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Ancient Greek theatres reopen for performances

Audience numbers and performances are limited at both the Epidaurus Theatre in southern Greece and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens.

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A performance took place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

A performance took place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

A performance took place at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus has reopened for a limited number of open-air performances, with a live-streamed event also planned for the first time in the Greek monument’s 2,300-year history.

Live concerts and events have been mostly cancelled in Greece this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the culture ministry has allowed the Epidaurus Theatre in southern Greece and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens to host performances under strict safety guidelines.

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Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

AP/PA Images

Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos performs in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Maria Panagiotopoulou, a spokeswoman for the cultural group which organised the events, said: “Only 45% of the seats are occupied, the refreshments areas are closed, there is no intermission, and tickets are only issued electronically.

“We normally have 80 performances in the summer. This year, it’s just 17.

“We kept changing the plans. We planned for a September start, and then we were concerned that all events might be cancelled. We ended up with something in the middle. It would have been the first summer without a performance in 65 years.”

Acts from abroad are off-limits due to the pandemic, and the scheduled artists are instructed not to give encores. Stewards wearing surgical gloves and plastic visors keep spectators apart as they clamber up the steep stone amphitheatre steps to find their seats.

Just 4,500 of the usual 10,000 seats are being made available at Epidaurus, a honeycomb-coloured stone venue with a shallow, half-funnel shape that allows music and voices from the stage to be clearly heard all 55 rows up.

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Concert-goers were kept apart and helped to their seats in Epidaurus by stewards wearing surgical gloves and plastic visors (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Concert-goers were kept apart and helped to their seats in Epidaurus by stewards wearing surgical gloves and plastic visors (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

AP/PA Images

Concert-goers were kept apart and helped to their seats in Epidaurus by stewards wearing surgical gloves and plastic visors (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Christina Koutra, from Athens, said she was happy to make the three-hour trip to Epidaurus to watch the season’s first event, a solo performance of Bach by acclaimed Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

She said: “There is a feeling of harmony here. It’s a sacred place. Culture cannot stand still. We have to take part and keep it going.”

The National Theatre of Greece will be performing The Persians by ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus for Saturday’s live-streamed show.

PA