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Festivals in ancient theatres

Here are the most famous summer festivals in ancient theatres all over Greece. Join the Festivals' loyal fans to a journey into the magic world of art and immerse into sacred centuries-old art sanctuaries.

• Athens and Epidaurus Festival, at the Herod Atticus Odeon and at the ancient theatre of Epidaurus.

The famous Herod Atticus Odeon, widely known as “Herodeon”, dominates the western end on the south slope of the Acropolis. It was built between 160 and 174 BC by the immensely wealthy Athenian Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Regilla. The famous traveller and geographer Pausanias referred to the monument in great admiration when he visited Athens describing it as “the finest building of its type”. The restored Herodeon was a perfect home for the newly-founded Athens Festival in 1955. Over the years Herodeon has hosted almost all the leading representatives of Greek and international music, dance, opera and theatre. The romantic souls should not miss the opportunity to attend a concert overflowing with romance and inspiration under the August full moon.

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus is situated at the sacred sanctuary of the god-physician Asklepios in Argolis (Peloponnese) and it was the most famous healing centre of the Greek and Roman world. Today it forms an important archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Over the years, the stage of the renowned ancient theatre has hosted the most significant Greek actors of the older and younger generation; its stage has become the ultimate proof of success and recognition for Greek artists. Ancient drama is a genre particularly honoured at the Theatre of Epidaurus but occasionally opera, dance and music performances are hosted in this sacred theatre. Some of the highlights presented over the years are certainly the Greek National Opera productions of Bellini’s Norma (1960) and Cherubini’s Medea (1961) with Maria Callas directed by Alexis Minotis, a unique performance of “Medea” by Katina Paxinou also directed by Minotis (1955) as well as great international productions such as “A Winter's Tale” directed by Sam Mendes starring Ethan Hawke (2009) “Richard the Third, The Bridge Project” directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey (2011) and “Phedre” directed by Nicholas Hytner with the award-winning Helen Mirren in 2009.

Today the Festival offers a wide spectrum of spectacles to the art-loving audience that lasts from June to September. Don’t forget to check on the performances’ program, usually published in May, and book in advance for the events that suit best your desires.

• Olympus Festival at the ancient theatre of Dion

The ancient theatre of Dion is located in Piería (Northern Greece), in the south of the town of Dion and in the west of the sanctuary of Demetra. It was built during the Hellenistic period, probably in the reign of Philip V. The Festival was inaugurated in 1972 with the “celebrations of the Muses”. It is a modern cultural institution famous for its exceptional artistic value and the variety of the events on offer putting an emphasis on opera and folklore events presented by Greek and foreign artists alike. The festival counts forty years of continuous presence in the cultural life of Northern Greece, featuring leading events created and performed by renowned artists. The festival boasts a great number of international participations. Apart from the ancient theatre, the performances also take place in the impressive Byzantine Castle of Platamon, the Centre of Mediterranean Mosaic and the beautiful Byzantine Temple of the Assumption of the Virgin in Kontariotissa, where also a variety of traditional customs revive in the most special way. It is held every summer during July and August.

• Filippoi and Thassos Festival at the ancient theatres of Filippoi and Thassos

The ancient theatre of Filippoi, constructed in the reign of Fillip the Second, lies 16 km away from the city of Kavala (Northern Greece) forming part of the extended archaeological site of Filippoi. The Filippoi Festival was launched in 1957 and the first performance staged there was “Electra” of Euripides. The festival takes place not only in the ancient theatre but also in places all over the city of Kavala, such as the Castle, the Light House, the Port, the Mohamed Ali theatre as well as in the open air all around the Old City. The ancient theatre on the verdant island of Thassos is also a host to a great number of exhilarating performances. The festival takes place every summer during July and August offering a wide spectrum of cultural events presented by the most prominent artists of their kind. Don’t miss it!

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