Reopening of the restored Dock Street Theatre with a Spoleto production of Flora, an Opera, the first opera ever performed in the American colonies
Nigel Redden, General Director, today announced the 2010 Spoleto Festival USA season, an expansive program showcasing internationally and nationally acclaimed artists in approximately 45 productions. Held annually in historic Charleston , South Carolina, the 34th festival runs from May 28 through June 13 and features numerous U.S. and festival debuts and the return of several audience favorites along with the reopening of the newly restored Dock Street Theatre, Charleston’s most beloved theatrical space.
After a meticulous three-year restoration, the Dock Street Theatre reopens with a series of high-profile events including a new production of Flora, an Opera, an 18th-century English ballad opera with a deep connection to Charleston . Delightfully enchanting yet shrewdly satirical, Flora was the first opera ever performed in the American colonies in Charleston in 1735. The performance proved such a success that it was re-staged the following year in what was then the brand-new Dock Street Theatre, America’s first purpose-built theatre. Nearly 300 years later, Flora returns to the Dock Street stage having been re-orchestrated by composer Neely Bruce (who also conducts the Spoleto performances) and staged by British director John Pascoe who also designed the sets and costumes. Soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird returns to the festival as the heroine Flora alongside baritone Tyler Duncan in the role of her suitor Mr. Friendly.
In another Dock Street Theatre homecoming, longtime festival favorite, Ireland’s Gate Theatre, brings Noël Coward’s sparkling comedy of manners Present Laughter, applauded by the Irish Mail on Sunday as a “brilliantly comic production of a beautifully structured, witty play,” to Charleston . Audiences will also welcome the return of the Bank of America Chamber Music Series to the Dock Street Theatre. Back in its traditional venue, the series will again offer the signature twice-daily concerts, with Geoff Nuttall in his new role as the Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director for Chamber Music and host and a roster of musicians including pianist Pedja Muzijevic, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and violist Hsin-Yun Huang as well as the St. Lawrence String Quartet.
Another operatic highlight of the festival will be the first U.S. production of Wolfgang Rihm’s Proserpina. Composed by one of Europe’s most prolific and influential composers and named 2009’s World Premiere of the Year by Opernwelt magazine, the work depicts the tragic legend of the Roman deity Proserpina, Greek mythology’s Persephone, goddess of springtime and queen of the underworld. Scored for soprano and an all-female chorus, the opera’s title role will be sung by Heather Buck and will be directed by Obie Award-winning director Ken Rus Schmoll with John Kennedy conducting the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.
Ancient gods also take center stage in the Colla Marionette Company’s Philemon and Baucis, a marionette opera composed by Franz Joseph Haydn for Prince Esterházy on the occasion of a 1773 royal visit by Empress Maria Theresa. Philemon will be performed by a cast of lavishly costumed, handcrafted marionettes with singers and Spoleto Festival Orchestra members performing from the pit. The Milan-based marionette company will also present the classic fairy tale Cinderella in a staging of the well-known fable.
In his own self-described “scary fairy tale with a happy ending,” Daniel MacIvor, one of Canada ’s most respected performers, returns to Charleston for the third time with the U.S. premiere of his newest solo show This Is What Happens Next, hailed by the Montreal Gazette as “genius…a high-octane blend of autobiography, anecdote, philosophical musing and fairy-tale fantasy.” In another engaging one-man show, the jazz/new music composer and improviser Erik Friedlander recounts anecdotes from family road trips in Block Ice & Propane. A collection of cinematic cello compositions, Friedlander’s music and stories are paired with family and “road-cycle” images by his father, celebrated photographer Lee Friedlander, family snapshots by his mother Maria Friedlander, and short films from the filmmaker/director Bill Morrison.
Shifting to the playfully dark side of family dynamics are the brother–sister duo of Astrid and Otto Rot of Die Roten Punkte, a German post-punk/electro/rock band that sings, dances, and drums its way through a set of mock-serious musical send-ups in a late-night, cabaret-style performance.
The 2010 dance program embraces both the classical and contemporary poles of dance. Representing classical ballet at its most pure is Nina Ananiashvili, the legendary prima ballerina, along with her Tbilisi-based troupe the National Ballet of Georgia in a dreamily metaphysical Giselle. At the other end of the classical spectrum, the all-male ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs Peter Anastos’s witty Go for Barocco in an irreverent and loving homage to the art form.
The dance program also looks at a range of contemporary work, with Tel Aviv’s Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company’s Oyster, a mélange of phantasmagoric and comic vignettes that is part dance, part theater and part carnival sideshow; New York-based Gallim Dance performs I Can See Myself in Your Pupil, a riveting suite of dances set to an eclectic score by Balkan Beat Box. Also on the dance program is the much-praised revival of Lucinda Childs’ groundbreaking 1979 work Dance, set to an original score by Philip Glass and framed by a black-and-white film by artist Sol LeWitt.
The 2010 music program includes three virtuosic string-based ensembles: the internationally renowned Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, celebrated for their lively interpretations of West African Bambara music; New York’s Ebony Hillbillies, whose roots in jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, rock-and-roll, and country are credited with rejuvenating traditional African-American string band music. Also rooted in the string-band tradition, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, known for expanding the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music of the Carolina Piedmont region, will headline the Festival Finale.
Three female vocalists with diverse artistic sensibilities will appear in the renowned Wachovia Jazz Series: Lizz Wright, whose “smoky voice makes you hold your breath” (The New York Times); legendary British vocalist (and 2009 Grammy nominee) Norma Winstone along with her trio; and Fabiana Cozza, hailed for her sensuous sound and devotion to the rich heritage of Afro-Brazilian music.
Featured instrumentalists will include Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer, whose masterful interpretations of Chopin, Ellington and Nirvana have made him a jazz giant in Europe; Nailor “Proveta” Azevedo, recognized as Brazil’s finest saxophonist and clarinetist; and the prodigiously talented 21-year-old guitarist Julian Lage, whose debut album Sounding Point is nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Spoleto Festival USA artistic associate John Kennedy’s thought-provoking Music in Time Series spotlights the work of festival opera composers including Chiffre-Zyklus by Wolfgang Rihm of Proserpina and compositions by Neely Bruce, the orchestrator and conductor of Flora, an Opera. Other concerts include Merce by the composer Christian Wolff; and two performances by Brooklyn Rider, a genre-defying string quartet long associated with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, now pioneering new paths in post-classical music.
Emmanuel Villaume, the Christel DeHaan Music Director for Opera & Orchestra, will lead the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in two concerts: The first program will feature Ravel’s La Valse, an early 20th-century masterpiece evoking the unsettled mood of European society after World War I, and Richard Strauss’s epic tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra. The second program will include Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Coriolan Overture, Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, and Wagner’s tender symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll.
The renowned Westminster Choir, Spoleto Festival USA’s longtime chorus-in-residence, can be heard in a variety of settings throughout the festival. Under the baton of Artistic Director for Choral Activities Joseph Flummerfelt, the choir joins with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra for an evening of music including Mozart’s majestic Coronation Mass and Brahms’s Schicksalslied. The choir will also offer their traditional a cappella concerts at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul along with a special concert featuring Charpentier’s Litanies de la Vierge and compositions for the men of the Westminster Choir. Joe Miller, director of choral activities at Westminster Choir College, will conduct.
The Intermezzi Series will feature chamber ensembles from the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in performances to include Rossini’s Overture to L’italiana in Algeri, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. Singers from Flora, an Opera will offer a lively recital of art songs and arias.
The visual arts component of the 2010 festival will include partnerships with both the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. At the Gibbes, JoAnn Verburg’s captivating photographs of Spoleto , Italy , will be displayed in the exhibition Interruptions. And at the Halsey, Call and Response: Africa to America presents an arresting juxtaposition of artist Nick Cave’s “Soundsuit” sculptural works and Phyllis Galembo’s photographs of West African masqueraders.
The Opening Night Fête, immediately following the May 28 performance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, will celebrate the start of the festival with a festive party in the beautiful gardens of the Spoleto headquarters at the Murray Center, 14 George Street. Tickets can be purchased online at spoletousa.org or by phone at 843.579.3100. Beginning April 19, tickets may be purchased in person at the Spoleto Festival USA box office at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun Street .