It’s been 36 years since the first Spoleto Festival USA began in Charleston, South Carolina. Pulitzer-prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti was seeking an American counterpart to the Festival held in Spoleto, Italy. The city needed to be intimate, with plenty of performance venues, yet charming and easily accessible. Charleston was the perfect fit! With its stated goal of bringing the highest caliber performances for its 17-day run, the organizers have managed to keep the standard very high in all areas: classical and modern musical performances, theater, ballet, opera, and the spoken word. This year’s festival runs from May 24 through June 9, with a couple of preview performances on May 22 and 23. A brief summary of performances follows:
Mayday Mayday Poignant and brutally funny true story of one man’s recovery from a life-changing injury. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company’s magical interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies. Oedipus Nottingham Playhouse returns with celebrated actor/director Steven Berkoff’s distinctive adaptation of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy. Bullet Catch A theater show with magic, mindreading, levitation and the most notorious stunt of them all. THE INTERGALACTIC NEMESIS / Book One: Target Earth An intrepid 1930s reporter teams up with a mysterious librarian to face the most terrible threat humanity has ever known. THE INTERGALACTIC NEMESIS / Book Two: Robot Planet Rising Molly Sloan takes on new intergalactic adventures in the second installment of this live action graphic novel. LE GRAND C French new-circus spectacle of gravity-defying stunts, stunning skill, and distinctive style.
MATSUKAZE With a hypnotic tapestry of sound, Toshio Hosokawa—one of Japan’s most prominent living composers—conjures up the spirit world of the Noh play on which his ethereal new opera is based. A traveling monk encounters two ghostly sisters—Matsukaze (Wind-in-the-Pines) and Murasame (Autumn-Rain)—who are fated to wander the earth until they can find release from their mortal lover who left them hundreds of years before. LE VILLI | MESE MARIANO An operatic double-bill by two beloved Italian composers, a pair of rarely performed, emotionally rich works steeped in the anguish of a woman’s love. In Umberto Giordano’s Mese Mariano, Carmela longs to see the son she gave up to an orphanage in her youth. Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi is the tale of a young man who abandons his lover for the riches of the city only to be tormented by the scorned woman’s vengeful spirit after her death.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO Grammy Award–winning world music superstar combines powerful West African grooves, raw American R&B, and sophisticated jazz harmonies. JOHNNYSWIM Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter duo offers a soulful blend of sultry R&B and indie-rock. BANK OF AMERICA CHAMBER MUSIC Popular twice-daily concert series features 11 distinctive programs and a talented roster of artists. INTERMEZZI Copland and Stravinsky | May 27; Spotlight on the Orchestra | June 1; Vocal Splendor | June 5 MUSIC IN TIME Pamela Z | May 27; 100th Birthday for The Rite of Spring | May 29; Music of Nathan Davis | June 2; In a Spring Garden | June 7 RIMSKY-KORSAKOV/CAPRICCIO ESPAGNOL, BARTÓK/THE WOODEN PRINCE, RACHMANINOFF/SYMPHONIC DANCES Stefan Asbury leads the Festival Orchestra in classical works with origins in folk music. WESTMINSTER CHOIR CONCERTS The Festival’s acclaimed choir-in-residence performs a rich and diverse repertoire. ROSANNE CASH Grammy Award–winning singer/songwriter who blurs the lines between country, rock, and pop. ADAMS/HARMONIELEHRE; RAVEL/BOULEZ/FRONTISPICE; VASKS/CREDO John Kennedy leads the Festival Orchestra in a program featuring one of the defining orchestral works of our time, plus two American premieres. MESSA DA REQUIEM Joseph Flummerfelt’s farewell appearance as Spoleto’s Artistic Director for Choral Activities. J.D. McPHERSON Singer/songwriter rocks the Cistern with vintage rock ’n’ roll and R&B. FINALE | RED STICK RAMBLERS Rollicking Cajun/honky-tonk/swing concert capped off with a spectacular fireworks display.
Music – Jazz
GREGORY PORTER Grammy-nominated jazz and soul singer with “a voice to die for” (Jazz Wise). IIRO RANTALA Finland’s best-known jazz pianist plays with imagination, inexhaustible energy and virtuoso technique. ELI DEGIBRI Soulful saxophonist whose playing has been called “inspiring [and] fearless” by Herbie Hancock. PUNCH BROTHERS Virtuosic progressive bluegrass band returns to the Festival after sold-out 2008 Cistern show. ANDRÉ MEHMARI Brazilian pianist/composer/arranger performs jazz, popular and classical music from Mozart to Monk. ALESSANDRO PENEZZI & ALEXANDRE RIBEIRO Acoustic guitar/clarinet duo covering everything from improvisational Brazilian choro to “hot jazz”.
JARED GRIMES Tap phenom performs a hybrid of tap, hip-hop, and street jazz in a program created especially for the Festival. COMPAGNIE KÄFIG Two heart-stopping athletic dance pieces combining hip-hop, samba, and capoeira. BALLET FLAMENCO DE ANDALUCÍA Spain’s renowned troupe perform a fiery program of traditional flamenco dance. LUCKY PLUSH PRODUCTIONS Innovative dance-theater piece humorously explores the entanglements between life and art. SHANTALA SHIVALINGAPPA One of India’s most celebrated artists elegantly portrays ancient Hindu deities through traditional dance.
THE SPOLETO WATERCOLORS OF STEPHEN MUELLER AND CARL PALAZZOLO Paintings inspired by friendships, Spoleto Festival USA, and the lush Lowcountry environment. REBOUND: DISSECTIONS AND EXCAVATIONS IN BOOK ART Mixed-media artists transform literature and printed books through sculptural intervention.
CONVERSATIONS WITH CBS correspondent Martha Teichner hosts lively conversations with Festival artists. For ticket information, contact Spoleto Festival USA.