The Athens and Epidaurus Festival is the city’s annual arts festival and a highlight of the Greek summer calendar. With a legacy that spans more than sixty years, today it incorporates a full programme of music, theatre, dance and visual arts. Performances at the two ancient theatres of Odeon Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus are highlights of the festival. Both are famous for their exemplary acoustics and many of the great works of classical playwrights such as Sophocles who premiered at the Epidaurus theatre in ancient times.
The 2018 festival could very well be a stand-out year. It has been announced that Sting will perform at the iconic Odeon of Herodes Atticus in June. The festival’s progressive creative director, Vangelis Theodoropoulos is focused on embracing international audiences, announcing schedules in advance and making it easier for people to pre-purchase tickets and better plan their travel itineraries.
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The Athens and Epidaurus Festival 2018
Programme for the ancient theatres of Odeon of Herodes Atticus & Epidaurus
ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS
The spectacular open-air theatre of Odeon Herodes Atticus provides a magical setting at the base of the Acropolis. It has hosted legendary performances by Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti to name a few.
[Getting there: Dionysiou Areopagitou. For the taxi driver: Ωδείο Ηρώδειο, Οδός Διονυσίου Αρεοπαγίτου. Nearest metro station: Acropolis]
Why Athens Tip: All theatre performances will be accompanied by English subtitles unless otherwise specified
JUNE 2018 PROGRAMME AT THE ODEON
NABUCCO by Giuseppe Verdi (OPERA)
Essentials: 1, 3, 6, 8 June. 9:00pm
One of Verdi’s most popular operas returns to the Odeon stage. In this new Greek National Opera (GNO) production, the lead role is played by famous Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias, who has garnered praise for his performances as Nabucco at important theatres around the globe, including the London Royal Opera (Covent Garden), the Bavaria State Opera, the Florence Opera, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (Valencia) and the Stuttgart Opera to name a few. Leo Muscato directs the work in his first collaboration with the GNO. Muscato is a rising Italian opera director with a penchant for the works of Verdi and Puccini, who has achieved great box office successes at Italy’s top opera houses (Rome, Venice, Florence, Turin among others). See more information about the show here
THE SECRETS OF EGNATIA by Nikos Kypourgos (MUSIC)
Essentials: 10 June. 9:00pm
How many diverse voices, dialects, faces and stories can one meet on the way from Thrace to Epirus? Acclaimed composer and musician Nikos Kypourgos pays tribute to the music of Northern Greece. This musical ‘road trip’ will bring to the stage songs and languages from the fringes of the Egnatia Motorway; a musical Babel weaving together Vlach, Arvanitika, Slavic, Turkish, Pontic Greek, Cappadocian, Romani, Pomak and Hebrew songs, featuring musicians and groups from various regions.
THE HANDEL MYTHOLOGY by Il Pomo d’Oro Orchestra (MUSIC)
Essentials: 11 June. 9:00pm
Arias and duets from Handel’s mythological operas: Arianna in Creta, Hercules, Partenope, Semele, Il Pastor Fido, Teseo, Imeneo. Il Pomo d’Oro was founded in 2012 by virtuosos specializing in historically informed performances. The orchestra performs operas and orchestral works of the Baroque and the classical period in a manner faithful to the style of the era in which a work was originally conceived.
ELEFTHERIA ARVANITAKI & TAKIM (MUSIC)
Essentials: 14 June. 9:00pm
World-renowned singer Eleftheria Arvanitaki joins forces with TAKIM, one of the most popular bands in Greece, to perform Greek folk music with a twist. The band will cover several of Arvanitaki’s songs, drawing on her rich, 30-year-long body of work. Megaro Youth Symphony Orchestra (MOYSA), founded in March 2015, a community of young musicians aged 8-25 will also feature. See more information about the show here
PEROUZÉ by Theophrastos Sakellaridis (OPERA)
Essentials: 16 & 17 June. 9:00pm
Theophrastos Sakellaridis’ masterwork Perouzé premiered on 9 August 1911 at Olympia Theatre. A smashing success, it ran for two seasons and was performed throughout Greece. Perouzé was last presented in 1950 at the Greek National Opera. The opera’s premise revolves around the passionate and doomed romance between a gypsy girl and a young peasant boy. It is performed over two acts with the Athens Philharmonia Orchestra. See more information about the show here
NEW WORLDS BY Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and Friends (MUSIC)
Essentials: 19 June. 9:00pm
Actor Bill Murray met German cellist Jan Vogler on a trans-Atlantic flight. The two struck up a friendship. Being interested in each other’s artistic work, they came up with a joint project. New Worlds is a performance bridging the artistic legacy of America and Europe, and highlighting the fundamental values of American literature and music. See more information about the show here
FÊTE DE LA MUSIQUE by ERT National Symphony Orchestra (MUSIC)
Essentials: 21 June. 9:00PM
It has become an annual tradition at the festival for the ERT National Symphony Orchestra to perform one concert honouring the “Fête de la Musique” or World Music Day. Free admission.
STING LIVE AT THE ODEON (MUSIC)
Essentials: 22 & 23 June. 9:00pm
Sting will perform for two nights in what will be one of the most memorable concerts held at the Odeon. Throughout his illustrious career, Sting has sold close to 100 million albums from his combined work with The Police and as a solo artist. He has individually received 10 Grammy Awards, two Brits, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. SOLD OUT!
TRIBUTE CONCERT: LEFTERIS PAPADOPOULOS (MUSIC)
Essentials: 25 June. 9:00pm
For over half a century, the lyrics of Lefteris Papadopoulos have featured in popular Greek songs written by leading songwriters including, Theodorakis, Xarchakos, Loizos, Plessas, Kougioumtzis, Kaldaras and Nikolopoulos. His songs have been performed by top Greek singers, such as Grigoris Bithikotsis, Vicky Moscholiou, Stelios Kazantzidis, George Dalaras, and Charis Alexiou. In this tribute concert, performances by great singers and musicians will bring Lefteris Papadopoulos’ magical universe to life; a universe of the feminine mystique, given that the woman, the mother and the motherland all feature prominently in his lyrics.
WORKS OF TCHAIKOVSKY by Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra (MUSIC)
Essentials: 27 June. 9:00pm
In the first half of this performance, artists will perform Capriccio Italien and Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, followed by excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s great ballets (The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake). Established in 1930, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra was the first symphony orchestra active in the USSR, and the first orchestra to perform works from non-Soviet composers. See more information about the show here
JOSEPH CALLEJA – WORKS BY VERDI & MASSENET (MUSIC)
Essentials: 29 June. 9:00pm
Joseph Calleja and Ramón Tebar, two young opera artists with an international following join forces with Armonia Atenea – The Friends of Music Orchestra to perform works by Verdi and Massenet. See more information about the show here
JULY 2018 PROGRAMME AT THE ODEON
THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus (THEATRE)
Essentials: 1 July. 9:00pm
A production by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation will bring to the fore the incessant inner vibes of Aeschylus’ ancient Greek drama. First presented at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus last year to much acclaim. Aris Biniaris directs, together with a team of talented actors from Greece and Cyprus.
LONDON PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA with Michelle DeYoung (MUSIC)
Essentials: 2 July. 9:00pm
London based Philharmonia Orchestra returns to the Odeon to perform Beethoven’s Symphony no.3 along with excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung led by award winning Finnish conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen and joined by American soprano Michelle DeYoung. See more information about the show here
Essentials: 3 July. 9:00pm
Calexico have gathered fans from all over the world. An entirely new sub-genre, ‘desert noir,’ was coined to describe the band’s idiosyncratic style; a blend of traditional Latin music influences (mariachi, conjunto, cumbia, tejano), country, jazz and post-rock. This hugely popular band will perform at the Odeon for the very first time, presenting some of their biggest hits (“Stray,” “Falling from the sky,” “Crystal Frontier,” “Missing,” “Splitter”), along with songs from their newest, album, “The Threat that Keeps Us”, released earlier this year. See more information about the show here
NANA MOUSKOURI – I WILL TELL YOU A STORY (MUSIC)
Essentials: 5 July. 9:00pm
Nana Mouskouri began her singing career in Greece over 60 years ago and went on to become a world-famous star. The celebrated artist will perform some of her best-known songs, including “Chartino to fengaraki” and international hits, such as “White Rose of Athens,” “Α force de prier,” “Au Cœur de septembre” and “Le temps des cerises.” Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, an organisation which Mouskouri has been active with since its inception in 1990. See more information about the show here.
COMPANY by Stephen Sondheim (THEATRE)
Essentials: 8 & 9 July. 9:00pm
Armonia Atenea – The Friends of Music Orchestra returns to Athens Festival with Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company, presented in Greece for the very first time. Company made its Broadway debut in 1970 and received six Tony Awards, including those for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Lyrics, five Drama Desk Awards and one Theatre World Award. The performance will be directed by George Petrou, director of Armonia Atenea and a 2018 Grammy Nominee for Best Opera Recording for Handel’s Ottone, performed with the Il Pomo d’Oro Orchestra.
ANTIGONE by Sophocles (THEATRE)
Essentials: 11 July. 9:00pm
A production with co-directors, Emilios Chilakis and Manolis Dounias delve into Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, Antigone. A play that has become emblematic of resistance to power, Antigone examines young Antigone’s fatal decision to bury her dead brother, Polynices, in violation of the king’s rules. The ten roles of the play will be shared among three performers (Athina Maximou, Emilios Chilakis, Michalis Sarantis). A ten-member chorus will provide the narration. See more information about the show here
ATHENS STATE ORCHESTRA (MUSIC)
Essentials: 13 July. 9:00pm
Conducted by Stefanos Tsialis, the Athens State Orchestra will present a spellbinding performance at the Odeon. Martha Argerich, a living legend of the piano will be joined by her beloved student and rising star Theodosia Ntokou to perform Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos. Teacher and student will also perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ popular piece The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux). Argerich’s daughter, the French actress Annie Dutoit, will provide the narrative interludes. The performance will also include Cesar Franck’s majestic Symphony in D Minor and excerpts of Manos Hadjidakisʼ The Cursed Serpent, performed by Argerich together with special guest Dora Bakopoulou. Narration in French with Greek subtitles.
THESSALONIKI STATE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (MUSIC)
Essentials: 15 July. 9:00pm
The Thessaloniki State Symphony State Orchestra, will give its first Athenian performance conducted by its new artistic director, Zoi Tsokanou, together with the accomplished German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. The play list will include Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor and Shostakovich’s popular, uplifting Symphony No. 5.
DAPHNIS & CHLOE by Orestis Laskos (CINEMA)
Essentials: 16 July. 9:00pm
A screening of the early Greek film Dafnis and Chloe (1931), restored by the Greek Film Archive, with original music by Filippos Tsalahouris. The plot revolves around a pastoral romance between Dafnis and Chloe. The original, silent version of the film was successfully screened abroad, in Poland, Romania, Germany and USA. See more information about the show here
NIGEL KENNEDY –‘Bach Meets Kennedy meets Gershwin’ (MUSIC)
Essentials: 17 July. 9:00pm
Nigel Kennedy is one of the top violinists in the world and the best-selling violinist in the history of music. His concert ‘Bach meets Kennedy meets Gershwin’ will demonstrate his tour de force, establishing a dialogue between Bach and Gershwin. See more information about the show here
CARMEN by Georges Bizet (OPERA)
Essentials: 27, 28, 29, 31 July. 9:00pm
Symbolizing love and liberty, the most popular opera in the French repertoire is being brought back to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus by the Greek National Opera, directed by the famous British director, Steven Langridge, currently Artistic Director of the Gothenburg Opera. See more information about the show here
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ANCIENT THEATRE OF EPIDAURUS
The ancient theatre of Epidaurus is regarded as the best preserved ancient theatre in Greece and famous for its perfect acoustics. It was constructed in the late 4th century BC with a capacity of more than 12,000 spectators.
[This ancient theatre is located at Palea Epidaurus in Argolis. Getting there: A two hour drive from Athens. KTEL bus service provides transport to and from the venue.]
EPIDAURUS FESTIVAL 2018, “POLIS & CITIZEN”
The Epidaurus programme for 2018 falls under the overarching theme of “Polis and the Citizen.” It is closely connected to contemporary life in Greece and the Greek crisis. The tragedy genre easily explores the concept of the crisis through the tension between individuals and society. The festival is particularly interested in approaching tragedy as a “study of civic crisis.” Creative director, Vangelis Theodoropoulos explains.
“In each of the plays selected for presentation, the crisis assumes the proportions of civil war. This anatomy of civic crisis, symbolically reflected in the relationships of tragic heroes, is even more pertinent and relevant in times such as ours, when people lose faith to the polis. In challenging times, collectivities seemingly replace a weak and worn-out political system. Is it possible to redefine crucial concepts such as personal stance, responsibility, solidarity? Is it possible to give a new meaning to the concept of the polis? The best way to address and debate these issues on a public level is through art and theatre. Ancient drama is a public forum that enables us to do that. Epidaurus enables us to do that.”
JUNE PROGRAMME AT ANCIENT EPIDAURUS
THE ARCHANIANS by Aristophanes (THEATRE)
Essentials: 29 & 30 June 9:00PM
Aristophanes sets out to ridicule war and warmongers, expressing people’s longing for peace. The comedy is set in rural Attica, in Acharnae (modern-day Menidi).
Aristophanes is fully aware that the genre of comedy hails from religious ceremonies of fertility. Throughout The Acharnians, there are many references to Dionysus. In one memorable scene, Dikaiopolis and his family perform a phallic procession and sing a phallic song. There are also excellent comical scenes, typical of the Megara farces. The lively chorus of the old coal-miners of Menidi transforms this wonderful comedy into a frantic Dionysian feast. The performance will draw on popular tradition, echoing the Dionysian spirit so prominent in this work.
JULY PROGRAMME AT ANCIENT EPIDAURUS
AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus (THEATRE)
Essentials: 6 & 7 July 9:00PM
In Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, the tragic characters are doomed to suffer and die, whereas the members of the chorus are doomed to suffer and live, revisiting their misfortunes and seeking a way out. In a polis doomed to self-destruction, citizens, here represented by the chorus, must muster their strength and faith, and redefine their moral and civic values, thus ensuring their continued survival. This tragedy addresses the crucial need for reawakening citizens’ sense of duty.
PLUTUS by Aristophanes (THEATRE)
Essentials: 13 & 14 July. 9:00PM
From Aristophanes’ time to now, Plutus (Greek for “wealth”) is invariably the most powerful deity on the face of the earth; the driving force behind everything. Today’s inequality in wealth distribution is striking; the 100 richest people on the planet have accumulated more wealth than half the world’s population. Whether wealth is blind or has the gift of sight is completely irrelevant, what matters is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
ELECTRA by Sophocles (THEATRE)
Essentials: 20 & 21 July. 9:00PM
Written in the shadow of the Peloponnesian War, Electra is one of Sophocles’ most brutal plays. From the very first scene, the return of matricide Orestes, to the final scene with the victorious battle-cries of the chorus, the entire play is structured as an interplay of light and darkness; a battle of contradictions built around a trial, a violated balance and the need to redress that balance. Sophocles invites us to watch the workings of the natural world – the law of retaliation – through the lens of civil conflict.
Sophocles is not interested in the morality of the issue at hand. Whether balance will be restored in a peaceful or violent manner is irrelevant. Violence pervades human relationships. Violence breeds violence: wrongdoing invites retaliation. The fact that revenge here, in the form of matricide, goes far beyond what is normally expected in a so-called civilized society is also irrelevant. Sophocles’ Electra calls for retribution rather than justice.
THESMOPHORIAZUSAE by Aristophanes (THEATRE)
Essentials: 27 & 28 July 9:00PM
In Thesmophoriazusae, one of Aristophanes’ three female plays, written in 411 BC, at a time when Democracy was overthrown and replaced by Oligarchy, women call for political stability. Nowadays, women are no longer in the same difficult position. They are no longer restricted to imagining a political future without having the right to participate in the polis. However, there are still plenty of minorities with no access to the workings of the polis. A play about gender issues, the quest of personal identity, the right to equal civil rights, the crisis in values, law and nature. Above all, a play bursting with humour and theatricality, enabling actors to be fully present on stage as political entities.
AUGUST PROGRAMME AT ANCIENT EPIDAURUS
ORESTES by Euripides (THEATRE)
Essentials: 3 & 4 August 9:00PM
To what extent can a society caught up in a vicious cycle of crime find a way out? Three young people, Orestes, Electra, and Pylades are entangled in a spiral of blood and violence. Gods and humans have spun an intricate web of hatred and vengeance. Sibling love turns into complicity; friends become partners in crime; the people’s verdict leads to capital punishment. No end in sight for this war. The city will burn. Euripides’s tragedy lays the human soul bare. When everything terrible is said and done, only the “deus ex machina” (an unexpected power or event). Problem is, nobody believes in god’s fairy tales anymore.
THE FROGS by Aristophanes (THEATRE)
Essentials: 10 & 11 August 9:00PM
In The Frogs, Aristophanes attempts a phantasmagorical descent to the underworld. Much like Odysseus, Aristophanes seeks a path to his utopian Ithaca. One can only fulfil one’s life by discovering the true meaning of death. The polis must come to terms with its own lack of order to gain a more substantial presence. The Frogs stand in for humanity, humans are like amphibians, foreign both in land and sea, yet also feeling everywhere at home, ready to sing and dance. The carnival symbolizes humanity’s struggle to go beyond themselves, to conquer a distinct identity. This identity is not expressed in the dramas by the “realist” Euripides; it is expressed in the dramas written by the epic storyteller Aeschylus, this serious, imposing poet. Aeschylus constantly dismisses his opponent with the expression “lekythion apolesen,” or, “he lost his little oil flash,” an expression which is commonly held to be a joke about Euripides’ sexual impotence.
OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles (THEATRE)
Essentials: 17 & 18 August. 9:00PM
Sophocles’ final tragedy is at once a meditation on human fate and a tribute to his favourite city, Athens. A tragedy about physical and metaphysical borders, about the mystery of human freedom in the face of gods’ omnipotence, about responsibility, about old age, about the political rule of the polis. Oedipus at Colonus is an intimate poem, a spiritual journey.
From Syracuse to Epidaurus, our tragedy will carry Oedipus all the way to the sacred forest of the Furies, to his final apotheosis.
LITTLE THEATRE OF EPIDAURUS
The small theatre of ancient Epidaurus is located on the peninsula called “Nisi” (island), on the right side of the harbour. The theatre was discovered in 1971 and built in the 4th century BC. It was established in the Acropolis of the ancient city of Epidaurus at the south-western slope, before the period of Asklepios, and was used mainly for the events of the Dionysian cult and is therefore dedicated to the god Dionysus. It has a capacity of around 2000 seats. [Getting there: This ancient theatre is located in the Argolis prefecture of the Peloponnese. It is a half-hour drive from Nafplio and approximately two hours from Athens. More info on getting there.]
JULY PROGRAMME AT LITTLE EPIDAURUS
THE LIBATION BEARERS by Aeschylus (THEATRE)
Essentials: 6 & 7 July 9:00PM
“Am I shouting to the deaf and fruitlessly wasting my voice on people who are asleep?”. The greatest mourning song of ancient Greek literature. A premeditated crime set up on stage, with the complicity of the audience. The VASISTAS group approaches the play as a profound conflict between human instincts and social conformity, focusing on the chorus, this powerful voice that is constantly on stage, pushing things forward and inciting to murder. The two main characters of the play, Orestes and Electra, are like two puppets with barely any right to make choices for themselves. They are weighed down by the burden of the past, forced to follow it all the way, making a seemingly impossible choice. Their future is inextricably bound to the act of murder.
ANTIGONE by Sophocles (THEATRE)
Essentials: 20 & 21 July. 9:00PM
Arguably Sophocles’ most popular tragedy, Antigone is set in Thebes, shortly after the civil war that resulted in the mutual killing Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polynices.
Following their deaths, Creon, Antigone’s uncle who inherited the throne, has banned the burial of Polynices, believing he was a traitor and enemy of Thebes. Nevertheless, Antigone defies the law and buries her brother. Creon locks her away in prison and she takes her own life. By the end of the play, Creon is a tragic figure, one of the most harrowing characters in the entire canon of ancient drama.
AUGUST PROGRAMME AT LITTLE EPIDAURUS
PROMETHEUS BOUND by Aeschylus (THEATRE)
Essentials: 3 & 4 August. 9:00PM
In this performance, the director focuses on the power of language and spoken words, reciting the text in a rhythmical and melodious manner. Refraining from a conventional dramatic performance and instead making discourse central, insisting on a clear recitation of the words and their meaning. The use of masks and carefully planned movement will infuse the performance with theatricality. The production will adopt a very strict motif of music and movement, allowing performers to express themselves inside a very tightly constructed aesthetic universe.
ANCIENT STADIUM OF EPIDAURUS
The Ancient Stadium of Epidaurus, is located next to the Sanctuary of Asklepius. It was constructed in the 4th century BC to host the athletic games every four years to honour Asklepius, the god of healing. Still visible are the starting pillars and a number of the stone benches for spectators. Today, the natural slope of the ground is used for the arrangement of seats.
THE EUMENIDES by Aeschylus (THEATRE)
Essentials: 13 & 14 July 9:00PM
In the third part of Aeschylus’ trilogy, Orestes finds himself at the Delphi oracle, asking Apollo to help him escape the Furies, who have been following in hot pursuit ever since Orestes murdered his mother. The god urges him to leave while the Furies are asleep and to seek refuge in Athens. The Furies are banished from Apollo’s temple and chase Orestes all the way to Athens, whereupon they find him as a suppliant at the statue of Athena. The goddess appears and demands she hear both sides: the prosecuting Furies and the defendant Orestes. In the ensuing trial, Athena’s tie-breaking vote absolves Orestes, an act that is tantamount to the foundation of both democracy and patriarchy. The Furies are ultimately appeased and transformed into Eumenides, “the kindly ones.”
This performance meets a very specific need: to delve into the depths of the human soul, exposing dreams, insecurities, and fears before a live audience in an attempt to bring together the conscious and the unconscious.
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