The Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival is staged in Aspendos’s theatre every year, over a three- to four-week period starting in mid-June. Both Turkish and foreign companies perform, and the programme consists of popular and experimental opera, ballet and classical concerts (Madame Butterfly and Swan Lake feature regularly). With an inflow of choreographers and musicians from the ex-Soviet Union, Turkish opera and ballet companies have improved out of all recognition, and stage design and costumes match the standard of the performers.
Tickets (TL30–60 for foreigners, less for Turks) are available both in advance and on the night from the theatre, and you can also buy them in Antalya and Side, though the booking office seems to switch venues each year – ask at the tourist office and check waspendosfestival.gov.tr for programmes. Cheap city buses run here from Antalya and Side, and most festival-goers bring along supper to while away the time before the start of the 9.30pm performance, as well as cushions to sit on, and an umbrella or waterproof in case of a thunderstorm.
A number of year-round shows, including the popular Fire of Anatolia (waspendosfestival.gov.tr) dance troops, are performed at the Aspendos Arena, a nearby modern facility erected to help preserve the original arena. While many of these shows are excellent, if you are going in order to experience the ancient theatre, be sure your tickets are for the right place.