Spoleto Festival’s 40th year brings lavish lineup

Charleston’s 17-day Spoleto Festival USA, the Southeast’s most sumptuous feast of music and culture, announced the lineup for its 40th edition, and it will be a big one.

This year’s festival, which begins May 27, will feature Spoleto’s first-ever production of “Porgy and Bess,” based on Charleston-born DuBose Heyward’s novel, with music by George and Ira Gershwin.

Other highlights include a world premiere of the multi-media performance “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now,” directed by visual artist Carrie Mae Weems; the U.S. premiere of “The Little Match Girl,” an opera by contemporary German composer Helmut Lachenmann, and the U.S. premiere of 18th century comic baroque opera “La Double Coquette” by Antoine Dauvergne, updated by contemporary composer Gérard Pesson.

Classical offerings will include a 40th anniversary live performance of the trance-inducing “Music for 18 Musicians” by minimalist great Steve Reich and a full-blown Beethoven’s “Mass in C Major and Choral Fantasy” with the Westminster Choir, the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, and members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Outside of the classical music world there will be music from jazz greats Randy Weston, James Newton, Geri Allen and Arturo O’Farrill, modern dance from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, theater-plus-animation from innovative theatrical company 1927, and pop music from the Old Crow Medicine Show and eight-piece soul band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

“We wanted to make the program extraordinary,” said festival general director Nigel Redden.

This year’s festival comes at a sobering time. It will end just before the one-year anniversary of the murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street, and several performances will acknowledge the event and commemorate the victims.

Those include “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now,” which was inspired, in part, by the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the massacre. The performance, at the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre, will include music, song, text, spoken word and video projection.

The Spoleto Festival USA was founded in Charleston in 1977 by Gian Carlo Menotti, modeled after his Spoleto, Italy festival. It takes place at 13 Charleston venues, including the $142 million Charleston Gaillard Center, newly reopened after a three-year renovation.

Performances occur May 27 through June 12. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. by phone 843-579-3100 and online at spoletousa.org/. For the full schedule, go to spoletousa.org/

» Check out our look at the arts and entertainment highlights of early 2016 in Atlanta

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