The Ultimate Guide to the Athens Epidaurus Festival 2024

Greece’s premier summer festival in Athens and Epidaurus is a cultural odyssey of music, theatre, dance, and visual arts, celebrating tradition and innovation.


The Athens Epidaurus Festival stands as the pinnacle of Greece’s summer cultural calendar, celebrated annually with a rich legacy spanning 69 years. Each summer, this renowned festival transforms the historic landscapes of Athens and Epidaurus into vibrant stages for a myriad of artistic expressions and cultural events.

From May 31 to August 24, this year’s festival promises an impressive lineup, featuring 93 productions over 85 days. With approximately 2,500 performers and creators from around the globe, the festival offers an unparalleled cultural experience for those visiting the Greek capital.

 

The festival’s diverse program includes music, theatre, dance, and visual arts, all while delving into contemporary themes such as democracy, justice, and inclusion. The performances at the ancient theatres of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, both famed for their exceptional acoustics and historical significance, are undoubtedly among the highlights. Attending a performance in these iconic ancient venues is not just an event but a once-in-a-lifetime experience that connects the present with the rich cultural heritage of Greece.

Join us as we dive into the complete program, offering you a detailed look at what to expect from this year’s Athens Epidaurus Festival across the four main venues.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Constructed in 161 AD by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, known locally as the “Irodion,” stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of ancient Greek culture. Nestled beneath the shadow of the Acropolis in the historic heart of Athens, this iconic stone theatre is celebrated for its remarkable acoustics, regularly hosting an array of distinguished performances that blend the ancient with the modern.

From powerful operatic performances to innovative dance works and world-renowned musicians, this summer’s rich and varied program at the Odeon is sure to delight and inspire. Whether you’re a lover of classical music, contemporary dance, or eclectic world music, this historic venue provides an unparalleled setting for experiencing some of the best performances the Athens Epidaurus Festival has to offer.

June 1, 2, 6, and 11: “Tosca” by the Greek National Opera

Directed by Hugo De Ana, “Tosca” is a dramatic tale of love and betrayal set against the backdrop of Rome in 1800. Renowned for its powerful arias and intense emotional depth, this opera by Giacomo Puccini is a cornerstone of the classical repertoire.

June 13: Anohni and the Johnsons

Anohni and the Johnsons will take the stage, blending soulful melodies with avant-garde music, offering a performance that promises to be both haunting and beautiful.

June 15: Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Leonidas Kavakos

 

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax, and violinist Leonidas Kavakos will perform a selection of Beethoven’s chamber works.

June 17: Tribute to Mimis Plessas

A tribute concert dedicated to legendary Greek composer Mimis Plessas will celebrate his 100th birthday with performances of his most cherished compositions, a must-see for fans of Greek music.

June 18: London Philharmonia Orchestra

Conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the London Philharmonia Orchestra will present works by Glinka, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky.

June 21: World Music Day Celebration

To celebrate World Music Day, the ERT National Symphony Orchestra will offer a special concert featuring a blend of classical and contemporary pieces.

June 25: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Renowned choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker will showcase her new contemporary dance work, EXIT ABOVE, continuing her legacy of innovation in movement.

June 26: Loreena McKennitt

Acclaimed Canadian singer and composer Loreena McKennitt will bring her unique blend of Celtic and world music to the Odeon, performing selections from her extensive discography and celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of her landmark album “The Mask and Mirror.”

June 28: Athens State Orchestra

Under the experienced baton of celebrated Estonian-born American conductor Neeme Järvi, the Athens State Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, culminating in the iconic “Ode to Joy.”

June 30: Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Led by Sir Simon Rattle, the award-winning Chamber Orchestra of Europe will perform works by Dvorak, Mahler, Bartok, and Schubert, showcasing their precision and interpretative depth.

July 4: Grazer Philharmoniker

With pianist Alexia Mouza and conducted by Vassilis Christopoulos, the Grazer Philharmonic Orchestra will perform works by classical masters Strauss, Mozart, and Mahler, promising a night of musical elegance.

July 5 and 6: Sting

 

Legendary British rock musician Sting will grace the Odeon stage with his greatest hits, blending rock, jazz, and world music. Joining him on stage will be the multi-talented songwriter and performer Giordana Angi.

July 8 and 9: Dionysis Savvopoulos

Greek music icon Dionysis Savvopoulos will present a tribute to the “Metapolitefsi era,” featuring politically charged and socially reflective songs, and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece

July 10: Philharmonic Brass Orchestra

Conducted by Philippe Auguin, the newly-formed Philharmonic Brass Orchestra will deliver a vibrant performance showcasing the rich sounds of brass instruments.

July 12: Athens State Orchestra

Once again under Lukas Karytinos, the Athens State Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, showcasing the remarkable talents of Georgian piano superstar, Katia Buniatishvili.

July 14: Tania Tsanaklidou

Celebrating her 50-year career, Tania Tsanaklidou will offer a retrospective of her music – “50 Summers and Winters” – enchanting the audience with her soulful voice and poignant lyrics.

July 16: Jakub Józef Orliński

The acclaimed Polish counter-tenor Jakub Józef Orliński, whose voice has been described as “the most eerily beautiful on the planet,” will present a program of Baroque arias, showcasing his remarkable range and emotive interpretation.

July 18: Charles Lloyd and Maria Farantouri

Jazz legend Charles Lloyd and his Sky Quartet, with Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri, will perform, blending jazz with traditional Greek music in a unique and memorable concert.

July 27, 28, 30, and 31: “La Traviata” by the Greek National Opera

The Greek National Opera will close out July with Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata,” featuring American opera superstar Nadine Sierra as Violetta (in the first cast; Greek soprano Vassiliki Karayanni in the second). This poignant story of love and sacrifice is a timeless opera that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Argolid

The majestic Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, dating back to the late 4th century BC, stands as a remarkable testament to ancient Greek architectural ingenuity and cultural heritage. Known for its exceptional acoustics, this well-preserved structure is located within the sanctuary of Asklepios in Palea Epidaurus, deep in the heart of the Argolid, in the northeast Peloponnese. With a seating capacity of over 12,000 spectators, the theatre provides a majestic setting for significant cultural performances.

Whether you’re a seasoned theatre enthusiast or a curious newcomer, the performances at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus are sure to provide an unforgettable cultural experience.

July 5 and 6: “Iphigenia in Aulis” by Euripides

Esteemed director Timofey Kulyabin makes his Epidaurus debut with a contemporary political adaptation of Euripides’ tragedy “Iphigenia in Aulis.” Featuring a distinguished cast of Greek actors, this production offers a fresh and provocative perspective on the ancient tale of sacrifice and duty.

July 12 and 13: “Oresteia” by Aeschylus

The National Theatre of Greece presents Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” trilogy, exploring themes of justice and retribution. Under the direction of internationally acclaimed Greek director and teacher, Theodoros Terzopoulos, this performance delves into the transformation of societal values and the enduring influence of the gods on human affairs, offering a profound examination of human nature and divine will.

July 19 and 20: “Plutus” by Aristophanes

 

Presented by the National Theatre of Northern Greece, Aristophanes’ comedy “Plutus” critiques societal attitudes towards wealth and morality through its humorous narrative. This satirical examination of economic disparity and human nature remains relevant and insightful, promising an evening of laughter and reflection.

July 26 and 27: “Hecuba, Not Hecuba” by Tiago Rodrigues

Tiago Rodrigues, the new artistic director of the Avignon Festival, presents “Hecuba, Not Hecuba,” featuring Comédie-Française. This performance reimagines Euripides’ classic by blending the myth of Hecuba with the story of an actress and mother, offering a modern and poignant interpretation that resonates with contemporary audiences.

August 2 and 3: “The Bacchae” by Euripides

Euripides’ “The Bacchae” depicts the intense conflict between Dionysus and Pentheus, exploring themes of divine power and human resistance. This production by the National theatre of Greece, directed by Thanos Papakonstantinou, examines the dire consequences of ignoring the divine and the resulting chaos, providing a powerful and immersive theatrical experience.

August 9 and 10: “Birds” by Aristophanes

Aristophanes’ fantastical comedy “Birds” follows two Athenians who create a utopian city among the birds. This imaginative storyline offers a sharp critique of contemporary political and social issues, making it a thought-provoking and entertaining performance.

August 23 and 24: “The Suppliants” by Aeschylus

Aeschylus’ “The Suppliants” tells the story of Danaus’ daughters seeking asylum to escape forced marriages. This ancient drama, presented by the Karolos Koun Art Theatre in collaboration with Neos Kosmos Theatre, highlights themes of refuge, human rights, and divine justice, offering a powerful commentary on the timeless struggles for freedom and dignity.

The Little Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus

Nestled within the verdant landscape of the Peloponnese, the Little Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus offers an intimate setting perfect for innovative performances that seamlessly blend classical texts with contemporary interpretations. This year’s Contemporary Ancients Cycle returns with a dynamic lineup, bridging the past and present to provide a unique cultural experience under the stars.

Whether you’re drawn to the innovative reinterpretations of ancient texts or the soulful musical performances, the theatre provides a unique and immersive cultural experience that highlights the enduring legacy and contemporary relevance of Greek theatre and music.

July 5 and 6: “Iphigenia / Prey – “Me, Her Servant”

This innovative reinterpretation of Euripides’ “Iphigenia in Aulis” is written by Vangelis Hatziyannidis and Vivian Stergiou as two theatrical monologues. Directed by Nikos Hatzopoulos and Ekaterini Papageorgiou respectively, “Iphigenia / Prey” reexamines the themes of sacrifice and destiny.

July 13: Alexia Voulgaridou and Jan Roelof Wolthuis

Internationally acclaimed soprano Alexia Voulgaridou and Dutch composer and pianist Jan Roelof Wolthuis will grace the intimate stage with performances of classical lieder, presenting works by Schumann, Wagner, Ravel, and Strauss.

July 20: Dimitris Kalantzis

 

Jazz master Dimitris Kalantzis will present jazz arrangements of works by renowned Greek composers, including Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis.

July 26 and 27: Eleonora Zouganeli

Renowned for her soulful voice and emotional delivery, beloved Greek singer Eleonora Zouganeli will perform songs from the folk and “archontorebetiko” genres.

Special Program (24 to 29 June): Parodos

The interdisciplinary artistic research program Parodos, introduced in 2021, returns this year. Coordinated by director Simos Kakalas, Parodos involves young artists in the exploration and reinterpretation of classical texts. This year’s focus will be on Euripides’ “Orestes,” allowing emerging talents to delve into the complexities of the ancient drama while bringing fresh perspectives and contemporary relevance to the stage.

Peiraios 260

Located in the Tavros district of Athens, Peiraios 260 is a dynamic venue central to the Athens Epidaurus Festival. Situated near the Athens School of Fine Arts and accessible via Polykratous Street, this year’s program delves into themes of identity, technology’s impact, societal seclusion, and the joy found in togetherness.

Here are some of the performances on offer at Peiraios 260 this summer:

June 5 to 7: “Can Art Change the World?” by Krzysztof Warlikowski

Renowned Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski’s new production, based on the works of South African Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee, questions whether art has the power to change the world or if this hope is merely utopian. This thought-provoking performance challenges audiences to reconsider the role of art in society.

June 13 and 14: “Lacrima” by Caroline Guiela Nguyen

 

“Lacrima” follows the creation of a royal garment, weaving a tale of social oppression. Directed by Caroline Guiela Nguyen, this performance highlights the intricate ways in which societal structures impact individual lives.

June 15 and 16: AEF Urban Dance Contest

The AEF Urban Dance Contest showcases contemporary dance talents through the Hip Hop Battle & All Styles Battle. This event celebrates the vibrancy and creativity of the urban dance scene.

June 15 to 18: “Songs of the Greek People – Drag Oratorio” by Giannis Skourletis

Giannis Skourletis’ “Songs of the Greek People – Drag Oratorio” combines drag, music, and social commentary in a bold, genre-defying performance. This groundbreaking piece uses the art of drag to address and challenge social norms.

June 17 and 18: “Cryptogam” by Niketi Kontouri

Directed by Niketi Kontouri, “Cryptogam” is the debut play by Michalis Albatis. A theatrical monologue set in a small town in early 1980s Crete, this performance addresses contemporary societal issues, offering a fresh perspective on the complexities of modern life.

June 21 to 26: “Monsieur Linh and His Child” by Guy Cassiers

Belgian director Guy Cassiers presents “Monsieur Linh and His Child,” a moving exploration of identity and belonging. This monologue delves into the profound connections that define our sense of self and place in the world.

June 29 and 30: “Zonder” by Ayelen Parolin

Ayelen Parolin’s “Zonder” is a choreographic performance set to Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube.” Blending humour and social commentary, this piece uses dance to explore and critique societal norms.

July 14 and 15: “Parallax” by Kornel Mundruczo

“Parallax” by world-renowned Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo examines the intersection of personal diversity and broader political stances. This performance challenges audiences to reflect on how individual experiences shape and are shaped by the political landscape.

July 21 to 25: Grape Festival

Held at Peiraios 260, the Grape Festival returns for a second year as part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival, with eight innovative theatre and dance productions. Highlights include:

– “Etymologies”: Explores the importance of uncertainty, doubt, and ambiguity in relation to language, communication, and national identity.

– “Ta skylia / The dogs”: Delves into the cruelty of human relationships.

– “Bless the Mess”: Explores the question: how can confusion be turned into a tool, a strategy for creation?

– “Connection Error”:  Examines the impact of technology on human connections.

For more details on this year’s program and other festival events, visit the Athens Epidaurus Festival official website.


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