The Apollon Theater is a building of great historic significance, directly linked to the history of the island and its culture. Ever since the establishment of Hermoupolis, it became apparent that the city needed a theater that could host a variety of events and house theater troupes visiting the island. The initiative to construct the theater belonged to Michalis Salvagos.
On October 30, 1861, the City Council approved the proposal and unanimously decided to have a theater and a club built in Hermoupolis’ central square. It goes without saying that such a decision would give rise to a number of reactions.
Some considered the construction of a theater an unnecessary luxury, especially when it came to the newly established state of Greece which, apart from fraught with financial problems, was still in the process of letting its wounds heal and was in dire need of other, far more important things. Those opposing the construction of the theater went so far as to issue a brochure in 1862 featuring the relevant propaganda.
The foundations of the Apollon Theater were laid in late 1862 on the grounds of Plateia Theatrou, quite close to Miaouli Square. The theater was designed by architect P. Sampo who, at the time, was employed in his capacity as an architect by the Municipality of Hermoupolis. The Municipal Theater which was named “APOLLON” opened its doors for the first time on April 20, 1864 with Verdi’s Rigoletto in the presence of Michalis Salvagos, the man who envisioned the theater’s construction.
The popular view that the Apollon Theater is a miniature of Milan’s La Scala Theater is not accurate. The theater’s architecture does draw on Italian standards but its design has been influenced by at least four Italian theaters: La Scala in Milan (1776); the refurbished San Carlo in Naples (1816), the Academic Theater in Castelfranco (1745); and the Teatro della Pergola in Florence (1755). Moreover, in contrast to the Italian standards, the Apollon Theater’s vaulted ceiling support system has been influenced by French architecture. However, its superior architectural quality aside, the soundness of the building’s load-bearing structure left much to be desired. As early as 1874, it became apparent that the theater was in need of a total overhaul, while new repairs followed in 1881, 1890 (seats and stage), and 1896 (full repairs).
During the Greek-Italian War the theater sustained considerable damage. Next, it was converted into a cinema and in the years that followed, it never assumed its former, original state. Still, some performances did take place there during the postwar years, with Marika Kotopouli’s farewell performance on March 24, 1953 being the most notable one. During the 1950’s, the Apollon Theater was deemed unsuitable for operation while, in 1959, the Municipality proceeded to restoring it. Its overall repair actually began in 1970 and resulted in significant alterations of its interior.
Today, the theater stands fully restored and has been returned to its original state as accurately as possible. The action taken by theater associations such as the “Apollon Theatrical and Cultural Association of Syros” (est.1977) and the “Souris Theatrical-Cultural Association” (est. 1978) was significant as association members went so far as to stage performances in that concrete-encased theater in order to attract the public’s interest. Nowadays, the Apollon Theater is a superb architectural treasure of Hermoupolis, hosting various cultural events and the Festival of the Aegean.
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