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  • EUThe Presidency (EU)

Starry nights full of theatre and music!

As summer sets in and the Greek Presidency draws to a close, it’s time for the Athens and Epidaurus Festival (aka Greek Festival). This ‘jewel in the crown’ of the cultural season in Greece, with a history of almost 60 years, begins on 1 June running through mid-August. Its aim is to present contemporary artists from around the globe and acquaint the audience with both innovative and pervasive trends of modern artistic creation.

The festival began its journey as the Epidaurus Festival in 1954 which expanded to include an Athens component a year later, known as the Athens Festival. The programme featured theatre, dance, opera and music performances, held at the Roman Herod Atticus Odeon, at the foothill of the Acropolis as well as ancient drama performances or opera productions at the Epidaurus theatre, unique for its accoustics. In the 1950s Greece, the festival brought with it an aura of cosmopolitanism, extricating the country from excessive introspection and opening new vistas for cultural creativity.

Since the mid-50s, the two iconic venues welcomed on their stage scores of world-renowned artists, individual performers and ensembles, making world-class art accessible to the post-war Greek society. Legends such as Dimitris Mitropoulos, Maria Callas, Mstislav Rostropovich, Luciano Pavarotti, Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hadjidakis in music; Dimitris Rondiris, Karolos Koun, Giorgio Strehler, Peter Hall in theatre; Georges Balanchine and Pina Bausch, Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, Martha Graham, Alicia Alonso and Maya Plisetskaya in ballet; ensembles like the Noh Theatre, the Bunraku Puppet Theatre, the Peking Opera, and the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre are just some of the names that featured on the Festival’s programme, over the years.

It may have been that the festival has displayed, over the course of its history, an equivocal attitude towards cultural preferences, oscillating between cosmopolitanism and introversion, adjusting to the prevailing mood of Greek society at the time. More recently, the state of affairs has changed again with the decision to systematically open up the Festival to cutting-edge international productions, and to promote young Greek artists, to spread events across the entire city by adding new venues every year, seeking out new, varied audiences.

This year’s programme includes, apart from a host of concerts and musical events, 27 domestic drama productions, of the Greek and international repertoire (twenty-three in Athens, three at the Epidaurus theatre and one in Little Theatre at Epidaurus), many of which are signed by young, emerging directors. Another five foreign productions characteristic of current aesthetic trends. In addition, the theatre production of “The woman of Zante” will be presented, in collaboration with the Diazoma Association, to ancient theatres across the country.

Check the Festival’s full programme for more details and … don’t forget to make arrangements for your night out in a local wine-bar or tavern, after whichever event you choose to attend!