Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spoleto Festival USA announces 2011 schedule

Bring It On

Posted by Erica Jackson Curran on Sun, Jan 2, 2011 at 12:05 AM

After two years of powering through a down economy, Spoleto Festival U.S.A. is set to stage what General Director Nigel Redden calls one of their largest festivals yet.

“People don’t come to festivals because they cut back fiscally and because they’re sort of restrained and watch every penny,” Redden says. “Obviously, we need to do that in order to survive in the long term, but basically people come to festivals because they’re good and rich in variety and rich in offerings. They’re going to have a fascinating time, and I think that’s what we’ve emphasized this year.”

This year’s line-up is diverse, bold, and ambitious, including a few familiar faces as well as many fresh ones.

The Red Shoes

  • The Red Shoes

Ireland’s Druid Theatre makes its festival debut with The Cripple of Inishmaan, written by Martin McDonagh and directed by Tony Award winner Garry Hynes. Redden says he’s been trying for years to get Hynes to the festival. “She is certainly one of the great directors working in contemporary theater anywhere in the English-speaking world,” he says. “She is very true to a text and gets something special out of actors. There’s a trick to a certain type of Irish theater where the language has to be right ... Garry manages to do that brilliantly.”

UK’s Kneehigh Theatre (2009’s Don John, 2006’s Tristan & Yseult) returns with The Red Shoes, a grisly take on the Hans Christian Andersen classic — the New York Times called it “another ringing testament to the theatrical inventiveness and exploratory intelligence of Kneehigh.” Solo theater shows include County of Kings: Beautiful Struggle by hip-hop theater artist Lemon Anderson as well as East 10th Street: Self Portait with Empty House by Edgar Oliver.

In the musical theater genre, Lee Breuer directs The Gospel at Colonus, a modern reworking of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, set in a Pentecostal church. Expect foot-stomping gospel music. “It’s a bit of a change for us,” Redden admits. “I had worked on it about 30 years ago, when I worked in Minneapolis. An early version came to workshop there... so it’s a bit of a homecoming as far as I’m concerned. [Director Lee Breuer] felt that setting this Greek play in the context of a church made an enormous amount of historical sense as well as a kind of intuitive theatrical sense. It makes the whole story come alive in a way that I think is quite brilliant.”

The Magic Flute

  • The Magic Flute

Like last year, the festival boasts three operas, each with its own distinct vibe. The Spoleto Festival Orchestra, led by former festival music director Steven Sloane, performs Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The festival’s new resident conductor John Kennedy conducts the orchestra in Emilie, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s homage to Enlightenment scientist Emilie du Chatelet. Marianne Weems of New York’s Builder’s Association theater company will direct. And the festival honors founder Gian Carlo Menotti by taking a fresh look at The Medium, which will be directed by John Pasco (2010’s Flora).

This year’s festival also includes a circus category — Australia’s Circa presents a blend of acrobatics, choreography, and humor.

Shen Wei Dance Arts

The dance series showcases Spain’s Corella Ballet and choreographer Emmanuele Phuon’s Khmeropedies I & II, which takes a fresh look at the ancient Cambodian Khmer dance. Shen Wei Dance Arts also explores Cambodian culture, and Jerome Bel offers a visual autobiography of contemporary dancer CÉdric Andrieux.

Taylor Mac

  • Taylor Mac

This year’s classical music offerings are plentiful, as usual. The Bank of America Chamber Music Series, led by Geoff Nuttall, continues along with John Kennedy’s Music in Time series and Intermezzi. Taylor Mac returns (we last saw him in 2008) with Comparison Is Violence or the Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook. Another edgy late-night offering comes from indie-poppers Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, who will perform with a band under video projections of Andy Warhol’s silent film portraits. Their show is called 13 Most Beautiful... Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones and the bluegrassy Del McCoury Band (who will play at the finale) add some down-home flavor to the mix. Nineteen-year-old Grammy nominee Sarah Jarosz will also make her debut.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

The Wachovia Jazz Series is now the Wells Fargo Jazz Series, but expect the same level of jazzy greatness. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue combines jazz, funk-rock, and hip-hop — Shorty’s in the running for a Grammy for best contemporary jazz album. Dianne Reeves and Karrin Allyson return after previous appearances, while others, like Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjornstad, Brazilian accordionist Toninho Ferragutti, Italian pianist Danilo Rea, and Argentinean jazz duo Willy Gonzalez and Micaela Vita are making their festival premieres.

Winter Stories

  • Winter Stories

The Festival partners with the Halsey Institute to present Paolo Ventura’s Winter Stories. The artist uses photographs, miniatures, and detailed sets to depict scenes from the memory bank of a fictional Italian circus performer reminiscing on his life.

Stay posted to our Spoletobuzz blog for more information on Spoleto 2011. May 27 will be here before we know it.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hot Tickets: Beyond the Peninsula

Posted by Nick Smith on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Since Downtown gets most of the attention, it's easy to forget that there are events going on in other places, too. Busiest of all is the family-run Village Playhouse in Mount Pleasant, which has three highly recommended plays running at the moment.

Shipwrecked is an entertaining show for all ages but also explores the themes of truth mixing with fiction and the fickle finger of fame. It's well acted and unlike anything else in Piccolo Spoleto.

Souvenir is a comedy about the worst singer to ever hit the big time, Florence Foster Jenkins. Susie Hallatt — actually a very talented singer — has endeared audiences to her clueless character, and the slight premise holds up well throughout the show.

Like Shipwrecked and Souvenir, [title of show] is based on real events. [title] is a great example of what can be done with just four actors, four chairs, and a few cheap props. The cast put a huge amount of energy into their singing and acting, telling a true story that is relevant to contemporary audiences. Although it has musical theater in-jokes, it's fun for non-Broadway fans to watch and a symbol of low-budget Piccolo ingenuity.

Bowen's Island Restaurant off Folly Road has one more event before the festival ends. Saturday Night Fish Fry is a blues bash featuring Louis D, Ed "Porkchop" Meyer and Smoky Weiner & the Hot Links. The restaurant, a long-time local fixture, is a great location for blues and swing music. As a bonus, you get an ample bite of fish to go with your Weiner.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wadsworth begins his Spoleto Swan Song

Doc W was in a rascally mood

Posted by Lindsay Koob on Sun, May 24, 2009 at 9:14 AM


The festival’s first day got off to a great start for me Friday afternoon, with the first installment of 11 complete chamber music programs at the Memminger Auditorium. And Doc W was still up to his old tricks. My later event was, of course, opening night for Louise — this year’s only opera. I really dug it, too: check out my review right here.

Have you ever seen anybody engineer his own standing O?? You can imagine the warm applause as Wadsworth made his grand entrance (musicians in tow), but that wasn’t enough. Charles was in a rascally mood. He lost no time in whipping his crowd into a frenzy, drawing everybody to their feet with sweeping gestures, and then he stood in mock, open-mouthed surprise, clutching his hammy heart as he acknowledged the “spontaneous” ovation.

Then he announced that he had just turned 80 the previous da, and proceeded to “conduct” the audience as they sang the happy birthday song to him. And he was the perfect parody of a real conductor, using every melodramatic, hackneyed gesture you’ve ever seen from a podium. ‘Twas a real hoot, as usual.

But then Doc W and his friends got down to some serious music-making, with J.S. Bach’s C Major Trio Sonata, a wondrously lovely and cerebral item. The featured artists were flutist extraordinaire Tara Helen O’Connor, her fab fiddler husband Daniel Phillips, and cello champ Alisa Weilerstein, with Wadsworth himself at the harpsichord. As he eased slowly onto his bench, Wadsworth was overheard to mutter, “Except for my mind and body, I’m in great shape!”

While the music wasn’t funny, it was happy and animated — aside from the somber lyric beauty of the slow movements. The third movement’s triple fugue was a real brain-teaser. And, as the assorted instruments tossed themes back and forth in the joyful finale, I was almost shocked (as I am every year in this stellar series) at just how freaking magnificnet these musicians are.

From there, we heard a winning threesome of vocal pieces, courtesy of cherished returning soprano Courtenay Budd, along with a variety of instrumentalists. The first number was also by Bach: his famous “Sheep May Safely Graze,” with the same players, except for vivacious violin regular Chee-Yun taking Philips’ place, while sir Charles switched to piano. The second piece was “Le Bonheur et Chose Legere” by Camille Saint-Saens, with just violin and piano support (also the same players). Finally, Weilerstein and her choice cello replaced Chee-Yun for Amy Beach’s searing “Chanson d’Amour.” All of them are sublime masterpieces.

Ms. Budd offers the highest “goosebump” index of just about any soprano I’ve ever heard: I’ve been a rabid fan of hers for years. She packs her pure, silvery tone with almost too much emotion to bear. After she finished, I realized there were tears in my eyes — and that’s hardly the first time she’s done that to me.

The grand finale was a work I’ve never heard before: a “reduction” of Ernest Chausson’s wildly passionate Concerto for Violin and Piano. But instead of the usual string orchestra, the soloists (Chee-Yun, with fab pianist Anne-Marie McDermott) got their backup from the trusty St. Lawrence String Quartet (I’ll throw you their names in future blogs). The quality and excitement of the music was a real surprise to most of us, and both soloists got heavy workouts that pushed the limits of their virtuosity. The headlong “tres-animé” finale left us absolutely limp, and brought the house down. Wadsworth didn’t have to prompt the standing O for this one.

Among other gems that escaped Wadsworth’s lips (after casting faux-lecherous glances at the winsome young lady musicians to either side of him) was his sudden announcement, “I have decided to reveal to you that I am a heterosexual.” Thirty years in Charleston, and he can still find fresh ways to make us laugh. Gawd, how I’m gonna miss this warm, witty and wonderful man. But I’m not ready to grieve his departure just yet. Spoleto’s got two weeks to go.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

CBT comes up with a way to keep folks hanging around

Piano players will play in lobby before shows

Posted by Gervase Caycedo on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 7:54 PM

Every morning the Charleston Ballet dancers warm-up their plies and grands battements to a pianist's live accompaniment. When show time rolls around, the baby grand piano is quarantined to the CBT's lobby area, where ticket holders can admire it before stepping around it to their final destination their seats in the black box theater.

However, this year, Kyle Barnette, administrative director of the Charleston Ballet Theater, had an idea to coax his attendees into sticking around the lobby a bit longer: he's hired (for free) local talents and longtime friends Jordan Alexander and Brenda LeFevre to dazzle the keys of that baby grand for a short spell before several Piccolo performances. Alexander will bang out some ragtime tunes appropriately prepping audiences for The Great Gatsby, and he'll give a mini- Beatles concert before Magical Mystery Tour. LeFevre will fill the lobby with show tunes 'til the show time of (you guessed it) Lullaby of Broadway. Excellent use of space and resources, if you ask me.

Last thing I wanted to mention: Mr. Kyle Barnette is a tad unhappy about the CBT's Buzz-o-meters in this week's City Paper. While I lack the power to recant our starring system (though I can explain: the stars represent surrounding "buzz," not the quality of the act); I am responsible for a comment concerning the "steep ticket prices" of tried and true CBT classic Brown Bag & Ballet. I was, believe it or not, of accord with Mr. Barnette when he said on the phone this morning, "Yeah, ticket prices are steep, but they're well worth it!" Gotta respect the man's need to voice his opinion (and, I might meekly add, freedom of the press). He stands by his product, as he should, and as I pointed out, all the more reason to rock out in tomorrow's premiere performance at noon of Brown Bag, followed by "Magical Mystery Tour (7 p.m.) that same night. My apologies a dancer my whole life, I love our local ballet!

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Only 24 Shopping Days Until Spoleto '08 Program Is Announced

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Fri, Dec 7, 2007 at 3:58 AM


It’s the middle of December, and, as if you haven’t been reminded of it every day since Thanksgiving, the number of days remaining until you’ve blown your chance to make up for the Christmas-themed underwear you gave somebody last year are ticking down at roughly the same rate your waistline is expanding. The very last thing on your mind is Spoleto, right? You’ve still got five months and 16 days to worry about that other seasonal ritual. Except you don’t, not really. Spoleto pauses for no man, jolly fat elves included.

On January 2, hungover Charlestonians will get a mid-year dose of the Southeast’s most ostentatious annual arts event to swallow with their Pepto Bismol as they return to work. That’s when Spoleto Festival USA plans to announce its 2008 artistic program, after which tickets for the next festival officially go on sale. It’s also probably about the exact moment your December credit card bill will come due – an awkward bit of timing, to be sure, but that’s how they’ve done it for the past two years, and ticket sales for both those years have busted records all over the place. So much for conventional wisdom.

Nobody but tight-lipped Spoleto admins and, maybe, God know what director Nigel Redden has in store for the 32nd festival come next May. And that’s not likely to change until Jan. 2. So if you’re looking for word on what to expect from this blog, you’ll have better luck with a Ouija board. (That’s what I’m using, anyway. If I can only reach Gian Carlo Menotti, I’m set.)

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