The 40th Annual Spoleto Festival USA is fast approaching, running from May 27 through June 12 in Charleston, South Carolina for the 2016 season. For 17 days and nights every spring, the Spoleto Festival USA packs Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists and new rising performers in opera, theater, dance, music, plus special events.
Founded in 1977 by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, Christopher Keene and the late young orchestra conductor Thomas Schippers, among others, who set out to create an American counterpart to their annual Festival of Two Worlds originating in Spoleto, Italy. The City of Charleston provides the perfect hospitality to this venue with charm, history, infrastructure and antebellum flair grounded in an intimate social environment that enhances the total Festival experience.
Historically, the Spoleto Festival has hosted over 200 premiers including “Matsukaze” by Toshio Hosokawa, “Monkey: Journey to the West” by Chen Shi-Zheng, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, “Peter and Wendy” by Lee Breuer, “Creve Coeur” by Tennessee Williams, “The American Clock” by Arthur Miller, “The Mechanical Organ” by the Nikolais Dance Theatre, “Miracolo d’Amore” by Martha Clarke, “Empty Places” by Laurie Anderson, “Hydrogen Jukebox” by Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, “Praise House” by Urban Bush Women, “Three Tales” by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot, and “Tenebrae” by Osvaldo Golijov.
2016’s lineup spans Charleston’s beloved “Porgy & Bess,” presented at the newly reopened Galliard Auditorium, “The Little Match Girl” and “La Double Coquette.” Multiple performances and show times insure that everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy renditions of world-class opera.
Choose from five theatrical productions including Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” being performed at the justly famed, historical gem, the Dock Street Theater. Founded in 1739, the Dock Street is the oldest continuously operating theatrical venue in the USA. Other productions are live music and puppetry in “Ada/Ava,” the Woolfe Street Playhouse production of the inspiring “Every Brilliant Thing” and the fantastical “Golem.”
Dance takes center stage at Spoleto and among the companies’ performing: Aakash Odedra Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, L.A. Dance Project, and Havana Rakatan, featuring modern, contemporary, tropical Cuban dance and even the mash-up of break-dancing, hip-hop and live beats dance in the original production, “Opposing Forces.”
There are over 64 musical presentations and concerts spanning the 17 days as varied as performances of Chamber music, orchestral performances, world-famous Choral presentations, and a plethora of noted and featured solo and ensembles. Of particular interest is the Music in Time series presenting classic and original works – Helmut Lachenmann’s “Ein Kinderspiel,” and Gleb Kanasevich’s “Verpflichtet II” alongside the premier of John Kennedy’s portraits of Festival musicians titled “Spoletudes.”
Wells Fargo sponsors fourteen separate and unique jazz performances this year, and these events are as mesmerizing and diverse as jazz itself. Pianist Jason Moran celebrates the famous heritage of Harlem jazz in his presentation of the irresistible Fats Waller Dance Party.
National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master Randy Weston dives deep into African jazz roots in his African Rhythms Sextet, and the 2016 Grammy-winning Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra will present his combination of big-band jazz drama and Latin sensuality with his orchestra’s 18 world-class musicians.
Garden Tours, Historic Walking Tours, Porgy & Bess Charleston Tours, Art Walks, Gallery Tours, Celebration Dinners and Dance Master Classes are special events offered during the 2016 Spoleto Festival USA, along with a timely presentation on the U.S. /Cuban Musical connection led by music critic Larry Blumenfeld and including pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill and saxophonist/composer Yosvany Terry.
SIDEBAR – You can learn more about Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s connection to Cuba here.
As you can see from this brief overview, the 2016 Spoleto Festival USA has quite a line up. From May 27th to June 12th, wonderful things await you in Charleston. So prepare to be transported into a world of culture, history and celebration.
For a full schedule of shows and performances (including ticket purchasing), and to help plan your visit to the 2016 Spoleto Festival USA 40th Anniversary in Charleston, SC, please visit
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