10 reasons to attend Spoleto Festival

Attending Spoleto Festival USA is like sitting down to a banquet in one of the most gracious dining rooms in the world. Each year, ticket holders feast on this art spectacular featuring opera, theater, dance, visual art, music and more, set against the beguiling backdrop of Charleston, S.C..

This world-class arts event — a springboard for more than 200 world and national premieres in its 34 years — would not be the same in any other location. Spoleto is as much about Charleston as Charleston is about Spoleto. Nigel Redden, Spoleto's general director, acknowledges the symbiosis, explaining that such an arts festival was written into Charleston's destiny long before Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti helped found it in 1977.

"The fact is that Charleston is a city that always loved the arts, that engaged in arts from the beginning, as a colony in which people valued living well," Redden said. "Evoking those 275 years of history is something you can only do in Charleston. It is a place where people came and built glorious houses and made a life for themselves that was really pretty gracious, especially for people who enjoyed the arts."

And the people of Charleston continue that tradition through Spoleto, inviting the world into their hometown each year just as the Southern sun begins prodding everyone to break a sweat and sip minted iced tea. This year's festival runs from May 28 through June 13; as always, an impressive lineup is scheduled for art lovers of all stripes.

To reserve tickets or for more event details, visit www.spoletousa.org or call 843-579-3100.

Top 10 reasons to attend Spoleto 2010

1. The historic return of “Flora, an Opera," the first opera performed in the U.S. Spoleto will present “Flora” in the newly renovated Dock Street Theatre, site of America’s first purpose-built theater. The opera was first performed at the Dock Street in 1735. The production, which tells the story of  "a wronged heiress, a faithful lover, a resourceful maid and an avaricious uncle," according to the program, will be orchestrated by Neely Bruce.

June 1, 3, 5 ,7, 10, 12. Tickets: $100-$150. Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St.

2. The U.S. premiere of Wolfgang Rihm's contemporary opera “Proserpina.” Named "2009 Production of the Year" by the German opera magazine “Opernwelt,” this new opera features soprano Heather Buck as the Roman goddess Proserpina, who laments her abduction to the underworld. Based on Goethe's classic poem, this opera will be sung in German with English supertitles.

May 30, June 4, June 9. Tickets: $25-$60. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St., 843-579-3100

3. The U.S. premiere of Daniel MacIvor’s one-man show “This Is What Happens Next.” This anecdotal, philosophical, autobiographical fantasy is described by MacIvor as a "scary fairytale." With acerbic wit, the main character "Me" peels open his psyche and invites the audience inside, where they encounter addiction, divorce, an absentee father, a lawyer and even John Denver.

June 1, 3, 5, 6. Tickets: $30. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St., 843-579-3100

4. The U.S. premiere of Brazilian samba superstar Fabiana Cozza. This concert brings the richness of Afro-Brazilian culture and music to the Spoleto stage. Cozza's stunning vocals are sensual, expressive and resplendent — a sound you won't want to miss.

June 4-5. Tickets: $25-$40. College of Charleston Cistern Yard, 66 George St.

5. “Cinderella.” This version of the beloved classic puts the artistically crafted marionettes of Italy's Colla Marionette Company into the spotlight. This charming rendition of the well-known fairytale will be dramatized by more than 150 marionettes.

June 3-6 and June 8-13. Tickets: $35. Emmett Robinson Theatre, College of Charleston, 54 St. Philip St.

6. “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo” will make you laugh with its eccentric, whimsical production featuring an all-male troupe of "ballerinas." Though this send-up is lighthearted, at its core ripples a profound and authentic love for the art of ballet.

May 28-30. Tickets $15-$75. Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St.

7. Spoleto Festival USA performs Maurice Ravel’s “La Valse,” Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Johann Strauss II’s “Overture to Die Fledermaus” and Carl Maria von Weber’s “Overture to Der Freischütz.” This concert calls up the anxious tones of post-World War I Europe (“La Valse”) and then moves on to the epic tone poem “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” Two familiar overtures round out this orchestral program conducted by Spoleto Music Director for Opera and Orchestra Emmanuel Villaume.

May 31. Tickets: $10-$65. Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St.

8. “Oyster,” inspired by a short story by movie director Tim Burton, is dance at its fantastical finest. Performed by Inbal Pinto & Avshalon Pollak Dance Company, the production combines extravagant costumes and props with choreography to make this quirky and vibrant production a Spoleto must-see.

June 10-13. Tickets: $32. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St. 843-579-3100

9. “Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba” spotlights Bambara music, also known as "African blues," from Segu in the Republic of Mali. The ngoni, an African lute-like instrument dating back to the 13th century, is magic in the hands of master Kouyate, who has been likened to Jimi Hendrix with an African influence.

June 9. Tickets $25-$40. College of Charleston Cistern Yard, 66 George St.

10. “I Can See Myself in Your Pupil” vibrates with physicality, eccentricity and sensuality. Featuring New York's Gallim Dance under the direction of choreographer Andrea Miller, this show dazzles with originality and a mélange of dances that are as diverse as they are evocative.

May 28, 29, 31. Tickets: $32. Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain St. 843-579-3100

-- Provided by Demand Sudios