The “Athens Conservatoire” (greek: Odeion Athinon) is the oldest educational institution for the performing arts in modern Greece, founded as a non-profit organization in 1871.
The institution played a significant role in the advancement of music studies in Greece since day one. Some of the most renowned Greek musical personalities internationally have graduated from the Athens Conservatoire including Spyros Samaras, Dimitiris Mitropoulos, Nikos Skalkottas, Maria Callas, Gina Bachauer, Alexandra Triantis, Mikis Theodorakis, Dimitris Sgouros, etc., as well as many members of the Athens State Orchestra, the National Theatre, the Athens Choir etc.
Meanwhile, the first Drama School in Greece, also founded in 1871, has had a pivotal role in the advancement of theatrical studies in the country and many prominent theatre personalities were included among its teaching staff, such as, Thomas Oikonomou, Emilios Veakis, Dimitris Rontiris, Kostas Mousouris, Dimitris Murat and others. Today, the Drama School of the Athens Conservatoire is included among the select few top drama schools in Greece, officially recognized by the Ministry of Culture. The school students and its staff regularly stage cutting edge performances and cooperate with leading drama schools abroad, like the Russian Academy of Theatrical Studies (GITIS).
Today, the Athens Conservatoire is expanding into new areas within performing arts: The new and already successful Dance School complements the performing arts disciplines, the new Jazz Music School includes leading musicians among its teaching staff and has already gained significant momentum, while various specialized seminars in all disciplines broaden our role and appeal in the contemporary culture scene.
Finally, the institution is invited by other major arts organizations to participate in leading events like, for example, the “Metamorphosis” cultural events of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in which we participated with three innovative musical performances, Terry Riley’s In:C, John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit and Peter Shapiro’s Jazz & Colors, curated and largely performed by our staff and student members.
A collaboration between the Athens & Epidaurus Festival and the Athens Conservatoire started in 2018, with two events held at the Conservatoire. The first, was Young Greek Classics, Tribute to Debussy and the second, Aqua Jazz Athens, a three-day music event, in collaboration with the Jazz and Mediterranean Music Lab of the Ionian University (read more here).
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The Athens Conservatoire as a prominent Arts & Cultural Centre
The Athens Conservatoire’s premium location at the heart of Athens and its iconic “bauhaus” building, make it a unique and enviable cultural hub for various contemporary arts and cultural events.
The main building is a short walking distance from the National Garden of Athens, the Presidential Palace and the National Stadium, where the first contemporary Olympic Games took place, and near the Zappeion Megaron, where the European Greek Presidency took place in 2014.
The building is designed by the famous Greek architect Ioannis Despotopoulos (1903-1992) who holds a prominent position within the modernist architectural movement of the 1930s and the Bauhaus movement in which he actively participated. His work for the Athens Conservatoire is the only completed part of an ambitious large-scale cultural complex commissioned in 1959 by the then government for Athens, for which he earned the top architectural prize of its time.
Today, thanks to generous private and pubic funding, the building is undergoing a process of gradual transformation and renovation and is well sought after by leading arts organizations. To name but a few highlights:
The NEON cultural organization undertook financially the renovation of a major space within the building, transforming it into an art exhibition space which hosted two innovative and very successful projects: The first was Ideas City, a platform that brought together leading artists, activists and thinkers aiming to explore the challenges facing urban centres today. The second, was the Flying over the Abyss art exhibition in which works by leading contemporary artists traced the enlightenment of a human life’s pathway, from the time of birth ‘till death.
Another significant milestone was the complete modernization and renovation of a chamber orchestra concert hall, called “Aris Garoufalis“, able to host smaller cultural events and gatherings and has already gained significant traction among event organizers, hosting international personalities like, for example, Alexandre Desplat.
As part of the same renovation project and close to this hall, another important space was also recently transformed into a contemporary theatrical “Black Box“, mainly used by the Drama School for educational purposes and its various stage needs.
Athens Conservatoire has been one of the “main partner venues” of the documenta 14 in Athens, the prestigious art exhibition which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany, but it was also held in Athens as part of the artistic concept conceived for 2017 by its artistic director Adam Szymczyk. For this purpose, most of the public spaces of the building were occupied by documenta 14 for the entire length of the exhibition, from 8th April-16th July 2017. The exhibition was visited by more than 300.000 people from 54 countries and left a definite mark to the city of Athens. It also left a distinct impression with our staff and students who lived alongside this major art event for 100 days.
It has also been a great honour to lend our premises to El Sistema Greece, for the annual Sistema Europe Summer Residency and the rehearsals of the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra (SEYO), for a great concert that took place at the mythical Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre, as the closing event of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017. The event brought together more than 250 young musicians and teachers from 16 countries that have implemented Sistema-inspired programmes for “social action through music”.
In 2019, on the occasion of the celebrations for the 100 years of Bauhaus, we hosted an exhibition organised by the Goethe Institut, honouring Ioannis Despotopoulos, the architect of our building.
However, a much wider in scope publicly-funded construction works is well under way and will be completed by mid-2021. In its final form, important new facilities will be added to the current building infrastructure, such as an underground amphitheatre with a 600-seating capacity, a multi-purpose experimental black-box stage of a 200-seating capacity, spaces for conferences, exhibitions and other events, studio suites for sound technology, as well as a shop and a restaurant.
The fully completed project is to be inaugurated in the framework of the 150th jubilee year of the Athens Conservatoire.
All our friends and visitors are welcome to visit our seminal building at the heart of downtown Athens and get to know the leading performing arts institute in Greece today.
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