Athens perhaps has the most long-standing and impressive cultural heritage of any town in Europe. However, Athens is not only recognized through the world for its ancient culture but definitely also for its present day culture. The Athenians take pride in the wide option that is presented and the high quality standards of the events prove they have every right to do so. Culture has been a part of Athens and Greece from its early history on. Athens has given the world some of the most popular play writers, poets, philosophers and orators and its long standing cultural tradition is continuing to the present day. Museums keep the old history alive while a vast number of theatres, concert halls, big and small exhibition galleries etc. make new cultural history. In Athens these two often go hand in hand.
The town has a number of international performance groups and a continued enthusiasm for the arts is expressed annually at the Athens Festival(June to September). This main international festival was initiated in 1955 and merges music, modern and classical theatre, and contemporary and traditional dance. The idea to display case the cultural achievements of towns around the continent was conceived by Melina Mercouri, a Greek actress turned politician. Venues for the festival are the Roman Odeon of Herod Atticus, the open-air theatre on Lykavitt s Hill, the Ve kio amphitheatre in Piraeus and the amphitheatre at Epidaurus. Tickets are available from the Hellenic Festival Box Office . Unsold tickets are available from 1800 at the Odeon of Herod Atticus box office on the evening of the performance.
Music and Dance in Athens
Several tavernas, mainly in the Plaka, get into music and dance displays at night. Most displays are designed for visitors but are lively and entertaining, however. The more authentic Greek music in Athens consists of dhimotik (folk songs accompanied by guitar, clarinet and violin) and rembetika (a kind of Greek blues, developed by refugees from Asia Minor in the 1920s). The music unites Middle Eastern and Greek influences and the lyrics deal with the lives of the poor and outsiders. The main orchestra of town is Athens State Orchestra, who hold many of their performances at the M garon Mousikis Athenon (Athens Concert Hall), Leof ros Vassilissis Sof as. This modern venue hosts ballet, opera and classical music events, as well as conferences and exhibitions.
The Dora Stratou Dance Theatre was created 35 years ago, by a dancer and enthusiast of Greek folk culture. Each evening May to September, the band dressed in traditional costume dramatizes a show of exuberant Greek song and dance at an open-air theatre on Filop ppou (Philopapps Hill), opposite the Acropolis. The National Ballet Company also perform in the Olympia Theatre.
Theatres in Athens
The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes, and the comedies of Aristophanes symbolize the best moments of ancient Greek theatre and heralded the birth of Western drama. The initial presentations were held in the Th atro Dionysou (Theatre of Dionysos), on the southern slopes of the Acropolis. Nearby, the Odion Ir dou Attikou (Odeon of Herod Atticus) is a Roman theatre from the second century AD, also known as the Herodeion. The auditorium is usually only open on summer evenings for the Athens Festival, when it provides an impressive setting for presentations of music and classical drama.
The outdoor Lykavitt s theatre, on Lykavitt s Hill, presents a range of plays and concerts throughout the summer. The National Theatre of Greece comprises five theatre groups: the Central Theatre (Kentriki Skini), the New Theatre (Nea Skini) and the Experimental Theatre, all of which are based at Agiou Konstantinou 24-26, as well as the Kotopouli-Rex Theatre and the Katina Paxinou Children s Theatre, both of which are based at Panepistimiou 48. Altogether, there are around 50 theatres in Athens performing between October and May. However, visitors without fluent Greek may be restricted to the English language presentations of touring companies.