Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Huang Ruo appointed composer-in-residence to Amsterdam concert hall

It's pronounced kuhn-sehrt-guh-bow

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 4:45 PM

Paradise Interrupted - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Paradise Interrupted

Huang Ruo, the composer of the opera Paradise Interrupted — which will premiere at this May's Spoleto Festival USA — has just been appointed composer-in-residence to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, one of the world's most prestigious concert halls. 

As composer-in-residence, Huang will spend three months in the city writing a work that will premiere during the Concertgebouw's 2015-16 season. 

Huang, who is Chinese-American, worked on Paradise Interrupted with the visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma, who conceived, directed, and designed the show. The opera is inspired by the Western mythical Garden of Eden and the Chinese mythical Peony Pavilion, and features a garden that grows out of the stage, called to life by the lead female singer's voice. Although the opera is making its world premiere at this year's Spoleto Festival, a sneak peek will be performed this month, on March 21, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

It's not Huang's first opera, however; he's also composed several chamber operas and the three-act opera Dr. Sun Yat-sen, which tells the love story of the revolutionary and first president of the Republic of China and his second wife, Soong Ching-Ling. 

Paradise Interrupted plays May 22, 24, 27, 29, and 31, and seats are going fast. Pick yours up on the Spoleto website

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Spoleto performer Dianne Reeves wins Grammy for Best Jazz Album

Fans are dyin' for Dianne

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 12:21 PM


One of this year's Spoleto hot tickets is jazz singer Dianne Reeves, who won the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her record Beautiful Life at last night's Grammy Awards.

This makes Reeves' fifth Grammy award, and will make tickets to her May 30 Spoleto performance at the Cistern Yard go even quicker — so get thee to the Spoleto website, if you want to make sure to catch the show.

On that note, we hear from Jennifer Scott, Spoleto's PR director, that since the lack of the Gaillard has created a reduced ticket capacity, many shows are reaching their limit more quickly than usual. Locals Weekend isn't until April 11-12 — that's when Charleston locals can save up to 50 percent on tickets — but Scott isn't recommending that anyone wait that long to buy if there's something you really want to see. 

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Spoleto begins orchestra auditions

10 cities, 600 hopefuls

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 12:42 PM

  • William Struhs
John Kennedy, Spoleto Festival USA’s conductor and director of orchestral activities, just began one of his favorite yearly projects: putting together the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.

Comprising mainly graduate students and recent postgraduates from some of the best music schools in the country, like Juilliard, the Curtis Institute, and the University of Indiana at Bloomington, the orchestra is easily the busiest group of performers at the festival each year. Not only do they perform major classical concerts — this year, they’re doing Bach’s epic St. Matthew Passion — they’re also a part of many of the other performances, especially the operas. This year they’ll also be accompanying two silent films, City Lights and Decasia.

Auditions opened in New York last Friday, and will continue in 10 cities around the country. “It’s a real joy to go through this process, as it’s different every year,” Kennedy says.

He and his committee hear between 500 and 600 hopefuls audition in person each year, although many more apply. The process takes about three weeks, but he doesn’t do it all at once. “I’ll do four days, maybe a week at a time,” he says. “Any more and you start to lose your ear.” 

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Water puppets, film, and more make for a promising Spoleto 2015 lineup

A Spoleto season preview

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 12:05 AM

The lineup for the 2015 Spoleto Festival USA was all set and ready for the January season announcement when the City of Charleston announced that the festival’s central, showpiece venue, the Gaillard Auditorium, would not be ready by May, when the festival opens. What followed was some quiet, well-managed scrambling on the part of the Spoleto staff to rework the giant Tetris game that their program had become — they moved the shows that had been scheduled for the Gaillard, canceled some special events, and went hunting for both new venues and new performances to fill the holes left behind.

The result is actually a season that looks to be one of their most promising in several years. With a strong vein of visual arts crossover running through the program, 2015 features the incomparable Shakespeare’s Globe theater company, the truly unique ballet-hip hop dancer Lil’ Buck, and the indefinable, joyously strange Taylor Mac, among many other acts.

But first, the operas. Spoleto always brings in one or two operas, and being the massive productions that operas always are, they are often — along with the classical music performances — some of the festival’s biggest draws.

Paradise Interrupted - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Paradise Interrupted

This year features the world premiere of Paradise Interrupted, a new opera by visual artist and director Jennifer Wen Ma and composer Huang Ro. Wen Ma, who was a core member of the creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics; one of her most popular projects since then is turning the Beijing National Aquatics Center facility, where the Olympic water sports were held, into a giant light and color show that changes based on emoji that Chinese internet users use on their version of Twitter (the emoji are collected through a data mining program that is connected to the light system).

For Paradise Interrupted, Wen Ma has designed a huge dream garden that will grow out of, and then disappear back into, the Memminger Auditorium stage. The score includes both Chinese and Western instruments, and the libretto is sung by the Chinese opera star Qian Yi and four Western-trained male singers.

Then there’s the baroque opera Veremonda, L’Amazzone di Aragona. Written by Francesco Cavalli, Veremonda was last performed more than 350 years ago, and tells the tale of the Spanish King Alfonso and Queen Veremonda’s siege of the Moorish fort on the Rock of Gibraltar, with some romance, comedy, and mistaken identity thrown in. The set design is by famed Italian artist Ugo Nespolo, whose work is bright, vivid, and influenced by 1960s pop art.

This year’s theater offerings are Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare’s Globe, a theater company based out of the rebuilt Globe Theater in London, and When It Rains, by the Canadian 2b theatre company. When It Rains follows two couples whose fortunes crumble, and draws from the Biblical story of Job — if, that is, Job were an atheist. We’re still riding the high from last year’s Canadian theater offering, A Brimful of Asha by the Toronto-based Why Not Theatre, so we have to admit we’re biased in 2b’s favor.

Happily, there’s just one physical theater group coming: the Australian Casus Circus, who will be performing their show Knee Deep. The festival’s been hitting the circus thing too hard in recent year, if you ask us — a little of this stuff can go a long way. Hopefully Casus will benefit from an audience who isn’t already acrobatted-out.

Then there are the puppets. There are two separate puppet performances, one by the Carlo Colla and Sons Marionette Company, and another by the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. The marionettes, which are beautiful and intricate, will be acting Sleeping Beauty, while the water puppets — which are puppets that perform in a pool of sorts — will be doing traditional, thousand-year-old, stories of heroism and valor from ancient Vietnam.

Sleeping Beauty - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Sleeping Beauty

Spoleto will also include two films this year, which — as far as we and Spoleto’s director of marketing and PR Jennifer Scott could tell — is a first, although films have been shown in conjunction with festival events before. The first is City Lights, Charlie Chaplin’s beloved, sweetly comedic silent film. The second is the 2002 Decasia, an experimental film exploring the age and decline of the silent film. Coincidentally, much of the original silent film footage compiled for Decasia was obtained through the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collection. The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will perform the music for both films live, on stage.

Of the dance performances, we’re looking forward to What Moves You by Lil’ Buck, who does a kind of street dancing called jookin’. He’s coming to the festival for the first time with cellist Ashley Bathgate, a member of the band Bang on a Can All-Stars. Cellos must be Lil’ Buck’s spirit instrument, because he skyrocketed to fame after improvising a dance with cellist Yo Yo Ma.

Lil' Buck - PROVIDED
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  • Lil' Buck

Taylor Mac, the drag queen-vaudevillian-singer-actor and all-around over-the-top entertainer, is really getting us pumped. Sure, he’s been here before (in 2011) but with an uncategorizable performer like Mac — who sings ditties from the 1770s as well as the 2000s, while wearing things like headdresses made of huge gift bows trailing balloons — every time is like the first time. He’ll be performing at the Woolfe Street Playhouse, which is a new venue for the festival this year. The theater is also hosting the Music in Time series, which consists of two shows by the electric guitar and percussion duo the Living Earth Show.

The classical lineup, as usual, is very strong this year. Along with the favorites Bank of America Chamber Music and the Music in Time series, the centerpiece of this year’s classical offerings is J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, an epic, three-and-a-half hour choral piece representing Christ’s last day before his crucifixion. This one is obviously for the die-hard music lovers, and is something of a special event — not only because of its length, but because it’s written for a double orchestra and double chorus, as well as solo singers. The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra will be joined on stage for this concert by visiting musicians from the New York Baroque Incorporated, as well as the Westminster Choir and members of the Taylor Festival Choir and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Choir.

Finally, closing out this year’s fest will be St. Paul and the Broken Bones, who will play the Festival Finale at Middleton Place. After that — well, all we can say is that we’re glad the arts world pretty much shuts its doors for the summer. We’re going to need the rest.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gaillard delay won't hinder Spoleto Festival in 2015, organizers say

Festival will announce season with a slight delay, on Jan. 2

Posted by Elizabeth Pandolfi on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Spoleto Festival USA will continue without a permanent main stage in 2015 - JULIA LYNN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Julia Lynn Photography
  • Spoleto Festival USA will continue without a permanent main stage in 2015
When the city announced yesterday that the opening of the Gaillard Auditorium was going to be delayed until the end of next summer, instead of being ready in April for the 2015 Spoleto Festival USA, festival organizers had already been notified — but only the previous day.

In addition to performances that were scheduled for the Gaillard, organizers had planned several special events to celebrate the opening. Those will be moved to the 2016 festival, says Jennifer Scott, Spoleto's director of marketing and public relations. "In a way it's better, because 2016 is the fortieth anniversary of the festival," she says. "So it'll be an extra big party."

Right now, Scott and the rest of the team are working on moving the performances that were going to be at the Gaillard, some of which will be going into TD Arena — Spoleto shows started going into the arena two years ago, when the Gaillard became unavailable. Audiences have had mixed responses to the arena, as it was obviously not built for performing arts events. The festival will use TD mainly for music shows, Scott says, and not dance (audiences have not been as happy with the dance shows that have taken place in TD Arena over the past two years).

The festival will also be using one new venue that hasn't yet been announced.

The delay announcement actually came at a good time, if it had to come at all, according to Scott. "We are obviously disappointed that we won't be going back to the Gaillard next season, but we still have a really great season for 2015. None of the shows had been announced, we haven't gone on sale — so that's a good thing," Scott says. "Ultimately, we're pleased that the city took the time to stop and say, 'Wait a minute, let's have a look at what's happening.' We're just pleased that they're making the commitment to building the best hall they can."

The season announcement will now be made on Jan. 2, 2015, instead of before the end of the year as planned.

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