiades, who is on his way to ruin because of his son’s debts, decides to enrol in the school of Socrates to learn rhetoric, an art with which he intends to convince his creditors that, in reality, he owes them nothing. The cast includes Mariano Peña, Pepe Viyuela, Cristina Almazán, Manuel Monteagudo and Moncho Sánchez-Diezma, with Juan Francisco Padilla providing the original music and Juan Sanz the set design.

Sagunt a Escena

Omma, Josep Nadj.

Omma, by Josep Nadj, a work about sharing and transmitting, will be performed as a national premiere on Thursday 24th. In this new work, the Hungarian choreographer living in France has brought together a group of eight dancers from Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and the two Congos (Djino Alolo Sabin, Timothé Ballo, Abdel Kader Diop, Aïpeur Foundou, Bi Jean Ronsard Irié, Jean-Paul Mehansio, Marius Sawadogo, Boukson Séré). A plural body in which everyone asserts their own language, their own identity, their own dance: a captivating feedback loop between group and individual that inevitably leads us to the human being as a universal fact. Josef Nadj worked with the artist Miquel Barceló in the well-known piece Paso Doble, now seventeen years later, he premieres for the first time in Spain this creation, a striking show, a return to the roots of dance, which has garnered praise on stages all over Europe.

Sagunt a Escena

Belén Rueda.

The closing performance of the fortieth edition of Sagunt a Escena, on 26 August, will star Belén Rueda, directed by Magüi Mira in Salomé. This co-production by Pentación espectáculos and the Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico de Mérida presents the brutal story that took place in the early years of the 1st century AD, when the Romans continued to invade the lands surrounding the Mediterranean. They place monarchs, savage dictators to subjugate their people, but in Judea a princess, Salome, secretly supports the rebels who resist the rule of King Herod, a puppet of Rome, a man without morals who governs without law. The text by Magüi Mira is performed by Belén Rueda, Luisa Martín, Juan Fernández, Pablo Puyol and Sergio Mur. The set design is by Curt Allen Wilmer and Leticia Gañán.

All shows will start at 22.30 hours. The historic centre of Sagunt is closed to private traffic, so you can park in the public car parks provided. We would also like to remind you that according to the distribution of the Roman theatres, the seats are divided into A, B and C, so it is a good idea to remember which one your ticket corresponds to. The Off shows are free, although we recommend you come 15 minutes in advance to ensure good visibility. More information on how to buy tickets, here.

Article written with the information provided by the Sagunt a Escena press office.

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Sagunt a escenaCayetana Guillén CuervoMagüi Mirabelen ruedaJaume PolicarpoM. del Mar Bonet

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