Many cities and towns have arts festivals, often quite impressive ones. But Charleston, South Carolina’s Spoleto Festival USA stands out for its breadth of offerings, the talent of the performers, and the support that allows a moderate-sized Southern city to bring it all to reality.
Spoleto includes opera, theater, musical theater, the visual arts, and dance, as well as chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music. This past May and June, over a period of 17 days, the Charleston region was treated to more than 120 performances that ranged from favorite classics to brand new works, from established artists to exciting new talents.
If that weren’t enough, Charleston also hosts a companion festival to bring the arts even further into the community. Piccolo Spoleto has more than seven hundred additional performances, including a film festival, a literary festival, organ recitals, and blues and jazz at outdoor venues all around town.
Spoleto came into being in 1977 under the inspiration of composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The festival derives its name from the town of Spoleto in Italy, which has long hosted a similar festival, Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds).
Festival director Nigel Redden sums up this year’s festival: “I happen to believe that (Spoleto founder) Gian Carlo Menotti’s ideas for this festival were pretty damn good ideas – to bring all the arts together, to make daring and unusual choices, to bring young artists along with a sprinkling of the more seasoned, to let people who have passion about something have their way, even if you may not agree with them.”
If you’d like to plan ahead, the 2010 festival takes place May 28-June 13.