“Open your mind before your mouth,” wrote Aristophanes, the Athenian father of Greek comedy, somewhere around 400BC.
The Athenian fondness for probing the Big Questions through the performing arts still burns brightly. Especially when Greece’s most prestigious arts showcase, the Athens Epidaurus Festival, pulls into town each summer. So if you want to have a quintessentially Athenian experience, follow the lead of many other international culture buffs and time your trip to coincide with this three-month binge-fest of world-class music, theatre, dance and visual arts.
Between late May and August, you can enjoy classical and contemporary gigs, rebooted ancient theatre (perhaps you’ll catch one of Aristophanes’ golden oldies), boundary breaking dance, and provocative operas, by leading Greek and international artists. All held at some of the Greece’s most epic venues – and all with English subtitles. In Athens, the action jumps between the magnificent roman amphitheatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and Pireos 260, a progressive contemporary culture hub, beloved to us locals. The rest of the bill unfolds at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus (a must-see landmark about two and a half hours from Athens) and its smaller sibling, The Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus.
With reams of performances to choose from, we thought you might appreciate a heads-up about some hot ticket highlights. Don’t just take our word for it though. Scroll through the full programme guide on the official website here and see what else floats your boat. Or check out more of our Athens Epidaurus Festival picks in our What’s On agenda.
DANCE: Beaver Dam Company & Edouard Hue - All I Need
In Edouard Hue’s All I Need, the stage is the board of Go, and the nine dancers are the pawns, thrown into calculated delirium. Hue (Swiss Dance Awards 2019) and Beaver Dance Company pose questions about humanity’s best and worst impulses in a dance performance inspired by the Asian take on chess. They made the first move. Turn the game or witness their takeover of Pireos 260. READ MORE
THEATRE: The Other Side of the Tempest
1- 7 June
Reality goes bye bye as the notable Greek director and former artistic director of the National Theatre of Greece, Yannis Houvardas, fabricates a fortuitous encounter between William Shakespeare and Orson Welles in his newest gripping production. The Other Side of the Tempest places Prosperos’ magical island in Hollywood and stars a brilliant, cross-generational cast of Greek actors, promising a “spectacular mixture of theatre and cinema”. READ MORE
CLASSICAL MUSIC: World Music Day
A free classical concert beneath the Acropolis? At one of the greatest open-air amphitheatres in the world? What's the catch, you say? No catch! It's all part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival's annual quest to offer a memorable helping of high-culture to all, in honour of World Music Day. The ERT National Symphony Orchestra (as in the state's public radio and television broadcaster) celebrates the day with a free entrance summer concert at the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This year, the established tradition takes place under the baton of conductor Michalis Economou, with former concertmaster of Berliner Philarmoniker, Guy Braunstein, as a special guest, who will present two highly beloved, melodic symphonic works: Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 and Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto. READ MORE
MODERN MUSIC: Autechre Live at the Acropolis
Catch the "Godfathers of IDM" - that's Intelligent Dance Music to you and me – when Warp Record legends Autechre play live at the Acropolis this summer. If you’re into IDM, you’ll already know that it’s one of the most intriguing and creative sub-genres of electronic music to spawn since the early 90s, and that this pioneering British duo have done much to pave that path. Their Athens Epidaurus Festival appearance is a collab with the Plisskën Festival and if we had to name an electronic headliner for this absolutely, crazy summer festival season in Athens, this would be it. Make haste with those tickets. READ MORE
What more fitting way to close this year’s Athens Epidaurus Festival than with the operatic thriller that made a super star of Maria Callas, when she gave an astonishing performance of the title role at its Greek debut back in 1942. Still cherished by Greeks, Giacomo Puccini’s plot follows the self-absorbed opera diva Tosca, as she struggles with love, jealousy and friendship and is led to face a dreadful dilemma when she follows her instincts. Prominent Greek and international soloists perform in the lead roles at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus to celebrate the finale of what looks to be another ripping festival season. READ MORE