Music, Opera and Dance in Turkey’s Ancient Sites


Summer is well underway and with it, of course, come colorful events across Turkey’s ancient landscape, from dance festivals to musical performances on ancient stages, operas and even ballets that are meant to capture and to delight audiences at World Heritage sites. Here’s a roundup of some of the events to look forward to this summer in Turkey.

Anatolian fire

Seeing Anadolu Ateşi, which means Fire of Anatolia, perform in the ancient theater of Aspendos in Antalya is a real treat. This highly energetic and fascinating dance troupe of over 100 members, who perform fast modern versions of traditional folk dances – think River Dancers of Turkey – is a wonderful visual and rhythmic feast of footwork and colorful costumes. The three-performance series kicked off this week and continues with performances on June 21 and 28.

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 the Greek architect Zenon, Aspendos is known to be the best preserved theater of antiquity which could accommodate 7,000 people. You can truly experience what it must have been like to attend performances in the same location nearly 2,000 years ago. Located outside of Serik, Aspendos is about a 40-minute drive from downtown Antalya, but if you want beachfront accommodation close to the amphitheater, the resort town of Belek has it all, from five-star all-inclusive hotels to basic bed and breakfasts. . While you are there you can also visit Phaselis, another beautiful old spa town located directly on the sea.

This year, the annual tradition of the State Opera and Ballet Branch resumes festivals at ancient theaters located in or near popular vacation destinations. Being immersed in the performing arts in the incomparable setting of ancient amphitheatres is truly a magical experience that you can start planning now. Performances vary and feature state dance and opera troupes from around the country. In addition to the festivals mentioned below, opera and ballet festivals will also take place this summer in Istanbul, Eskişehir, Trabzon and Gaziantep.


Built in 155 by the Greek architect Zenon, Aspendos is known to be the best preserved theater of antiquity which could accommodate 7,000 people.  (Photo Shutterstock)
Built in 155 by the Greek architect Zenon, Aspendos is known to be the best preserved theater of antiquity which could accommodate 7,000 people. (Photo Shutterstock)

Ephesus Opera, ballet

The 5th Ephesus International Opera and Ballet Festival is coming, during which the public will have the opportunity to attend performances of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “La Traviata”, “Friday” and “Madame Butterfly” in Turkey’s most famous ancient theatre. Spectacularly preserved ancient city of Ephesus. The festival kicks off with a gala concert on June 24 and performances are scheduled on five dates until July 7. This is a truly unique opportunity to experience this UNESCO heritage site which 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 nearest base for accommodation, Ephesus has plenty of highlights to warrant a second day, including the House of the Virgin Mary, thus staying in Şirince , a quaint boutique village with iconic Ottoman architecture is another option for a longer getaway.


The Ancient Theater of Ephesus, the most spectacularly preserved ancient city in Turkey, offers a unique experience when hosting performances.  (Photo Shutterstock)
The Ancient Theater of Ephesus, the most spectacularly preserved ancient city in Turkey, offers a unique experience when hosting performances. (Photo Shutterstock)

Bodrum Castle Events

On July 2, 9 and 17, there will be a series of performances for the 3rd Bodrum Kaleiçi Events, during which a stage is set up for concerts inside the renovated Bodrum Castle. This year’s series includes Neapolitan songs sung by Turkish tenors, Tango Tango and a Tango evening. Bodrum Castle is located in the heart of the city center and is therefore easily accessible on foot from city center accommodation, as well as being easily accessible anywhere on the peninsula via an active minibus network.

Summer concerts in antiquity

If ballet and opera aren’t your scene, don’t worry because this summer there’s a long list of over 30 concerts taking place in the Bodrum Amphitheater throughout July and August. . From pop and rock to theater and comedy, there’s something for everyone and the setting of the ancient Greco-Roman theater otherwise known as the Theater of Halicarnassus, which dates back to the 4th century and overlooks the bay and Bodrum Castle.

There are far too many artists to mention them all, but this summer’s concerts kick off with Sıla on July 1st. Highlights include Postmodern Jukebox, Levent Yüksel, Duman, Candan Erçetin, Gaye Su Akyol and the legendary Selda Bağcan, which ends the series on September 2.

Bodrum’s Ancient Theater sits above the city center from where it’s an admittedly hilly walk. So you’ll probably want to take a taxi or minibus from the city center and back, but if you choose to stay elsewhere on the peninsula, the theater is just up the minibus route to Bodrum’s central bus station.


The Ancient Greco-Roman Theatre, otherwise known as the Theater of Halicarnassus, dates back to the 4th century and overlooks the bay and Bodrum Castle.  (Photo Shutterstock)
The Ancient Greco-Roman Theatre, otherwise known as the Theater of Halicarnassus, dates back to the 4th century and overlooks the bay and Bodrum Castle. (Photo Shutterstock)

ballet festival

The 19th Bodrum International Ballet Festival, which takes place on a large stage at Bodrum Castle, will run from August 6 to 19 and will begin 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 not least, is the Gümüşlük Music Festival, which takes place both in the ancient stone quarry of Koyunababa and on the beach of Bodrum’s beloved Gümüşlük. It was also founded and is organized annually by an expatriate colleague. The festival includes classical and world music performances, film screenings and workshops while an elite music academy organizes masterclasses by pianists, violinists and violas from around the world.

While getting to the quarry may require transportation for most, the seaside stage, which includes a mudbag concert hall, is easily accessible on foot from accommodation in the seaside Gümüşlük district. Luckily, there are plenty of choices, from high-end hotels to camping.

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