Bob Wilson, Sasha Waltz, Edward Hall, 'Mariinsky Theatre" Ballet (former "Kirov ") from St. Petersburg, Leonidas Kavakos, Dimitris Papayoanou. These are just some of the major names that will appear this year during summer at Athens festival in Epidaurus. The majority of events for 2012 were announced last week by the President and Artistic Director of the Festival George Loukos, but specific dates and places were not listed, as "some of them have changed, others have not yet been finalized."
However, the Athens Festival will be shorter than last year, and most likely it will be held from June 8 to July 18 and performances in Epidaurus (a total of 8 performances will be presented) will begin from the second Friday of July. All known theatres and halls, which in recent years have accommodated various Festival events will work normally this year as well (The Herodion,The little theatre at Epidaurus, Piraeus 260 theatre, the Athens Concert Hall, etc.).
Prior to indicating the specific events (theatre, music, dance, exhibitions) George Loukos mentioned the particular difficulties encountered this year, attributing it to both the economic crisis and the way it is being managed.
"I have been dealing with the organization of the Festival since 2006 and this year was the first time I have been confronted with such a confused situation", said Loukos. "It's the end of March, beginning April, and we have received only half of last year's grant, which means that we owe money. It is known that when we talk about an event such as this Festival we cannot be deciding what will be done in June at the beginning of May. Last year's super-productions of Mnouchkine and Bolshoi with "Eugene Onegin" and director Chernyakov were agreed upon in 2009 when the regular budget of the Festival was 5 million Euros. In 2011 this budget was reduced to 3.2 million Euros, and from them in September of that year they cut another 1.5 million Euros. So we ended up with a "hole" in the budget for things that have already been done...".
Furthermore, on the occasion of recent press releases George Loukos mentioned some of the famous names that appeared during his term on the scene of Piraeus 260, and the ancient Epidaurus theatre.
In an attempt to give a hint of optimism to his speech, Loukos talked about the positive aspects of the crisis, pointing out the interesting works of art that are usually created during such periods. "Despite the difficulties, we can make it. I hope the Ministry will help us. I do not know where they are right now... " he said with a sense of humour, actually meaning the apparent absence of the Minister of Culture and Tourism Pavlos Geroulanos, who usually, as in past years, has always been present at the press conference announcing the Festival programme.
However, the absence of the Minister was justified by "a very important meeting, which was in relation to tourism", said festival director Loukos. However, some of those present remembered how last year's conference was postponed several times in order to comply with the programme of the Minister so he could be present.
Given the discussion held recently in connection with the finances of the festival, some relevant questions were not lacking. "What do you expect from the Ministry?", George Loukos was asked, and his response was: "We expect to take what they owe us from last year, i.e. 50 percent from last year's budget, plus two million Euros VAT refunds from past years, and naturally this year's funding." In particular, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has approved the sum of 3.2 million Euros in regular budget and in addition the festival is being funded from casinos with an estimated amount of about 300,000 Euros on a monthly basis.
In any case the 2012 Festival will be cheaper than last year as its artistic value is estimated at 3.6 million Euros. Regarding debts of the Festival from last year, the sum of two million Euros was referred to, which was owed to suppliers and artists. It was stated, however, that "artists have received almost all of their money and before the start of the events it is expected that all obligations to suppliers will be paid."
Finally, with regard to revenue from last season’s ticket sales, the sum received was 3.7 million Euros. "A large proportion of this came from performances like the ones by Kevin Spacey in Epidaurus, and Sylvie Guillem at the Herodion, the tickets for which were sold out. We do not make money from performances on Piraeus 260. As successful as performances can be, with 500 seats we cannot make a profit... ", said Director Loukos.
This year's ticket prices will remain at last year levels and efforts will be made to reduce prices even further.