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
Programme for the ancient theatres of Odeon of Herodes Atticus & Epidaurus
TICKETS: Pre-sale tickets are now available, 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]
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.
Essentials: 9:00pm, 30 July
The great Belgian composer and pianist 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.
SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Butler of Fleet Street
Essentials: 9:00pm, 31 August
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.
AMYNTAS by George Mormoris
Essentials: 9:00pm, 26 September
Amyntas premiered at the Athens Festival in 2016 and will be performed again at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, in loving memory of the late director and scholar, Spyros Evangelatos. Originally written by Torquato Tasso, Amyntas is set in a forest full of love-struck shepherds, sheep, virgin Amazons, wild beasts and legendary creatures such as satyrs, dragons and deities of love. Evangelatos used the Greek translation by George Mormoris, which he described as “exuding a freshness and a youthfulness and is noted for its charming humour.” The production seeks to convey a dreamlike sense, moving to and fro between the atmospherics of a benign nightmare and a poetic farce.
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
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.
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.
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.]
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