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Summer Festive Times in Greece: The Renewing the Tradition

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    What is the Athens Festival? A great celebration that has lasted 52 summers and has hosted some of the leading lights of theatre, music and dance. From Mitropoulos and Callas to Rostropovich, Pavarotti, Leonidas Kavakos and Dimitris Sgouros. From Theodorakis and Hadjidakis to Peter Hall, Noh theatre, Bunraku puppet theatre, and the Peking Opera. From Balanchine to Pina Bausch, and from Nureyev and Fonteyn to Martha Graham and Alicia Alonso.  The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the heart and emblem of the Festival for more than half a century, is no longer its only venue. Two recent additions include Peiraios 260 which, with its two stages and its atrium, was latetly dubbed “the new star of the summer”, and Scholeion which has already become a by-word for its alternative events and workshops. Since 2007, “the Festival is travelling” with the mobile “Caravan Theatre” which takes to the streets in search of all those who cannot attend one of the Festival’s ‘permanent’ theatres. Events are also staged at  the Athens Concert Hall, the Benaki Museum and a number of theatres around the city.


» A New Identity

Athens and Epidaurus Festival in its third year under artistic director Giorgos Loukos is the annual summer Athens feast, a “newly self-confident Hellenic Festivalwhich was attended last summer  by some 227,000 people. The festival runs from June until late August in Athens and in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus.

By reaching out to young audiences and introducing new venues, the Hellenic Festival  has acquired a new pluralism  and a new identity setting its sights on becoming one of Europe’s major festivals. This summer promises to continue the newly established tradition.

» Highlights 2008

The programme at the trademark venue, the Herod Atticus Theatre, will start with the Greek National Opera production of Puccini’s opera “Turandot” on June 1, 3, 5 and 7.

The collaboration of local and foreign performers, an initiative that was introduced last summer with Peter Stein’s Epidaurus staging of Electra, continues this year with a choreographed version of Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice by German choreographer Pina Bausch and the Paris Opera. Poland’s Krzysztof Warlikowski will direct Israeli playwright Hanoch Levi’s Krum, while New York’s Wooster Group will perform Hamlet. Berlin’s Schaubuehne returns this year with two works – Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – directed by the company’s artistic director Thomas Ostermeier. Theseum Ensemble will stage Dimitris Dimitriadis’ “I’m Dying Like a Country,” directed by Michail Marmarinos.

The Epidaurus Festival of Ancient Drama will open with Beckett’s “Happy Days” by National Theatre of Great Britain and Debora Warner (July 4, 5). The programme also features Euripides’ “Orestes” by the National Theatre of Northern Greece, as well as a National Theatre production of Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” and “Oedipus at Colonus.”

Dance highlights will include a tribute to late choreographer Maurice Bejart with Sylvie Guillem and the Tokyo Ballet; an evening of three dance duets with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mats Ek and Anna Laguna; and Dimitris Papaionannou‘s Medea.

The festival’s music agenda includes Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, ‘Iran’s Pavarotti’ Shahram Nazeri, Turkish pianist Fazil Say and Savina Yannatou among the festival’s guests. Nana Mouskouri‘s concert marking her 50-year-long international career will bring her farewell tour to an end. Stavros Xarchakos and the State Orchestra of Hellenic Music will pay tribute to Manos Hadjidakis.

» Online Info

The 2008 Programme is now online at: www.greekfestival.gr

For a brief presentation of the festival’s 2008 Programme: Athens News, Athens Festival Feast (7.3.2008); Kathimerini daily, Successful experiment continues (5.3.2008)

Last year’s festival was described as a vibrant arts experience by the New York Times (“A Withered Greek Summer Festival Bursts Into Bloom,” July 24, 2007).


Epidaurus, a small, ancient Greek city in the Peloponnese is now a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son, Asklepios, god of medicine, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary, and healing centre (Asclepieion), as well as its theatre.

According to recent research findings, the wonderful acoustics for which the theatre of Epidaurus is renowned – a performer standing on the open-air stage can be heard in the back rows almost 60 metres away – may be the result of exploiting complex acoustic physics. Nico Declercq and Cindy Dekeyser of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta say that the key is the arrangement of the stepped rows of seats. This structure is perfectly shaped to act as an acoustic filter, suppressing low-frequency sound – while passing on the high frequencies of performers’ voices.

news@nature.com: Why the Greeks could hear plays from the back row – An ancient theatre filters out low-frequency background; Ministry of Culture: Hellenic World Heritage Monuments


As of this year, the festival opens its doors to contemporary art with an exhibition of works at the Benaki Museum from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection, including pieces by Damien Hirst and Mauricio Catelan.


The Technopolis Arts Complex will host the “Innovative Music, Moving Image and New Media” Synch festival (June 13 to 15). A celebration of sounds and images, Synch is a three-day feast of digital movies, new media and music, focusing on topics such as digital cinema, special effects and animation, and the language of new media.