Thursday, June 1, 2017

Drink this now, a Spoleto cocktail in a quiet space

Zero to one hundred

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 12:39 PM

  • Spoleto Festival USA
Charleston, on the cusp of summer, can feel flooded: flooded with tourists (the standard brand and those of the Spoleto variety), flooded with foodie and cultural events, flooded, really, whenever it rains. It's nice sometimes to slip away, even for 30 minutes, to regather yourself before diving back into the fray.

Might I recommend a stop at Zero George. The boutique hotel's diminutive bar is both cozy and fresh, tucked away in a gorgeously restored 19th century building. It's not an after-work happy hour to frequent (I prefer my HH prices to be dirt cheap and I'm not too picky about the booze, either), but Zero George bar is great for an every once in a while evening. When better to spend some dough than during Spoleto season?

The Spoleto-themed cocktail the bar is serving up is not some derivative bubbly "festive — for the festival!" concoction. It's thought out, perfectly executed, aesthetically stunning, and tasty. And boozy, very boozy. The Black Rabbit, created by beverage director and restaurant manager Kendall Moore, is made with Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, egg whites, lemon, and activated charcoal. If you're wondering what the hell activated charcoal is, research suggests it is safe to ingest on occasion, and is one of many new health food trends.

Moore says he wanted the cocktail to look dark and daring, but to taste light and fresh. And it does. He describes it as something that would remind you of your childhood, like an Orange Julius on a hot day. Best damn Julius I've ever had.

If you have a Spoleto ticket for a Gaillard performance that is happening the same day, the drink costs $10 (otherwise it's $14).

Editor's note: We've included links to some research above regarding activated charcoal and have asked Moore for more info on his cocktail creation. Of course, always consume alcohol at your own discretion. We here at City Paper are not medically trained and can speak to taste and personal experience only.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spoleto scenesters devour Le Farfalle whipped ricotta, rehash 'Eugene Onegin'

Cheers to summer

Posted by Caroline Enten on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 10:33 AM

Spoleto Development Apprentices - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Spoleto Development Apprentices
Scenesters filed to Le Farfalle last night to imbibe briefly before catching Argentine-born Sofia Rei’s final concert at the Simons Center. And while it may be winter in Buenos Aires, the restaurant’s sun-drenched patio cried “Summer!” extending to both our crowd and passersby the chance to relax and decompress. One of the perks of SCENE membership is discounted tickets to select shows, so for $36 a pop, Tuesday’s party and performance package was an easy win.
Caroline Simpson, George Ramsay, Anna Poole - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Caroline Simpson, George Ramsay, Anna Poole
If you haven’t been to Le Farfalle yet or recently, well, shame on you. Chef Michael Toscana provided two signature small plates, which the crowd devoured in entirety almost instantly. Understand that food is always generously provided at these affairs, and while it all disappears eventually, rarely have I witnessed such swift demolition as last night.

Provisions included the ceci in umido. Think an Italian take on bright, citrus-infused hummus from the Umbrian region, and whipped ricotta laced sinfully with honey and really good olive oil (you know, the kind Ina Garten always implores you to use), served alongside toasted baguette.

These dishes did not last long. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • These dishes did not last long.
Drink specials seemed especially crafted to combat the heat: Aperol Spritzers and Mint Rickeys topped the cocktail list, while local faves like Freehouse Farmhouse Ale and Westbrook White Thai flowed from the taps. Revelers departed amply quenched and fortified for the parade down St. Philip Street to the concert venue, shortly before 7 p.m.

Feedback from the previous week’s dress rehearsal of Eugene Onegin varied. Many expressed excitement that unlike last year’s headliner Porgy & Bess, viewers could actually follow the plotline thanks to subtitles that supplemented the singing which was, of course, in Russian. One attendee admitted that between the wine drunk at Scarecrow’s happy hour, the dim lighting, comfortable seats (and they ought to be more comfortable after the Gaillard’s recent $142 million renovation) and a hard day’s work, she succumbed to sleep sometime during the second act. No judgement, sister.

Here’s the good news for you, dear reader: You, too can live like a scenester. Le Farfalle is offering later hours to accommodate post-performance crowds, and with their generously sized patio, airy bar, and reasonably priced menu, I dare say it’s one of the better spots in town to relax with friends or to impress a hot date while you rehash the highs and lows of your latest Spoleto jaunt.
Location Details Le Farfalle
Le Farfalle
15 Beaufain St.
Charleston, SC
(843) 212-0920
Mon.-Sat., 5:30-11 p.m. Weekend Brunch
Italian and Bar

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Guests go all out, vodka shots flow, and Anita Zucker takes to the dance floor at Tatyana's Ball

The belles and ballers of the ball

Posted by Caroline Enten on Sat, May 27, 2017 at 12:05 PM

Anita Zucker was cuttin' a rug last night. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Anita Zucker was cuttin' a rug last night.
How do you go about setting the stage, so to speak, when aiming to replicate a scene from an opera you’ve never seen as the backdrop for a $350-a-ticket party thrown in honor of that opera? And not just any party: A ball. A black tie, who’s-who of Spoleto patronage, better-learn-to-waltz, honest to god ball.

Well, when that opera is Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, set to the backdrop of Russia’s aristocratic St. Petersburg ca 1820, you go lavish.

Walking into the Exhibit Hall at the Galliard was like finding myself suddenly encased in a Faberge egg. Shimmering panels of floor-to-ceiling drapery, alternating gold, cream, and red covered every inch of wall. Crystal chandeliers hung from silk ropes, casting a pleasant glow upon the revelers below. Undulating lengths of fabric woven like ribbon through the rafters softened the room, lending to the overall effect of feeling cozily muffled inside of a jewel box.

According to party organizers, this sumptuous interpretation of what they thought the ballroom scene from the opera might look like ended up completely off base. Director Chen Shi-Zheng employed a slightly more modern, spartan approach to his set, as is apparently the trend in many opera companies today. That didn’t matter in the least, however. Every attendee entered the room spellbound and on high from the performance, ready to recreate a Tatyana moment of their own.

Jay and Tammy Harris - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Jay and Tammy Harris

The theme of the affair, decidedly “Imperial Russia,” echoed throughout the entire evening and influenced everything from music to food. Cru Catering treated guests to duck confit stuffed canapes, shot glasses of borscht, a traditional soup in Eastern European culture, rounds of black bread dotted with chopped, hard boiled egg salad and more. Trays of High Noon distillery vodka shots circulated the foyer — a thoughtful trick which supplied a little liquid courage to help fill the dance floor later.

Happily, word got out to go true black tie or go home. Tuxedos and gowns outnumbered suits and cocktail dresses, and the end result was breathtaking. After the full sit-down dinner, Michelle Rotrano finally stepped on stage to conduct the 50-piece Spoleto Festival Orchestra in various waltz-worthy compositions. Charleston’s own Anita Zucker was among the first to take to the floor with her ballroom dance instructor from the Oxygen Ball, and dozens of other couples quickly followed until there was room only to sway with your partner, carefully trying to avoid bumping elbows with your neighbors.

Barbara Guss, Lisa Hutto, Susan Edwards. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Barbara Guss, Lisa Hutto, Susan Edwards.
Regular patrons mixed with local newcomers, out-of-towners like Nancy and David Paige of Baltimore, Maryland, and festival performers like Peter Volpe, who portrayed Prince Gremin in the evening’s performance. After an hour or so of ballroom dance, the orchestra took their bows, and DJ Moo Moo reassumed his position as master of ceremonies.

A final glimpse into the room before departing met eyes with a bunch of deliriously happy gentlefolk, Funky Chicken-ing their way into the midnight hour.

The youngest guest of the evening was 11-year-old Seth Riley. Lucky guy. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • The youngest guest of the evening was 11-year-old Seth Riley. Lucky guy.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Spoleto Festival USA 2017 officially kicks off with opening ceremony

Standard fare, confetti, and a sexy Monchichi preview

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 3:35 PM

The 41st season of Spoleto Festival USA kicked off today at noon at City Hall; visitors and Lowcountry denizens sat alongside Spoleto board and city council members, and even former Mayor Joe Riley, in seats arranged beneath a blazing sun.

Mt. Zion AME Church Reverend Kylon Middleton was the first to speak: he gave the invocation "under the canopy of beautiful blue skies," and waxed on about how wonderful it is that we can "artistically express the stories of our legacy."

  • Dustin Waters
Mr. Franco Pomponi, the baritone cast to play Onegin in Eugene Onegin, sang the National Anthem with operatic gusto before Edward Sellers, chairman of the Spoleto board, ran through some highlights of this year's festival. With more than 150 performances, there's a lot to see, and to say, about "the greatest arts festival in the country." Sellers made note of Farnace, Quartett, Yo, Carmen, Angel, We Love Arabs, Moses, and the many chamber music performances slated.
Sellers introduced maestro Evan Rogister, conductor of Eugene Onegin, with an anecdote about a 14-year old boy who was absolutely besotted with a four hour Spoleto Festival opera more than 20 years ago. That boy was Rogister, a now world-renowned conductor who is a dual citizen of Germany and America. His grandmother, who was herself a German immigrant, drove Rogister and his siblings from Raleigh to Charleston to take in that Spoleto show years ago. Rogister said his grandmother had very high standards when it came to opera, so they had to travel out of the state to see a show that would hit the mark. Today, Rogister feels the same adoration for Spoleto that his grandmother did: "The festival is unrivaled in quality and the amount of material presented. I hope that a 14-year old boy out there is inspired this year by Eugene Onegin."
Monchichi dancers Honji Wang and Sebastian Ramirez - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Monchichi dancers Honji Wang and Sebastian Ramirez
Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke about the Festival's "ageless, timeless vigor," and thanked the city and the Spoleto team for their commitment that is "the stuff of legend." The Mayor gave a special shout out to recently retired City of Charleston Parks Department employee Marion "Mattie" Pyatt who for years tirelessly built stages, set up chairs, and maintained parks for the Festival. Tecklenburg described Pyatt as a "Spoleto man in full," and the crowd rose for a standing ovation (the only one of the afternoon).

After a cannon blast shot sparkling bits of confetti into the sky, the ceremony closed with a brief performance by Monchichi's Honji Wang and Sebastian Ramirez. We're excited to see the full production: in just a few minutes the two created a wildly engaging energy, moving on the stage as if they were the last two people on Earth. Buy your tickets now.

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Get a sneak peek at 'Eugene Onegin,' opening Friday for Spoleto

Among the Trees

Posted by Sam Spence on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 1:44 PM

  • Sam spence
One of the opening shows for this year's Spoleto Festival USA is Eugene Onegin, the Tchaikovsky opera based on a Pushkin novel.

Onegin stars 33-year old soprano Natalia Pavlova who trained at the Moscow Conservatory as a pianist with eyes on being a conductor before she was encouraged by a teacher to try singing.

The opera is a love story spanning years between Pavlova's character Tatyana, who carries a flame for the title character Onegin, played by Franco Pomponi.

In her interview with Pavlova, Kinsey Gidick discusses Tatyana's love for Eugene as the years pass:
"It's a different type of love because she love him too. It's difficult for her, but she can't break his heart," says Pavlova. And that's the great tragedy of Tatyana's life. She's a woman torn between two men — one who broke her heart and one who made her famous. When Pavlova puts it that way, it looks less like a girl power opera and more like a telenovela, which is not a dig at the latter. In fact, I'd argue that that being the case, playing the role of Tatyana has to be even harder for Pavlova. Of course, as I come to find out, I'm wrong about that too.
On Wednesday, we got an early look at the performance at one of cast's final dress rehearsals before tonight's opening at the Gaillard Center.

In the clip below, we get a peek at one of the early interactions in Act I between Onegin and Tatyana.

Eugene Onegin has four performances starting tonight.

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