Spoleto Festival USA always has offered its patrons glimpses of different cultures and traditions, from operatic melodrama to Greek tragedy, from South American tango to Spanish flamenco, from jazz and bluegrass to traditional Asian music and dance.
The 2013 festival, scheduled for May 24-June 9, is especially international, judging from the program to be announced Monday. The festival is presenting nearly 160 performances by 45 artistic ensembles, and many of them showcase not only talented performers from around the world, but their unique cultural expressions.
Artists and companies are coming to Charleston from Italy, the U.K., South Africa, Japan, China, Spain, Russia, Korea, Mali, France, Brazil, Israel, Finland and India.
General Director Nigel Redden called the 37th Spoleto Festival “broad and inclusive.”
“We’ve reacted to a climate of financial constraint,” he said, but not by cutting programming.
Instead, the festival is trimming its overhead costs, nipping gently at the annual budget, which remains about $6.1 million this year.
A huge blockbuster production might not be part of the festival this year, but a slew of miniature and medium-size blockbusters more than compensate for it.
Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa, a master of the ancient Kuchipudi dance form, returns to Charleston with the mystical program “Swayambhu.” Brazil is represented by Compagnie Kafig and its Algerian-French artistic director and choreographer, Mourad Merzouki. He created a pair of works that combine samba, hip-hop and capoeira. That ought to be energetic.
Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia, with star dancers Pastora Galvan and Rocio Molina in tow, will present a refined Spanish show that’s likely to get the heart thumping audibly. The U.S. is represented by tapper Jared Grimes, who will present a new show created for the festival. Grimes, who’ll be 30 next year, danced in the subway stations of New York City after he moved there in 2001. A few years later, he was an up-and-coming star.
Two opera productions (featuring three operas) shine the spotlight on women suffering from thwarted love, romantic and maternal. The Japanese opera “Matsukaze,” which means “wind in the pines,” by Toshio Hosokawa features a cast of young Korean vocalists singing in German (yup, German) and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng. who is Chinese.
The opera, based on the traditional Japanese Noh play, presents the spirits of two sisters condemned to wander the Earth until they can be released from the bonds of an ancient love.
“The music is ravishing,” Redden said. A chorus imitates mist, rain, wind, providing a meteorological background to the story. “Ma,” the silence between things, is a critical aspect of the work which, like calligraphy, requires gestures that start before the sound is made (or the pen touches paper) and continues after the sound has stopped (and the pen has lifted), he said.
The other opera production is a pairing of two short works, “Mese Mariano” by Umberto Giordano, an example of the verisimo (true to life) style, and “Le Ville” by Giacomo Puccini, an early example of that composer’s work and his first opera. Yearning, scorn, vengeance, love and death — that’s what it’s all about.
For those looking for other very serious performances, there is the Nottingham Theatre’s powerful version of “Oedipus,” adapted by actor-director Steven Berkoff, who also plays Creon in this production.
The other play on offer is a newly made “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Shakespeare, created by Tom Morris and Handspring Puppet Company. Morris is the man responsible for the Tony Award-winning “War Horse,” and, yes, puppets are very much involved in this show, too.
No Spoleto Festival would be complete without a little quirkiness. For that, try “The Intergalactic Nemesis,” described as a live-action graphic novel, or “Bullet Catch,” a monologue by Rob Drummond that explores the history of that magic bullet trick. “Mayday Mayday” stars Tristan Sturrock, who recounts a traumatic injury that nearly stopped him.
The Wells Fargo Jazz Series, produced by Michael Grofsorean, features singer Gregory Porter; the progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers (these fellows, led by mandolin master Chris Thile, played the 2008 festival); the Israeli tenor sax player Eli Degibri; Brazilian pianist-composer Andre Mehmari, who returns to the festival for the third time to play an eclectic program with Ze Alexandre and Sergio Reze; the Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala; and the honky-tonk Red Stick Ramblers.
Joseph Flummerfelt, artistic director for choral activities, retires this year and goes out with a very big bang: a performance of Verdi’s monumental Requiem. Joe Miller will continue to lead the Westminster Choir, as he has for several years, adding new administrative duties to his widening plate.
Visual art, music, etc.
And visual art, too, will be part of the mix.
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is presenting “Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art,” a collaboration among five mixed-media artists. The Gibbes Museum of Art will host “The Spoleto Watercolors of Stephen Mueller and Carl Palazzolo,” a show featuring works inspired by the festival and the Lowcountry.
And then there is the chamber series, and the Festival Orchestra, the Music in Time series featuring contemporary classical music, and the small-ensemble programs. It’s just too much to describe in a single article.
A couple of things will be different this time. The “Conversations With” series will be held at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King St. And the College of Charleston’s TD Arena will be used, along with the Sottile Theatre, in lieu of the Gaillard Auditorium, which is closed for extensive renovations.
Some things will stay the same or get better: The Post and Courier again will provide extensive coverage of Spoleto Festival USA and Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival, offering readers special daily print sections and dynamic web content that includes feature stories, videos, photo galleries, blogs, podcasts, social media postings, calendar listings and more.
For more information about the 2013 festival and to view a complete schedule, go to www.spoletousa.org. To follow The Post and Courier’s daily coverage, beginning in May, go to www.postand courier.com/spoleto or pick up a paper.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparker writer.
Agathe Poupeney Compagnie Käfig, a Brazilian dance troupe, will be in Charleston for the 2013 Spoleto Festival.×
Tapper Jared M. Grimes will present a show at the festival.×
Rosanne Cash is on the Spoleto roster for 2013.×
Physical theater is back in the lineup in 2013 with Compagnie XY's "Le Grand C."×
Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia will present classical flamenco at the festival.×
Shantala Shivalingappa is a practitioner of the Kuchipudi style of dance, which she will share with Spoleto audiences this spring.×
Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s latest album is “Be Good.”×