The Spoleto Festival has just announced its 2011 line-up, and if you've never been before, this is definitely the summer to finally get off your duff and get to Charleston. At a time when many arts organizations have been forced to tighten their belts or even shutter shop, Spoleto has chosen a different path: expand and diversify.
Spoleto, in case you don't know, is the annual two-week performing arts festival kicking off Memorial Day weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, and now in its 35th year. For 17 days at the end of May and beginning of June, Charleston venues large and small are filled from morning to night with world-class theater, music, opera, dance and performance art. For sheer scope, magnitude and prestige, it is the top festival in the Southeast: There's not really even a close second. In past years, Spoleto has commissioned and premiered work by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsburg and Phillip Glass. It played a key role at the start of the careers of classical luminaries like Renée Flemming, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, the Emerson String Quartet and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, all of whom festival-goers saw when they were relative unknowns.
Charleston is just a six hour drive from Atlanta, so there really is no excuse for audiences here not to go check it out for a couple days. Although hotels in Charleston's toney downtown walking district can be pricey, hotels outside the city can be found in the $50-80 range and even less. And one of the nice things about Charleston (there are many) is that it's close to the beach, so savvy Atlanta Culture Surfers can plan a Memorial Day weekend vacation extravaganza: beach by day, world-class performances by night, all for just a few hundred dollars. (Recession!? What recession?)
The Spoleto line-up for 2011 is one of the largest and most ambitious yet. You can look over the complete schedule and buy tickets now at SpoletoUSA or check out the picks that have peaked our curiosity after the jump.
Musicians Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, also known as Dean & Britta, will perform musical accompaniment to projections of Andy Warhol's famous silent screen-tests in 13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.
The gorgeous Dock Street Theater will be the venue for a revival of festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti's two-act opera The Medium. Other opera offerings include performances of Mozart's The Magic Flute and the American premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Émilie, starring renowned soprano Elizabeth Futral as the Enlightenment-era female scientist Émilie du Chatelet.
The Kneehigh Theater, which mounted popular productions of Tristan & Yseult and Don John at recent Spoleto festivals, returns with a modern take on Hans Christian Anderson's The Red Shoes. The Druid Theater of Dublin makes their festival debut with their award-winning production of the contemporary classic of Irish theater Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan. The gospel-music-infused retelling of the story of Oedipus Gospel at Colonus is already slated to become one of the hot tickets of 2011. Nuyorican poet Lemon Anderson offers a spare, no-holds-barred one-man show about his rough coming of age in the New York City projects in County of Kings: The Beautiful Struggle.
Dance offerings will include Spain's Corella Ballet, explorations of traditional Asian dance forms with both Shen Wei Dance Arts and Khmeropedies, and a solo performance by Jérôme Bel honoring the life and work of dancer Cédric Andrieux. Circa (pictured above) is an Australian troupe that brings a modern, deconstructing sensibility to circus acrobatics.
Add to that a full roster of classical music, including full-scale orchestral works and Spoleto's famous day-time chamber music series, plus performances by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, jazz vocalists Dianne Reeves and Karrin Allyson.
And in case that's not enough, don't forget the events of Piccolo Spoleto—the smaller, more local, more family-oriented arts festival which has sprung up to run alongside Spoleto—which will announce its line-up of theater, dance, film, and visual arts later this year. It should make for a very busy and happy start to summer.
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