Culture paves the way to 2004 Athens Olympics

The upcoming Athens Olympics can, needless to say, be expected to provide a radically different summer in terms of cultural activity. Yet the overall picture remains unclear. As is the case with delayed infrastructure projects, various event organizers in the cultural domain are also playing catch-up as they prepare shows linked to the Olympics. In contrast to the overall scene, however, the last lap of the Cultural Olympiad, the four-year series of artistic events leading to the Games, seems virtually complete. Here, too, last-minute additions – of worthy events – to the agenda can be expected. Beyond the Cultural Olympiad’s final-year offering, though, the outlook is hazy. Prime perpetrators include Athens 2004 – the Olympics’ coordinating committee – the Athens Municipality, the Athens Festival and the Epidaurus Festival. The only clear-cut comment that can be made about Athens 2004 is that it has, for quite some time now, abandoned plans to host its own cultural events for next summer, as had been originally anticipated, because of budget restrictions. Composer Thanos Mikroutsikos, commissioned by Athens 2004 to handle its cultural front, is, however, believed to be working on a modest program – of a celebratory nature – for Athens and other cities where Olympic events will be held. The opening and closing ceremonies being prepared by renowned choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou and his collaborators, will, it goes without saying, be the summer’s undisputed highlights. The Athens Municipality is working on several «major» productions for the month of July and numerous smaller events intended to provide end-of-the-day entertainment in various Athenian neighborhoods for spectators spilling out of arenas, as well as local residents. Next summer’s agenda for the Athens and Epidaurus festivals remains widely unknown, but some productions have already been officially announced. They include plays and concerts by Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, the Berlin Philharmonic with conductor Daniel Barenboim, the San Francisco Ballet, as well as «Lysistrata» by the National Theater with Lydia Koniordou in the main role and Costas Tsianos directing. On the Cultural Olympiad’s agenda next summer are: MUSIC: Two concerts featuring works by Manos Hadjidakis ten years after the composer’s death will dominate concert activity. Both will include renowned foreign artists. The first of the two Hadjidakis tributes, «Manos-Cosmos,» on May 24 and 25 at the Herod Atticus, will be led by Michael Kamen of the late 1960s’ prog-rock/classical act New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, as musical director. The act, which broke with tradition by using classical instruments in rock songs and rock instruments on classical pieces for its early work – a daring fusion at the time – collaborated with Hadjidakis for their third album, 1970’s «Reflections.» The second Hadjidakis tribute, «Cosmos and Manos Hadjidakis,» will be held at the Vrachon Theater in the capital’s Vyronas district on June 23 and 24, with an international cast of musicians to offer their interpretations of the composer’s work. Philip Glass will perform concerts in Athens and Thessaloniki in May, while a long-awaited production, «Opera of the Earth,» from the Orchestra of Colors, will be presented in Ancient Olympia on June 25 and 26. THEATER: There will be three major events here. «International Theatrical Monologues,» at the Little Epidaurus stage and the Roman Agora in Athens in May and June, will feature major foreign actors. The Theatro Technis’s «Aristophaniada,» at Epidaurus on June 26 and 27, will cull excerpts of Aristophanes plays that had been presented by the high-caliber domestic theater group’s founder, the late Karolos Koun with his associates. Also on the agenda is a production of «Oedipus Rex» by the world-famous Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa, who made major impact in Athens some 20 years ago with his exceptional interpretation of «Medea.» EXHIBITIONS: Numerous, and important, exhibitions are being planned to coincide with the August 13-29 Athens Olympics at various venues, including the National Art Gallery, the Benaki Museum’s new facility on Pireos St, and Goudi Park. Events will include a show titled «The Competitive Spirit in Ancient Greece» at the National Archaeological Museum, exhibitions of works by six prominent sculptors, including Rodin, Giacometti, and Brancusi, a Henry Moore retrospective, as well as «Picasso and the Greek Influences.»