The Lycabettus Theater is an open-air theater built on the site of a former limestone quarry on Mount Lycabettus in Athens. The hill is the highest in the center of Athens with a height of 285 meters, and offers a panoramic view of the city. After 15 years of “silence”, the theater reopens its gates on September 15, 2023, fully renovated.
The site of the old quarry had been used as a venue for a theater production at some point in the 1930s. The decision to build the open-air theater dates back to the early 1960s, on an initiative by Anna Synodinou (1927-2016), a prominent stage actress who had been distinguished for her performances in ancient drama productions, and who made it her life’s goal to bring ancient tragedies closer to Athenian audiences.
After she left the national Theater of Greece in 1964, to form her own company, the actress decided to build a theater where productions of ancient drama could be staged, with state-of-the-art facilities, a large capacity and affordable tickets. To this end, she asked for the collaboration of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO-Visit Greece) which aided with the construction process with the aim of also using the theater as a venue for some events of the Athens Festival (now Athens-Epidaurus Festival).
The GNTO bought the land from the Petraki Monastery, to which it belonged, and a 20-year lease was awarded to Synodinou, following a competition. Takis Zenetos, one of the leading figures of 20th century Greek architecture (who had also designed the Fix Factory at Syggrou Avenue (now the seat of Greece’s National Contemporary Art Museum, EMST), was commissioned to design the theater. He chose the solution of a prefabricated metal structure, which not only helped save time but also limited any permanent irreversible changes to the natural site; the construction was undertaken by a Greek metal company.
The Lycabettus Theater was inaugurated on June 12, 1965, with a performance of Sophocles’ Antigone by the theater company of Anna Synodinou, who held the title role. It had a capacity of 3,000 seats. Apart from Greek drama productions, it also housed music concerts, with the first one being a performance by American jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, as part of the 1967 Athens Festival.
Along the years, the theater has come to be known primarily as a venue for music events. Many international musical artists of great fame have since graced the theater, including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Ray Charles, Joan Baez, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Leonard Cohen, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, Nick Cave, Bjork, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and Radiohead.
In 2008 the theater was temporarily closed down due to safety concerns, to ensure its structural stability. The project of its renovation was delayed due to the country’s financial situation at the time. The site has been acquired by the Municipality of Athens, which undertook the renovation project. The theater had to be practically rebuild, staying true to Zenetos’s original design but also conforming to all contemporary European standards for safety.
The fully renovated theater will be inaugurated on September 15, 2023, with a music concert specially organized for its reopening, dedicated to the life work of iconic Greek composer Stavros Xarchakos, while more events have been scheduled in the days to follow, in a program curated by Technopolis City of Athens.
N.M. (Based on an original article in Griechenland Aktuell