It's official! Welcome to the 37th annual Spoleto Festival USA! Can you feel it? (Lordy, we sure can.) This year's festival was kicked off at high noon today in front of City Hall, which has grown to be the iconic home for the festive opening. The confetti flew and streamers streamed as an upbeat Charleston Mayor Joe Riley marked the official beginning of the 17-day festival.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra preceded the ceremony with a solemn rendition of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" in remembrance of past Spoleto committee chair, College of Charleston President, and all-around Holy City renaissance man Ted Stern, who passed away earlier this year at 100, and was bookended with a youthful, exciting display by Brazilian hip-hop troupe Compagnie Käfig. (A fitting tribute to Stern, who was known for staying active, even as a centenarian.)
Here's a quick video highlighting the ceremony:
Departures were very much a part of the first few hours of the 37th Spoleto Festival.At opening ceremonies foremost in the remembrance was Ted Stern, the founding chairman of the festival board, who died in January at 100 and to whom the 2013 festival is dedicated. Joseph Flummerfelt, director of choral music since the festival started and who leaves the festival when this one ends, was up on the stage. On the front row down at Broad and Meeting sat festival chamber music founder Charles Wadsworth, who will be making his final public performances at the final chamber concert. Up by Flummerfelt was Ellen Dressler Moryl, who recently retired as director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, a post she’s held almost continuously since it was established 35 years ago. And there was Joe Riley, who can’t be mayor forever, but who seems to be doing fine.
I’ve attended about 20 of these opening ceremonies and sometimes dread going. But even if the words were not particularly inspired this time out, the sentiments were, and the importance of recognizing those who made the festival possible — those who are, as Flummerfelt put it, “leaving the stage” — was genuinely moving.
Just go to charlestoncitypaper.com/spoletomobile and bookmark our great web app to get the lowdown on all Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo Spoleto, and Piccolo Fringe events around town. You'll find the latest Spoleto Buzz updates, reviews, previews, our critic's picks and the full schedule just a tap away. You can even look up restaurants nearby each show so you can grab a bite to eat whether if it's date night or just a casual evening out.
We bet Shakespeare never would have guessed that one day that his fantastical play about love and fairies would be performed by puppets. South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company has adapted A Midsummer Night's Dream over the last few years, and we can't wait to see their War Horse-esque adaptation of the classic story. Here's a sneak peek of the performance, if you're still deciding whether or not to buy tickets:
The show had a preview last night and picks up again tomorrow. Click here for dates.
When we heard that Spoleto SCENE was hosting their Le Grand C after-party at a South of Broad mansion, we expected a fancy affair. But like the French acrobatic show, which is a more bare-bones spectacle than the commercialized Cirque du Soleil, the party was a laid-back affair where old friends mingled with new.
The soiree took place on the first floor veranda and interior parlors of 1 Meeting Street, all lit up with red lighting. A champagne cocktail made with lemonade, Brut, and Cathead vodka was too sweet, and made us wish for a simple Lillet cocktail to complement the French performance. The food assembled in the center of the table was similarly off-theme, a smorgasbord of cupcakes and cookies that had us fantasizing about macarons and brie. It sat mostly untouched, rejected by those experienced enough to know that Spoleto season is a marathon, not a sprint.
But a boring food spread was balanced by a great line-up of characters. Editor Cator Sparks mingled with friends while textile designer Harper Poe talked fashion with Kari Kaldon. Performer Anne de Buck tossed her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter in the air along to the music of pianist Laura Ball, as savvy patrons gave each other knowing looks as if to say, “That one’s going to grow up to be an acrobat.” Members of the SCENE steering committee, among them Matt Mill and MacKenzie Kay, circulated through the rooms making conversation and introductions, a subtle tactic that can transform a party from a collection of cliques into a cohesive event.
Le Grand C performer Birta Benonysdottir chatted with partygoers about the company’s previous stops in Mexico City and Buenos Aires. When asked about her reaction to the news that they’d be traveling to Charleston, she demurred, admitting that “I didn’t know what South Carolina was.” It was a great reminder of how unique Charleston truly is, despite national trends and meaningless rankings. Nashville may have Husk, but they’ll never have Spoleto.