Music, opera and dance in ancient sites in Turkey


Summer is firmly underway and with it, of course, come colorful events across the ancient landscape of Turkey, from dance festivals to musical shows on antique stages, operas and even ballets that are set to grasp and thrill audiences from world heritage sites. Here’s a roundup of some of the events to look forward to this summer in Turkey.

Fire of Anatolia

To witness Anadolu Ateşi, meaning Fire of Anatolia, perform in the ancient theater in Antalya’s Aspendos is a true treat. This highly energetic and mesmerizing dance troupe of over 100 members, which perform fast-paced modern takes on traditional folk dances – think River Dancers of Turkey – are a wonderful visual and rhythmic feast of footwork and colorful costumes to boot. The three-performance series kicked off this week and continues with shows on June 21 and June 28.

The Turkish dance group Fire of Anatolia, or Anadolu Ateşi, performs in front of a crowd, in Balıkesir, Turkey, June 9, 2022. (AA Photo)

Built in 155 by Greek Architect Zenon, Aspendos is known for being the best-preserved theater of antiquity that provided seating for 7,000. You can truly experience what it must have been like to witness performances in the very same spot nearly 2,000 years ago. Located outside of Serik, Aspendos is an approximate 40-minute drive to the city center of Antalya, but should you want seaside accommodation close to the amphitheater, then the resort town of Belek has everything from five-star inclusive hotels to basic bed and breakfasts . While there, you can also check out Phaselis, another stunning ancient spa town located right on the sea.

This year, the annual tradition resumes of the State General Directorate of Opera and Ballet hosting festivals in ancient theaters located in or in close proximity to popular holiday destinations. Being immersed in the performance arts in an unparalleled setting of ancient amphitheaters is truly a magical experience that you can start planning for now. The performances vary and feature state dance and opera troupes from all over the country. In addition to the festivals mentioned below, there will also be opera and ballet festivals held this summer in Istanbul, Eskişehir, Trabzon and Gaziantep.

Built in 155 by Greek Architect Zenon, Aspendos is known for being the best-preserved theater of antiquity that provided seating for 7,000.  (Shutterstock photo)

Built in 155 by Greek Architect Zenon, Aspendos is known for being the best-preserved theater of antiquity that provided seating for 7,000. (Shutterstock photo)

Ephesus opera, ballet

Coming up is the 5th International Ephesus Opera and Ballet Festival in which the audience gets the opportunity to witness performances of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “La Traviata,” “Friday” and “Madame Butterfly” in the ancient theater of Turkey’s most spectacularly preserved ancient city of Ephesus. The festival kicks off with a gala concert on June 24 and performances are scheduled on five dates up until July 7. This is a truly unique opportunity to experience this UNESCO heritage site that dates back to the 10th century BC and once housed the Temple of Artemis , one of the Seven Wonders of the World, in a whole new light.

Located just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Selçuk, which would be the closest base for accommodation, Ephesus has a lot of highlights warranting a second-day including the House of the Virgin Mary, thus staying in Şirince, a picturesque boutique village featuring iconic Ottoman architecture is another option for a longer getaway.

The antique theater of Turkey's most spectacularly preserved ancient city of Ephesus provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience when hosting performances.  (Shutterstock photo)

The antique theater of Turkey’s most spectacularly preserved ancient city of Ephesus provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience when hosting performances. (Shutterstock photo)

Bodrum Castle Events

On July 2, 9 and 17 there will be a series of performances for the 3rd Bodrum Kaleiçi Events, in which a stage is set up for concerts inside the renovated Bodrum Castle. This year’s series includes Napolitano songs sung by Turkish Tenors, Tango Tango and a Tango Night. The Bodrum Castle is located in the heart of the town center and is thus easy to walk to from downtown accommodation, while also being easily accessible to anywhere on the peninsula through an active network of minibuses.

Summer concerts in antiquity

If ballet and opera isn’t your scene, don’t fret as this summer there is a long line-up of 30-plus concerts that will take place in the Bodrum Amphitheater throughout the months of July and August. From pop to rock to theater and comedy, there is something for everyone and the setting from the Greco-Roman antique theater otherwise known as the Theater at Halicarnassus, which dates back to the fourth century and overlooks the Bodrum bay and castle.

There are way too many performers to mention them all but this summer’s concerts kick off with Sıla on July 1. Some of the highlights include Postmodern Jukebox, Levent Yüksel, Duman, Candan Erçetin, Gaye Su Akyol and the legendary Selda Bağcan, who closes out the series on Sept. two.

The Bodrum Antique Theater sits above the town center from which it is an admittedly hilly walk. Thus, you will most likely want to take a taxi or minibus from the town center and back, but if you choose to stay elsewhere on the peninsula, the theater is right on the minibus route to Bodrum’s central bus station.

The Greco-Roman antique theater otherwise known as the Theater at Halicarnassus, dates back to the fourth century and overlooks the Bodrum bay and castle.  (Shutterstock photo)

The Greco-Roman antique theater otherwise known as the Theater at Halicarnassus, dates back to the fourth century and overlooks the Bodrum bay and castle. (Shutterstock photo)

ballet-festival

The 19th International Bodrum Ballet Festival, which takes place on a large stage at the Bodrum Castle, will run from Aug. 6 to 19 and kicks off with “Carmen,” followed by “Romeo and Juliet,” “Bach Alla Turca Hamlet” and “Güldestan,” a unique performance of four different thematic modules that combine Sufi and electronic music and readings of the works of Evliya Çelebi and Orhan Pamuk.

Gümüşlük and music

Last, but certainly not least is the Gümüşlük Music Festival, which takes place in both the Antique Stone Quarry in Koyunababa as well as on the beach in Bodrum’s beloved Gümüşlük. It was also founded and is organized annually by a fellow expat. The festival includes classical and world music performances, film screenings and workshops while an elite music academy runs masterclasses by pianists, violin and viola musicians from all over the world.

While getting to the quarry may require transportation for most, the beachside stage, which includes a mud bag concert hall, is easily accessible on foot from accommodation in the seaside neighborhood of Gümüşlük. Luckily, there are a lot of choices from upscale hotels to camping.

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