This year’s Spoleto Festival USA lineup is bigger, edgier and more contemporary than ever. The season, which opens May 25 and takes place all over historic Charleston, S.C., includes major companies and notable premieres in opera, theater, dance and various music genres.
The season showcases the American staged premieres of operas by two important artists. Minimalist giant Philip Glass’ newest work, “Kepler,” will be directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by John Kennedy. And “Feng Yi Teng,” a new work by Guo Wenjing, one of China’s most important composers, arrives here in a production assembled by Atom Egoyan, who directed such movies as “Chloe” and “The Sweet Hereafter.” Chinese opera stars headline the cast.
Dublin’s renowned Gate Theatre, a festival favorite, returns with Noel Coward’s comedy “Hay Fever,” directed by Patrick Mason. 1927, a cutting-edge British theater collaborative, will present “The Animals and Children Took to the Streets,” a dark comic fairy tale that mixes live performance, music and stylized animation. Public radio’s Jack Hitt (“This American Life”) combines anecdote with brain science in a new monologue: “Making Up the Truth.”
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater headlines this year’s dance card, bringing along a mix of modern classics from its repertoire and fresh new works. The Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a showcase for the world’s most-sought-after choreographers, will feature Frenchman Angelin Preljocaj and the UK’s Hofesh Shechter, known for creating his own music as well as dance. Seattle’s Zoe|Juniper arrives with “A Crack in Everything,” a multimedia performance. And Kyle Abraham, founder of Abraham.in.Motion, will perform a reflective piece, “The Radio Show.”
Circus-based acts have become a tradition at Spoleto, and this year there are two. Circle of Eleven’s Tobias Wegner will perform “Leo,” in which the laws of gravity are apparently suspended. And Montreal’s 7 Doigts brings a nonstop mix of wild acrobatics and urban dance.
Chamber music performances in the beautifully restored Dock Street Theatre are a big part of Spoleto, and this year’s major artists include violinist Jennifer Frautschi, violist Hsin-Yun Huang, pianists Pedja Muzijevic and Inon Barnatan, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and clarinetist Todd Palmer. The series includes 33 concerts. Other classical performances include those of the festival’s own orchestra and the renowned Westminster Choir, one of America’s greatest choruses.
Grammy Award winner K.D. Lang will make her festival debut with the Sis Boom Bang band. Creole artist Cedric Watson is on tap. Jazz artists this year range from legends such as Mavis Staples to prodigies such as vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. And there are far-ranging performances such as those by flamenco pianist David Peña Dorantes and New Orleans’ Rebirth Jazz Band.
Don’t miss the Piccolo Festival, which happens all over the city at the same time as Spoleto. Many acts are free, and reservations are not generally required. These shows include virtually everything.
Spoleto Festival preview
Spoleto Festival USA. May 25 to June 10, Charleston, S.C. 843-579-3100, www.spoletousa.org.
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