Yet amongst all the new faces, there is one festival that truly stands out. Also known as the Hellenic Festival, the Athens-Epidaurus Festival is the godfather of cultural events in the Greek capital. Established in 1955 by George Rallis, then minister of the presidency under the government of Alexander Papagos, it is the oldest cultural festival in Greece, and one that heralded a new era for Greek art and culture when it began.
In its first year, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, conducted by Dimitris Mitropoulos. The performance was so well-received, insecurity arose amongst certain sections of the Greek population that Greece was a cultural backwater, without a doubt a feeling that had some of its roots in its turbulent history, from four hundred years of Turkish occupation, to the poverty experienced in the occupied country during the Second World War.
Since 1955, the festival exists as a testament to the decision to develop Greece’s cultural landscape made all those years ago. Over the years, the Athens Festival has evolved, developed and grown both in size and scope, encapsulating a truly contemporary identity that revels in theatre, music, opera and art. Indeed, if Greece had a mirror, this festival would be it. No matter how cool those younger festivals might be, the Athens –Epidaurus Festival has something they don’t – history, and a rich one at that.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus Performances
June 8 Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble Conducted by Marc Minkowski Works by Joseph Haydn
The eclectic French conductor Marc Minkowski and the Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble will be honouring the two hundredth anniversary of the death of the “father of the symphony”, Josef Haydn (1723-1809).
June 16 L’Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio The Magic FluteAdapted from W.A Mozart
The highly unusual multi-cultural orchestra from Rome presents its own version of Mozart beloved opera.
June 17 Philharmonia Orchestra Conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen Soloist: Janis Vakarelis
Franz Liszt Piano Concerto No 2 in A major
Gustav MahlerSymphony No 6
June 21 Café de los Maestros An Argentine Buena Vista Social Club, an orchestra of veterans who draw authentic tango out of the depths of their being, bring to life everything that has transformed it into a powerful international language of the emotions.
June 29 Filarmonica della Scala Conducting from the piano Daniel Barenboim Ludwig van Beethoven Piano concerto No. 3 in C minor, Opus 37 (c.1800)
Hector Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Opus 14 (1830)
July 6 & 7 Mariinsky Theatre Ballet (Kirov) The Swan Lake St. Petersburg’s famous company presents one of the world’s favorite ballets.
July 13 NTGent & Veenfabriek Johan Simons Ödön von Horváth Kasimir and Karoline Johan Simons and Paul Koek – early co-directors of the legendary Theatergroep Hollandia – turn the dramatic folk romance by Ödön von Horváth, the poet playwright, into a sparkling piece of musical theatre which highlights the universality of its acerbic social criticism.
For a full list of performances, venues and ticket reservations see: www.greekfestival.gr