Standard fare, plus special treats at the Hellenic Festival

The program for this year’s Hellenic Festival, held annually at the Herod Atticus Theater (where the program of events is commonly known as the Athens Festival) and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, is jam-packed with events, mostly because of the Olympic Games and the crowds that will be drawn to Greece because of them. Eleven productions will be staged this summer at Epidaurus, instead of the usual eight, starting in the middle of June, while the Herod Atticus will kick off with a May 1, noon performance of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and joined by pianist Daniel Barenboim, that will be broadcast live worldwide. Performances at the Herod Atticus Theater will also be held in August, a time when the theater is normally shut, and will run to the end of September. On the whole, the venue will host 77 shows, compared to 50 last year. Many well-known personalities, both Greek and foreign, will participate in the Hellenic Festival. Yet at the same time, apart from a few refreshing novelties, the festival will be organized along the same lines, retaining most of its usual features (to the dismay of some). At a recent press conference, the new president of the Hellenic Festival, Giorgos Voulgarakis, presented this year’s program and underlined the broad range of events that are to take place. The program emphasizes Greek events in an effort to showcase both established names (Theodorakis, Hadjidakis, Markopoulos, Savvopoulos, Mavroudis, Andriopoulos, Dalaras) and new local talent to a broad international public. Star performers The president also noted that this year’s bill includes four of the world’s foremost symphony orchestras (the Berlin, London, Vienna and Leipzig Gewandhaus), all led by top conductors, as well as leading dance and theater companies and opera artists (such as Luciano Pavarotti, who is coming on the invitation of the Elpida foundation). Another highlight is a performance by Brazil’s Gilberto Gil, a highly popular singer and the Brazilian minister of culture as well. The overall budget for the 2004 Hellenic Festival has been announced at 4 million euros.