Photo: Sebastian Tătaru

Capitals of Culture open in three countries

All three European Capitals of Culture for 2023 are up and running after Elefsina in Greece and Timisoara in Romania held their grand opening ceremonies this month, following first-off-the-mark Veszprém-Balaton in January.
26. February 2023 8:59

The Opening Ceremony of the 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture, next door to the Greek capital city Athens, took place on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 February with a multi-dimensional production conceived by General Artistic Director Michail Marmarinos and directed by Chris Baldwin. The ceremony attracted 15,000-plus visitors from Elefsina, Attica and around the world, as well as 3,000,000 viewers who watched via satellite broadcast by the Greek National Television network (ERT).

The ceremony began with the arrival of processions at the Old Oil Mill Theatre: The Eleusinian Movement included more than 700 people flooding the streets of the small city with music and dance from their places of origin. TimeCircus arrived from Belgium, having travelled 3000 kilometres on their Landship over nine months, and the 21 km Runners, bringing together people with and without disabilities, crossed the Sacred Route, starting from Kerameikos.

Photo: John Stathis

With Greek singer Rena Morphi as host of the ceremony, greetings were delivered at the Old Oil Mill Theatre by the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Promotion of the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas, the Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, the Regional Governor of Attica Giorgos Patoulis, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports Nicholas Giatromanolakis, the Mayor of Elefsina Argyris Oikonomou, the President of 2023 Eleusis Despina Geroulanou and the Managing Director of 2023 Eleusis Nana Spyropoulou, in the presence of institutional bodies, representatives of artistic organisations, embassies and other European Capitals of Culture. Finally, Jack Lang, who along with Greek actor, activist and politician Melina Mercouri, envisioned the establishment of the European Capital of Culture initiative in the 1980s, sent a short video greeting.

The Opening Ceremony, titled Mysteries of Transition, began with the emergence of a mythical entity from the depths of the sea, a metal sculpture 22 metres long, six metres high and weighing 10 tonnes, and decorated with the iconic poppy from the archaeological site of Elefsina. A sea choreography was presented in the bay of Elefsina, with 16 boats and a floating crane as a stage for 30 musicians of the Athens State Orchestra, while boats and ships in the harbour joined in with their horns.

Photo: John Stathis

Visitors toured an original cultural route along the waterfront, which included 19 different activities, such as experimental projects, performances, sound installations, Pontian lyre recitals and culinary events in unexpected places such as rooftops, yards, car repair shops, tavernas, balconies and penthouses. Nymphs appeared unexpectedly throughout the city streets.

On Sunday 5 February, due to inclement weather, only the indoor events took place, with the opening of the art installation Mystery 44 Heiner Goebbels 7 Columns and the exhibition Mystery 17 Melina, both in warehouses of the Old Oil Mill Theatre.

The two-day programme needed the support of 200 volunteers and five new buildings were activated for the Opening Ceremony. More than 270 specialised professionals worked intensively to realise the demanding production, while 28 cameras, three film cranes, two  drones, 200 lights and projectors, 100 concert speakers and and eight giant LED screens were used to cover the event.


Timișoara, Romania

The Official Opening of the Cultural Programme Timișoara 2023 – European Capital of Culture, took place on February 17-19 with a diverse range of unique events. The first part offered a series of exhibitions, most of them remaining open after this first city celebration: “Victor Brauner Exhibition: Inventions and Magic” (17 February – 28 May), “Pepiniera. 1306 Plants for Timisoara” (opened during the entire year), “You Are Another Me – A Cathedral of the Body” (17 February – 30 April), “Mircea Nicolae – Small Things, Precious Things” (17 February – 23 April), “New Times: Xenogenesis of SF” (17 February – 2 April), “Ritzi Jacobi & Peter Jacobi. Textures of Memory. Works from five decades” (17 February – 5 May), “Made up histories have long lives” (17 February – 16 April), “Bright Cityscapes: Mirroring the ecosystem” (17 February – 2 April), “Minitremu 10+” (17 February – 4 December) and “Chronic Desire – Chronic Thirst” (17 February – 23 April).

Photo: John Stathis

The central collective exhibition “Chronic Desire – Chronic Thirst” could be visited in various spaces in the city: the Maria Theresia Bastion, Timișoara Garrison Command, the “Corneliu Miklosi” Public Transport Museum and Stefania Palace. During the opening weekend, more than 10,000 visitors crossed their threshold. The Nursery. 1306 plants for Timișoara – an intervention by MAIO Architects, which will remain open throughout the year – attracted thousands of people every day.

The great show of the opening event brought together 17,000 people on the streets of Timișoara, especially in Unirii Square. The artists who kicked off the weekend were Doctorul Sinteză DJ and Dj K-lu, followed by the Timișoara band Implant Pentru Refuz, along with the special guests Adrian Despot, Dan Byron, Ovidiu Takacs, Ovidiu Vinereanu, Dora Gaitanovici and the Ukrainian hip-hop soloist, Alyona.

The audience was also treated to the Muaré Experience air show, presented by the Spanish company Voalá Project and Duchamp Pilot band. Balkan rhythms were brought on the Unirii Square Stage by the Taraf de Caliu musicians, together with the Impex band, the chamber musician Alexei Ciobanu and Filip Simeonov, who offered a memorable experience in the heart of the city. The opening night ended with the electronic music of German DJ Fritz Kalkbrenner.

On the second day of the opening, the Swedish-British artist Jay Johanson was the central figure of the evening, performing a unique concert on the stage of the Timișoara Palace of Culture. The end of the official opening was marked by the sounds of violinist Lajkó Félix, accompanied by the Vołosi band.

Organisers hope the year will be unrepeatable and will bring out the best that Timișoara has to offer, through the values that contributed to its construction: innovation, multiculturalism and diversity. The 2023 programme encourages those interested in art, performance, philosophy, architecture, design, cultural diversity, education, film, poetry, books and dance to take part in all the events that put Timisoara on the map of European Capitals of Culture.

More details can be found at

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