by Natasha Pavlopoulou
ATHENS, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The Athens and Epidaurus Festival, one of the oldest performing arts festivals in Europe, opened its doors on Friday evening, hosting major Greek and world-famous artists.
The largest and most prestigious annual cultural event in Greece since its inception in 1955, is being held at historical venues, from Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the foot of the Acropolis to the ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, a world-famous for its unparalleled acoustics theatre, located inside the Asclepius Sanctuary, in southern Greece.
The festival's annual moment in the sun - those summer months from early June to mid-August - can be likened to a magical curtain rising and inviting people to become part of a unique experience embracing major theatre, music, and dance artists acclaimed in Greece and worldwide, Vangelis Theodoropoulos, the festival's artistic director since 2016, stressed in his welcoming note for this year.
"This year we continue a concept we adopted in 2017: Opening to the City, 17 artistic actions in venues outside our "walls" that take place in various neighborhoods of Athens," he told Xinhua. The artistic actions will also take place at the port city of Piraeus, most of them with free admission, encouraging audience participation and diversity.
"We also continue the Lyceum of Epidaurus, an international summer school of ancient Greek drama with many important foreign and Greek teachers and students from all over the world. 35 percent of students are from abroad," he added.
"We have a close contact with China since last year, after an invitation from the Greek Ministry of Culture to participate in cultural exchanges between Greece and China. We have already called Tian Mansha, a well-known and very important performance artist of the Chinese opera," Georgina Kakoudaki, co-curator for Educational Programs of the festival said to Xinhua.
"And this year, within the framework of this interaction, 26 academics, artists and teachers from Shanghai Theatre Academy will visit the Festival, taking part in various lectures and performances," she stressed.
During the economic crisis of the past nine years in Greece, the festival's organizers increased efforts to give the most and minimize the impact on culture, she noted.
"Crisis is a word we do not like to say anymore, because it leads us further down. I think we are all giving a great fight in managing both national and personal resources, so that we can live with a greater quality of life and less need for quantity," Kakoudaki said.
On Tuesday evening, 1,500 unemployed Greeks were able to watch free of charge the dress rehearsal of opera "Nabucco " with the celebrated Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias, the play which opened the festival on Friday.
"It was a wonderful show in Odeon of Herodus Atticus. We really enjoyed the performances and the costumes in this breathtaking place on the first day of the summer," Sofia Spingu told Xinhua, after watching one of Giuseppe Verdi's most popular operas, on Friday night.
Internationally acclaimed artists, classical and modern drama, great orchestras and a wide range of dance productions are all part of the 2018 program.
The festival -in its 63rd year- will also host international stars.
The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus finally will host eight plays with focus on Aristophanes' comedies. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival closes on August 18.