ATHENS Athens Festival
On the 24th of August 1955 the Athens Festival was inaugurated at the Odeon
of Herod Atticus, with a piece by Haendel orchestrated by Molinari, and performed
by the Athens State Orchestra conducted by Theodor Vavagiannis.
The concept of a Festival that would be a necessary addition to the Epidaurus
Festival of Greek Drama is attributed to the Minister of Presidency of the Papagos
Government, Mr George Rallis. The Metropolitan Opera director Dinos Gianopoulos
was called from the USA in 1955 to realize the project, and bring it to completion.
The original idea expanded so that it included performances " of Operas,
Concerts, Ancient Tragedy, and all kinds of happenings, which are inspired by
Greek history and Mythology as well as Greek Literature, with the participation
Greek Artists who pursue their distinguished career both in Greece and abroad,
and of course important artists from all over the world".
The organization of the Athens Festival was taken over by the Hellenic Tourist
Organization and the Ancient 2nd century. B.C Greco-Roman Odeon of Herod Atticus,
was chosen as its venue. The Odeon at the time was in a very bad state, although
many concerts and theatre performances were given there from time to time. The
program of the first Year of the Athens Festival expanded over 40 days, and
was covered mainly by the Greek Opera, the National Theatre, and the Athens
State Orchestra. Many great artists took part, among which was Jonel Perlea,
Katina Paxinou, Alexis Minotis, the conductor Andreas Parides, the baritone
Kostas Paschalis, David Lloyd, and the famous Greek conductor Dimitris Mitropoulos
who gave two concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (he gave a third
one due to public demand), but they were transferred indoors to the "Orfeas"
Concert Hall, due to bad weather.
As the years passed by, the venue of the Festival expanded, and included underground
backstage rooms for the artists, and the Greek Architect Dimitris Pikionis modified
the whole area around the theatre and the Acropolis.
In its 45 years of existence a great number of artists have performed for the
Festival and the unique experience to present their art under the illuminated
temple of Pallas Athena.
To name but a few, Maria Callas (1957), the pianist Gina Bachauer (1958), the
New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein (1959), the Royal Ballet
Covent Garden with Margot Fonteyn (1961, 1966), and with Rudolph Nureyef (1963),
the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic (1963) under Herbert
von Karajan, (1962,1965), the 20th century Ballet with Maurice Bejart, the Kirov
Ballet with Natalia Makarova (1966), Pablo Casals, Mstslav Rostropovich, David
Oistrakh, (1966), the American Ballet Theatre with Carla Fracci (1970), the
actor Derek Jacobi with the Prospect Theatre (1973), the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra under Sir Colin Davies (1975), the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav
Richter, Agnes Baltsa and Jose Carreras (1984), Martha Graham (1983), Luciano
Pavarotti (1991), Montseratt Caballe (1992), the Monte Carlo Opera (1994), and
many other artists and companies.
For more informations and the programme of Hellinic Festival of 2005 please