After 36 years of the Spoleto Festival USA, most Charlestonians probably can’t conceive of their city deprived of this pioneering arts extravaganza.
The festival has attracted artists from all over the world, and created a space where fresh, bold, and revolutionizing ideas get their start.
As this year’s Spoleto Festival plays out its final performances, we look back at highlights from festivals past.
1978Creve Coeur, World Premiere (theater)
The world Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ “Creve Coeur,” a one-act play, written as a companion piece to “Demolition Downtown.” Williams worked on the play further, after it’s debut, and retitled it, “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.”
1980The American Clock, World Premiere (theater)
The world Premiere of Arthur Miller’s play, “The American Clock,” at Spoleto Festival USA.
1980Nikolais Dance Theater, World Premiere (dance)
Choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, this year marked the world Premiere of the Nikolais Dance Theater performance.
1981“The Corridor,” World Premiere (theater)
The world Premiere of Diane Kagan’s play, “The Corridor,” at the Garden Theater, Charleston. Directed by Patricia Carmichael.
1982Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax (music)
Emanuel Ax, Grammy award-winning classical pianist, got his start here, performing with Yo-Yo Ma at the Spoleto Festival USA.
1986Circus Flora, World Premiere (theater)
World Premiere of this delightful circus act, staged at Marion Square during Spoleto Festival 1986.
1987The Colla Family Marionettes, World Premiere (theater)
With five appearances in Charleston so far, The Colla Family Marionettes have become synonymous with the Spoleto Festival USA. 1987 marked the world premiere of their magical show, and started a relationship that has flourished over the years.
1987“Platee,” American Premiere (opera)
The American debut of the opera, “Platée,” by Jean-Phillipe Rameau, conducted by Grant Llewellyn, at the Dock Street Theater, Charleston.
1989“Empty Places,” World Premiere (music)
American experimental artist, Laurie Anderson, Premiered her performance piece, “Empty Places,” at Gaillard during Spoleto Festival 1989.
1990“Hydrogen Jukebox,” World Premiere (opera)
The world Premiere of Phillip Glass’ work, “Hydrogen Jukebox,” at the Sotille Theater during the Spoleto Festival 1990.
1991Elizabeth Streb Ringside, World Premiere (dance)
The world Premiere of Elizabeth Streb’s dance piece, performed by the Elizabeth Streb Ringside company at the Garden Theater, during Spoleto Festival 1990.
1996“Les Enfants Terribles,” American Premiere (opera)
The American Premiere of the Philip Glass opera, “Les Enfants Terribles,” directed by Susan Marshall.
1996“Peter and Wendy,” World Premiere (theater)
The Mabou Mines’ version of Peter and Wendy Premiered at the Spoleto Festival 1996, using bunraku-style puppets and scraps of cloth and paper to recreate J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, “Peter Pan.”
2007“Book of Longing,” American Premiere (theater)
In the world Premiere of Philip Glass’ new work, “Book of Longing,” – based on Leonard Cohen’s poems and artworks – Glass set 23 of Leonard Cohen’s poems to music. The show was performed at the Sotille Theater during Spoleto Festival 2007.
2007“L’ile de Merlin (Merlin’s Island),” American Premiere (opera)
The world Premiere of the one-act comic opera “L’ile de Merlin” (Merlin’s Island) or “Le Monde Renversé,” (The World Turned Upside Down) by Cristophe Willibald Gluck.
2007“Swan Lake,” American Premiere (dance)
The American Premiere of “Swan Lake,” as conceived by Nina Ananiashvili and the State Ballet of Georgia.
2008Heloisa Fernandes, American Premiere (jazz)
Brazilian pianist, Heloisa Fernandes, made her American debut as part of the jazz series at Spoleto 2008, her first performance outside of Brazil.
2008“Monkey: Journey to the West,” American Premiere (music theater)
Conceived, written and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, “Monkey: Journey to the West,” Premiereed at Spoleto Festival 2008.
2009“Don John,” American Premiere (theater)
Cornwall-based theater troupe, Kneehigh Theatre, debuted their production, “Don John,” at the Memminger Auditorium during Spoleto Festival 2009.
2011“Emilie,” American Premier (opera)
The American premiere of Kaija Saariajo’s opera, “Emilie,” at the Memminger Auditorium, during Spoleto Festival 2011.