Charleston's Spoleto Festival, USA, which opens May 27, is a 17-day extravaganza of opera, theater, classical music, dance and jazz. With its focus on cutting edge works, it is a treasure for fans of the performing arts.
Some tickets can be difficult at the last minute, especially for events in the smaller venues. So you’ll have more choices if you plan ahead. But there are so options at this festival that you should be able to find events to attend, a, even if you just showed up at the last moment.
Opera aficionados might come for a long weekend and enjoy three fully staged operas on successive evenings. Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" in a production from Angers-Nantes Opera created by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier ; Gian Carlo Menotti’s 1946 opera, "The Medium," in a new production by John Pascoe. (Menotti was the founder of Spoleto , and his works have appeared at the festival with regularity); and Émilie, the latest opera by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will have its U.S. premiere. Soprano Elizabeth Futral will sing the title role.
Ireland’s Druid Theatre will present Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by Garry Hynes. Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes will be performed by Cornwall’s renowned Kneehigh Theatre, in a production directed by Emma Rice. And Circa, Australia’s innovative contemporary circus ensemble, has a “spectacle” that combines acrobatics, humor, and modern choreography. And don’t miss The Gospel at Colonus, which combines foot-stomping gospel music with Greek tragedy.
Dance fans can choose among Spain’s Corella Ballet; choreographer Jérôme Bel’s visual biography of dancer Cédric Andrieux; Emmanuèl Phuon’s choreography of ancient Khmer dance in Khmeropédies I and II; or Shen Wei Dance Arts’ Asian works in Re-Parts I, II, and III.
There’s always an abundance of chamber music at Spoleto. This year’s Bank of America Chamber Music Series features violist Hsin-Yun Huang, pianists Inon Barnatan and Pedja Muzijevic, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and clarinetist Todd Palmer, among others. Other series include John Kennedy’s excellent Music in Time, where outstanding musicians and ensembles present some of the most interesting contemporary classical music, and the Intermezzi series of afternoon concerts.
The Westminster Choir, among the best in America, has its own concerts and performs with other ensembles, including the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.
Piccolo Spoleto Festival
To compliment the big-ticket shows that make up Spoleto, there’s a massive parallel festival of over 700 events: The Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Many of these events are free, and few require advance ticketing. When you get to Charleston, just grab one of the free program booklets available all over town.
How to Get There
Everyone agrees that the worst part of going to Charleston is getting there. It’s a long, boring drive. The simplest route is to Follow I-20 east to I-26 east, which takes about five hours. If you prefer to fly, Delta has 11 flights a day for about $350 round-trip.
Where to Stay
Charleston is full of hotels and inns in every price range, though they do tend to fill up during Spoleto. Keep in mind that parking can be challenging near the Spoleto venues. If you stay downtown, you’re walking distance from pretty much everything.
The Charleston Place Hotel, now managed by Orient-Express, is in downtown Charleston is luxurious, with extra large rooms. For $400 a night, you expect a lot, and this place delivers. 205 Meeting St., 1-888-635-2350 www.charlestonplace.com
The Hampton Inn Charleston-Historic District has comfortable rooms from $259. 345 Meeting St. 843-723-4000 www.hamptoninn.hilton.com
This year, many hotels on the” tongue” (the old downtown area is surrounded by water on three sides, and its shape gave it this nickname) are participating in the Go Spoleto promotion, which offers hotel rooms and Spoleto tickets packaged together. Go to www.GoSpoleto.com for more information.
Where to Eat
Foodies might want to consider Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant (76 Queen St. 843-577-2500 www.huskrestaurant.com). Brock, who won the James Beard Foundation’s coveted “Best Chef Southeast” award in 2010, is fanatical about local ingredients. “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” he has said, and the majority of his ingredients come from one nearby organic farm.Main courses at dinner run from $18 to $24. Reservations are strongly suggested.
For simpler fare, follow the locals to the Marina Variety Store Restaurant, located right in the city’s marina. The food is good and the views of the harbor are outstanding. Lunch prices range from $5 to $10. 17 Lockwood Dr. 843-723-6325 www.varietystorerestaurant.com
For Tickets and more Information
Spoleto Festival, USA Box Office
Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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