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 that takes place at various venues around the city, including the former industrial buildings at Piraeus 260, the Ancient Agora of Athens and the Onassis Cultural Centre. Performances at the two ancient amphitheatres of Odeon Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Epidaurus are highlights of the festival. Both theatres 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 festival will once again present a diverse programme that has been described as youthful, alternative and political. There is a nod to the city’s cultural heritage with a full schedule of ancient Greek drama, comedy and tragedies showing at Epidaurus theatre throughout July and August. The performances showing at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens and Epidaurus (a two hour drive from the city) are listed below.
The Athens and Epidaurus Festival 2017
22 May – 19 August
Programme for the ancient theatres of Odeon of Herodes Atticus & Epidaurus
TICKETS: Pre-sale tickets are now available and can be purchased at the festival’s main box office (Panepistimiou 39, inside the Pesmazoglou Arcade) or by telephone at (+30) 210 3272 000.
Online pre-sale information listed below.
ODEON OF HERODES ATTICUS
The spectacular amphitheatre 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]
MUSIC OF CRETE
Essentials: 9:00pm, 28 June
A concert dedicated to the richness and beauty of Cretan music. Motifs and songs representative of Cretan musical traditions will be featured, such as the rizitika, Cretan serenades (kantades) with violin and mandolin,as well as other popular songs from the island’s rich cultural legacy. The performance will also throw a spotlight on women’s contribution to the musical tradition of Crete, drawing on lullabies, mantinades, and excerpts from the 17th-century romance Erotokritos. Lyres and violins from all over Crete will fill the stage for one evening of moving, inspiring music.
ORCHESTRA, Estoudiantina Neas Ionias, with George Dalaras
Essentials: 9:00pm, 30 June
Renowned for their contributions in the field of Mediterranean music, Estoudiantina Neas Ionias will take audiences on a musical tour through Greece, Italy, Portugal to the Arab world to acknowledge the displacement experienced by migrants and refugees. The orchestra will be joined on stage by famous musicians, including George Dalaras, who has been collaborating with Estoudiantina since its very beginning. The music band Chainides, Italo-Greek music collective Encardia, singer-songwriter Leonidas Balafas, traditional rebetiko singer Aspasia Stratigou, and up-and-coming musician Marina Satti will also feature.
BYZANTINE & OTTOMAN MUSIC
Essentials: 9:00pm, 3 July
Twenty members of the Tropos Byzantine Choir and a fourteen-member ensemble of Turkish singers will join forces playing the Politiki lyra and the ney. The concert will cover a wide range of eastern music, including Byzantine sounds that originated in the mid-10th century, and Istanbul’s Ottoman music. The virtuoso of ney and UNESCO artist for peace, Kudsi Ergüner, and the virtuoso of lyra, Sokratis Sinopoulos, will perform together on stage.
Essentials: 9:00pm, 5 July
Arguably one of the greatest silent films ever made, Sergei Eisenstein’s, Battleship Potemkin will be screened on the Odeon stage and accompanied live by the Athens State Orchestra. Featuring Dmitri Shostakovich’s, five Shostakovich symphonies (4, 5, 8, 10 and 11) under the baton of distinguished German conductor Jens Troester.
ST PETERSBERG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Essentials: 9:00pm, 6-7 July
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya will be presented on 6 July, followed by internationally renowned, 25-year-old Spanish cellist Pablo Ferrández’s performance of P. I. Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece for cello and orchestra, Variations on a Rococo Theme. The evening will come to a close with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s final composition, Symphonic Dances.
On 7 July, Russian pianist Denis Matsuev will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. In its closing appearance, the Orchestra will perform Igor Stravinsky’s music for the ballet Petrushka.
TRIBUTE TO MANOLIS RASOULIS
Essentials: 9:00pm, 9 July
The late Manolis Rasoulis was a lyricist, singer, songwriter, author, and journalist, with dozens of popular songs, articles, radio shows, and television interviews under his belt. One the finest Greek lyricists of the last several years, his songs are as relevant as ever. Many of them have been performed by highly regarded musicians, defining the musical landscape of Greece. The album The Revenge of the Gypsy Style, recorded together with artists Nikos Xydakis and Nikos Papazoglou, changed the course of Greek folk music. This tribute performance will feature some of Rasoulis’ best songs from his collaborations with major composers and performers, such as Manos Loïzos, Nikos Xydakis, Stavros Kouyioumtzis, Christos Nikolopoulos, Petros Vagiopoulos, Vaso Allagianni, Nikos Papazoglou, Haris Alexiou, Eleni Vitali, Sokratis Malamas, Orfeas Peridis, and Melina Kana.
Essentials: 9:00pm, 13 July
The lyrical European composer Yann Tiersen best known for his score for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film Amélie. Tiersen’s impressive track record also includes soundtracks for Good Bye, Lenin! and Tabarly along with nine studio albums. His most recent album, Eusa, is inspired by the small Brittany island Ile d’Ouessant, Tiersen is a long-time favourite among Greek audiences.
MARTHA AGERICH, accompanied by Athens State Orchestra
Essentials: 9:00pm, 15 July
Conducted by Stefanos Tsialis, the Athens State Orchestra will accompany Martha Argerich, a living legend of the piano and one of the leading musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, in a magical evening at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The celebrated pianist 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 join forces to perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ popular piece The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux). French actress and Argerich’s daughter, Annie Dutoit, will act out the narrative interludes (with Greek subtitles).
IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi
Essentials: 9:00pm, 21, 23, 25, 27 July
The Greek National Opera closes its summer artistic period performing an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi. Il Trovatore is a romantic melodrama set in Spain during the civil war of Aragon in the 15th century. Performing in Italian with Greek and English subtitles.
SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Butler of Fleet Street
Essentials: 9:00pm, 29 July
In its third annual musical production, the Armonia Atenea – The Friends of Music Orchestra and George Petrou will once again impress audiences at the Athens Festival with the acclaimed musical thriller Sweeney Todd. This impressive production will feature a cast of 26, including popular actors and opera singers, along with a symphonic orchestra ensemble of 35. The play which is set in bleak 19th-century London, is a parable for the darkest aspects of humanity and society.
Sweeney Todd was first presented on Broadway in 1979, received a Tony award the same year. Music and lyrics by the living legend of American musical theatre, Stephen Sondheim and script by Hugh Wheeler.
Essentials: 9:00pm, 30 July
The great Belgian composer Wim Mertens will return to Greece for a single, bewitching concert. Boasting over 65 albums and a large fan base from all around the world, Mertens is world-renowned for his minimalist music and his diverse influences from classical, pop, jazz, and ambient music.
SISTEMA EUROPE YOUTH ORCHESTRA (SEYO)
Essentials: 9:00pm, 1 August
Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra (SEYO) consists of 190 young musicians between the ages of ten and twenty, as well as thirty music teachers from 27 countries that have adopted Sistema and Sistema-inspired programmes for “social action through music.” In August, SEYO will come to Athens for its annual summer camp, celebrating the ability of music to unite nations, religions, and cultures, especially during these difficult times facing Europe.
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.]
The theatre works listed are performed in Greek with English subtitles
SEVEN AGAINST THEBES by Aeschylus
Essentials: 9:00pm, 30 June, 1 July
One of the most successful performances of last year’s Festival, Seven Against Thebes is repeated again this year, kicking off the Epidaurus Festival 2017 programme. An exploration of our commonly shared survival instincts and how these instincts are compatible with our fundamental need to remain human, despite our fears and insecurities. The National Theatre of Northern Greece presents this political tragedy adopting the modern translation by Greek poet George Plana. Directed by renowned Lithuanian director, Cezaris Graužinis.
OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles
Essentials: 9:00pm, 7-8 July
This ancient Athenian tragedy that many regard as Sophocles’ masterpiece is presented by Stavros Tsakiris who adopts the style of narrative theatre. The cast will narrate a parable on a stage that is virtually empty. The characters are conceived as apparitions of the dying Oedipus. Minos Matsas’ music will serve as a parallel text to be recited by the cast, lending to the performance an air of epic and lyric poetry. The title role is portrayed by the great Kostas Kazakos.
THE BACCHAE by Euripides
Essentials: 9:00pm, 14-15 July
The god Dionysus arrives at the city of Thebes, disguised in human form. King Pentheus struggles to fortify the city and himself against a religion that threatens to make everyone equal; current and former kings, gods and slaves, oracles and messengers, men and women alike and transform the world into a place where humans are reconciled with their basest and purest instincts. The Bacchae is the only surviving ancient Greek tragedy to feature Dionysus both as a character and as the all-seeing director/author.
PEACE by Aristophanes, a musical performance, with music by Nikos Kypourgos
*This production will also play at Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens on 4th and 5th September (TICKETS FOR THESE DATES NOT YET RELEASED)
The great Greek composer Nikos Kypourgos and the talented young writer Dimosthenis Papamarkos have been commissioned by the National Theatre of Greece to write the music and libretto respectively for a musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ Peace, directed by the accomplished Konstantinos Arvanitakis.
ALCESTIS by Euripides
*This production will also play at Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens on 21, 23, 26 August & 6, 11, 14th September (TICKETS FOR THESE DATES NOT YET RELEASED)
Director Katerina Evangelatos makes her Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus debut, tackling one of Euripides’ most intriguing and provocative tragedies, on commission by the National Theatre of Greece. Dramatising the triumph of life over death, Alcestis (438 B.C.), Euripides’ oldest surviving work, is the subject of endless debates regarding its genre, as it contains both tragic and comical elements.
MEDEA by Euripides
Essentials: 9:00pm, 4-5 August
The two faces of love: one is brutal, immersed in pain and darkness; the other is dreamy, pleasurable and bathed in light. Drawing on Euripides’ play and ancient Greek texts by Sappho, Plato, Theophrastus and others, this production by the Greek Art Theatre Karolos Koun will celebrate the joy and grief of love, while investigating how the deep, terrifying darkness of love as a brutal practice can devour beauty and nobility, leading one’s soul to absolute evil.
THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus
Essentials: 9:00pm, 11-12 August
Having won acclaim in recent years for his electrifying performances, director Aris Biniaris makes his Epidaurus debut in a production by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation, featuring a cast of talented actors from Greece and Cyprus. The cornerstone of this production is the interplay of rhythm and words; a vibrant synthesis of poetic language, music, and stage action. The dramatis personae and the chorus will be performed in a manner suggestive of the musical texture of the play. The production will unfold through dramatic action, words, singing, and dancing in quest of a fundamental simplicity that will bring to the fore the incessant inner vibes of the ancient Greek drama.
PRE-SALE TICKETS: TBA
DANCES OF THE PELOPONNESE, closing celebration
Essentials: 9:00pm, 19 August
Inspired by the musical beat 7/8, which can be traced back to Aristophanes and the ancient Tsakonikos ritual dance, the Epidaurus Festival will pay tribute to the rich musical and dance tradition of the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, a timeless treasure trove of identity and historical memory.
PRE-SALE TICKETS: TBA
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.]
MEDEA, a male perspective with Dimitris Karantzas
Essentials: 9:00pm, 30 June
An attempt to retrieve and illuminate the Medea conundrum. Three male performers will question, re-examine, and attempt to provide answers to the legend of Medea from a male perspective.
THE ARRIVAL, based on the section, ‘The Killing of the Suitors’ from Homer’s Odyssey
Essentials: 9:30pm, 7-8 July
The Odyssey is primarily a song of return, hailing from an era when sailors’ long voyages would inspire songs lamenting their absence. The performance will focus on Odysseus return, to address the impossibility of homecoming. We can never really return home: time moves relentlessly forward. Reality cannot match what was preserved in memory. Hence, Odysseus returns to his “ghost of a dream.”
CYCLOPS by Euripides
Essentials: 9:30pm, 21-22 July
An all-female production examining the land of the cyclops, a masculine, raw, violent world of mutual killing and man-eating, where justice is tantamount to the survival of the fittest.
Essentials: 9:30, 4-5 August
Provocative actor, poet and director Olivier Py attempts to give meaning to the present by re-interpreting two major plays by Aeschylus; Prometheus Bound and The Suppliants. In French, with Greek and English subtitles