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Syros in July

Syros in July

04 Jul 2014 BY Tim Wells

Syros is the island of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and is the capital of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean. In contrast perhaps to some other destinations in the area, Syros has remained unspoilt and traditional, with an old-world sophistication and elegance. The capital Ermoupolis (or Hermoupolis, city of Hermes) is likely to be nominated as a candidate city for European Capital of Culture award 2021, and is renowned for its architecture, with its neoclassical mansions, marble paved streets, and elegant plazas offering much of interest and charm. While not short of an enthusiastic nightlife, Ermoupolis provides the classy and elegant setting for a cultural life in great contrast to the summer sybaritic excesses that prevail on some other Greek islands.

The excellent Festival of the Aegean, this year in its 10th season, has become an annual summer highlight for lovers of music and the arts from all over the world. Founded in 2005 by Peter Tiboris, the Greek-American conductor, the Festival attracts world-class musicians, dancers, and actors, and in 2011 was designated “best cultural organization in Greece” by a national board of Greek theatre and music critics. Running from 6 -19 July this year, its highlights include Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, orchestral performances, chamber music and lieder evenings, and jazz performances. Most concerts take place in The Apollo Theatre, also known as “La Piccola Scala”, which celebrates this year the 150th anniversary of its construction. A truly unique building with a colourful history, the Apollo is largely modelled on La Scala di Milano, and was inaugurated in 1864 with a performance of Donizetti’s “La Favorita”, and has over the years hosted many classics from the Italian opera repertory, as well as contemporary Greek theatre. After a period of renovation, the Apollo was reopened in 2000, and in 2005 the first Festival of the Aegean produced Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, conducted by Peter Tiboris.

Other performances will take place in Ermoupolis’ magnificent Miaouli Square, one of the most attractive plazas in all of Greece, where palm trees shelter cozy cafés and restaurants, and an ornate marble bandstand on the square often presents lively local concerts. This year’s festival finale will be a gala evening produced by Greek Opera Studio, a summer vocal and opera programme for young musicians which runs in conjunction with the Festival, as well as GOS Dance. Participants will perform on the main festival stage at the Apollo.

The second annual Syros International Film Festival runs from 26 July through 1 August, and is dedicated to promoting Greek and regional film, as well as highlighting a number of elegant venues around Ermoupolis, using them for screenings, lectures, and other events. One section of the 2014 programme will feature films from many countries devoted to some pressing current topics in Greece, and there will be a competition for short films for up-and-coming filmmakers from Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, hoping to foster a sense of shared community between Greece and her neighbours. Two-thirds of all films shown will be of Greek origin, and there will be special panel discussions, retrospectives, and guest presentations. A highlight of this year’s Film Festival will be two masterclasses on two Greeks who rose in their different ways to the very summit of the American film industry, Elia Kazan and John Cassavetes. They will include lectures with screen excerpts from their filmographies, and a catered poolside sunset drinks party on 30th and 31st July before evening screenings from their films. Admission is 2€ per screening, with an all-access festival pass costing 10€.