No surprises at summer festival

Worthwhile, but more of the same is the phrase that would sum up this coming summer’s Athens Festival program, announced yesterday by the president of the Hellenic Festival, Periklis Koukos, and its director Yiannis Karahisaridis. Schedules for drama at the Epidaurus Festival and Musical July at the Little Theater at Epidaurus were not announced, nor were those plans that are afoot for the Lycabettus Theater. The current heads of the Hellenic Festival, who have up to now ensured the smooth functioning of the events they oversee, have presented a program of the usual, time-honored variety, with a satisfactory number of reputable ensembles in almost all types of artistic spectacle. But they make no convincing claim to fresh, creative ideas, nor, more importantly, do they seem to offer surprises. Well-known names abound, but some are well past their expiry date. New artistic forces, both from abroad and Greece, are few and far between. Top-notch concerts in classical music are those by the French National Orchestra under its conductor Kurt Masur, the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta and recitals by the tenor Andrea Bocelli and soprano Jessye Norman. Opera highlights include Gluck’s «Telemaco» by the English Bach Festival Opera and Saint-Saens’s «Samson et Dalida» by the Greek National Opera. Performances of Greek music include a first production of the legendary «Amorgos» by Manos Hadjidakis to a poem of the same name by Nikos Gatsos, and a premiere of the opera «Erophile» by Mamagaki. In dance, ballets troupes from Monte Carlo, New York, England, Paris and Ireland will make their appearance, while, much like last year, the program is adorned with musicals, such as «Fiddler on the Roof,» cinema music, folk music and songs, acrobatic dance and even mime – incredibly, Marcel Marceau is still alive and working. In drama, besides the Washington Shakespeare Theater, which will give a performance based on both Oedipus plays and «Antigone» (the troupe has been invited by the American Embassy and the American Community Schools), the only performances are by regional municipal theaters and by an ad hoc group, starring Costas Voutsas in Aristophanes’ «Wasps.» This year’s festival has 35 productions in a total of 50 performances over four months, from the beginning of June to the end of September, with a brave break in August due to a lack of Athenians to fill the seats. Periklis Koukos announced the overall budget costs at 2 million euros (or 680 million drachmas). It should be noted that quite a few productions have been proposed by other bodies (the Cultural Olympiad, the Elpida association for children with cancer and even Parliament). Koukos claimed that 80 to 90 percent of the program’s proposals and initiatives originated with the Hellenic Festival, which has started to discuss final production. This could be so, given the presence of Greeks in concerts by foreign orchestras, but this is something hard to discern almost anywhere else.