We travel to Rome to be amazed by a city where at one time audiences of 50,000 filled the Colosseum to watch gladiators live in action, and to see mock sea battles, animal hunts and dramas based on classical mythology.
The city’s turning it on again this year, although these days such a massive spectacular has to be staged in a more modern facility: the Nuova Fiera di Roma. From September 30th until late November, Ben Hur Live will be on stage in Rome. This is the show that took 15 years to develop before it opened in London in late 2009. It will feature music by Steward Copeland who was drummer for The Police. There will be live animals on stage – in London there were horses, camels, donkeys, chickens and eagles – in Rome there will definitely be horses. The production includes live chariot races and re-enactments of sea-battles.
They also plan to have camels, donkeys, goats and birds of prey – just imagine life backstage! Ben Hur has always been an epic, both in the original 1880 book by Lew Wallace and in the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. No one ever thought it could be portrayed live on stage but they did it in London to huge acclaim and now they’re doing it in Rome.
The story of Ben Hur is set in the 1st century when the citizens of Jerusalem were ruled over by the Roman Empire. It’s the story of two boyhood friends whose lives take them to opposite sides of the fence. It is a story of betrayal, conviction and redemption. And it is also the story of Jesus Christ who lived at this time and whose life parallels that of the hero Judah Ben-Hur who is inspired by the life of Christ. This is the only novel to ever be blessed by the Pope, the 19th century Leo XIII. A live spectacle like this doesn’t come along every day, perhaps only every few thousand years; it’s worth traveling to Rome to see it. Any excuse to go to Rome is a good one, I say.