Cultural Christmas in Athens

The holiday season may normally be centered around quiet family gatherings, dinners at friends’ homes and gift giving but just because most people are at home does not mean that the city of Athens has gone to sleep – quite the opposite. There is a plethora of events going on in the Greek capital that can be a pleasant break from fussing over menus and outfits. Kathimerini has singled out some of these events in a list of alternative Christmas pastimes. Among them are museum exhibitions, theatrical performances, films, dance galas and the city as a sight itself, which, this year, has put on quite a show. Syntagma Square, for example, will be hosting a street performance by stilt-walkers of Charles Dickens’s all-time classic «A Christmas Carol» today and tomorrow at noon, while on Christmas Eve, the Typaldou Choir will sing traditional Greek carols at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. In front of City Hall, Kotzia Square will be going multiethnic, showcasing acrobatics from China tomorrow and Thursday at 7 p.m., while Peruvian musicians and dancers will perform songs and dances from various regions of their homeland at midday on Christmas Eve and Chilean dancers will kick off evening festivities at 7 p.m. on Christmas Day. Theater A highlight of this season’s theater circuit is the National Theater’s production of Janusz Glowacki’s «Fourth Sister,» performed by exceptional actors with beautifully designed sets by Vassilis Papavassiliou. The National’s Experimental Stage is putting on a compilation of two one-act plays by Moliere and Marivaux, collectively titled «Accidental Rehearsals.» Another experimental theater, the Amore, is staging Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s masterpiece, «Life is a Dream,» directed by Thomas Moschopoulos, while the existentialism of Sarah Kane’s «Crave» is on at the Odos Kykladon Theater, directed by Lefteris Voyiatzis. Nearby, at the Kefalinias Street Theater, Nikos Mastorakis directs actresses Reni Pittaki and Betty Arvaniti in Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 historical drama «Mary Stuart.» Dance & circus There is a plethora of dance, cabaret and acrobatic shows on offer in the capital this year, starting with the Cirque Eloize’s new production «Nomade» at the Big Top Theater in Rendi, in which acrobatics, music and dance are brought together to paint a colorful picture of life on the road. The more traditional Odessa State Ballet is appearing in Greece for the first time at the Coronet Theater with Tchaikovsky’s Christmas favorite «The Nutcracker,» while the same ballet is being staged the National Opera Ballet at the Olympia Theater on Thursday and Friday, with dancers Alina Stergianou, Maria Miliopoulou, Evridikis Isakidou and Stratos Papanousis. Two exceptional shows billed at the Athens Concert Hall – Vladimir Malakhov’s ballet gala and the top Russian dancer’s triple treat of extracts from «Swan Lake,» «Raymonda» and «The Nutcracker Suite» – are fully sold out. Art Visiting art exhibitions is a pleasant way to spend a day during the festive season and there are several interesting shows on in the capital. The most noteworthy of these is the recently inaugurated National Gallery show «In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance Art and Greece,» which traces the influences of ancient Greek art in the Italian Renaissance. The exhibit took three years to put together and is composed of 500 works on loan from 150 of the world’s most prominent museums. The National Gallery will be open tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but it will be closed on Thursday and Friday. The Athens Concert Hall’s new wing is hosting the first show by the Greek Museum of Contemporary Art to be held away from its former premises at the former Fix brewery which is closed for construction. «Synopsis III: Testimonies Between Fiction and Reality» is composed of forceful works that show the return of political commentary to contemporary art. The exhibition will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow and on Boxing Day but closed on Christmas Day. Cinema Greek film distributors have put together an interesting program of kids’ movies that appeal to older audiences as well, along with sociopolitical dramas for the holiday period. Kids and the young at heart can enjoy Warner Brothers’ latest kooky comedy, «Loony Tunes: Back in Action,» where Elmer Fudd, Taz and other animated heroes go on a grand adventure to help real people. The French film, «Les Triplettes de Belleville» is also animation, but of a completely different character; Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with an elderly song-and-dance trio from the days of Fred Astaire to rescue her grandson. Another French film billed to come out over the holidays, Denys Arcand’s «Invasion of the Barbarians,» is a provocative comedy for adults starring Remy Girard and Stephane Rousseau. Music Live music is a staple in holiday entertainment and there is no shortage of shows from which to choose. Pop crooner Michalis Hadziyiannis is on stage at Vox on Iera Odos and Tania Tsanaklidou presents a music show based on fairy tales at Metro in Gyzi. Pantelis Thalassinos appears solo at the Stavros tou Notou in Neos Cosmos, talented vocalist Melina Kana is on at Dekatria Fengaria, and Zygos in Plaka presents the comeback of the band Agamoi Thytes. Two of the country’s best laiko singers, Glykeria and Costas Makedonas, have joined forces at Sfedona on Alexandras Avenue, while on a more jazzy note, Mode Plagal will play the Alavastron Cafe on Thursday and Friday.