Spoleto Festival USA once again will celebrate opera with innovative, risk-taking productions as part of its 2015 lineup, which also includes a new production of "Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare's Globe theater company at the Dock Street Theatre.
The 2015 festival schedule, which was announced today, offers performances by the Scottish Ballet, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Shen Wei Dance Arts and Canada's 2b theatre company; concerts by the Westminster Choir featuring a choreographed version of "The Little Match Girl Passion" and Bach's St. Matthew Passion. For the latter, Westminster singers will be joined by members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Taylor Festival Choir.
Italy's Carlo Colla and Sons Marionette Company returns to the festival with its fantastical production of "Sleeping Beauty." Vietnam's Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre makes its Spoleto debut and Australia's Casus Circus also comes to Charleston for the first time.
The festival will present the opera "Paradise Interrupted" by composer Huang Ruo and designed and directed by Jennifer Wen Ma. The libretto by Wen Ma and Ji Chao has its dreamy central character wander through an expansive garden installed at Memminger Auditorium.
Co-commissioned by Spoleto Festival and the Lincoln Center Festival, the opera mixes Chinese and Western styles. Its chamber orchestra will be led by John Kennedy, director of orchestral activities for the festival.
Another operatic world premiere is "Veremonda l'amazzone di Aragona," a baroque opera by Italian composer Francesco Cavalli. "Veremonda" will be presented in the Dock Street Theatre. The festival is bringing back director Stefano Vizioli (responsible for the well-received 2013 "Mese mariano" and "Le villi" double bill), who is collaborating with famed Italian artist Ugo Nespolo for this festival-commissioned production. The opera was first performed in Naples in 1652 to mark the Spanish capture of Barcelona and end of the Catalan revolt.
This year, the festival is launching a new series sponsored by American Express that will present artists in the intimate setting of the Woolfe Street Playhouse. Dancer Lil Buck and cellist Ashley Bathgate will offer the world premiere of "What Moves You" and Taylor Mac will perform a concert of popular songs (including a few oldies). The Living Earth Show, a San Francisco-based guitar and percussion duo, will perform some thought-provoking music in two concerts that are part of the new series and also part of the old Music in Time series organized by Kennedy.
The popular and jazz music offerings include concerts by singers Dianne Reeves, Madeleine Peyroux, Monica Salmaso and Kate Davis; the beloved pairing of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell; two Italian duos, Musica Nuda and the piano-accordion team of Rita Macotulli and Luciano Biondini; Argentine pianist Carlos Aguire; and the soulful Alabama group St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
Another new festival element is a pair of movie screenings at the Sottile Theatre accompanied by live music. The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, led by William Eddins, will play Charlie Chaplin's score to his great film "City Lights." The second movie, "Decasia," is Bill Morrison's 2002 meditation on the silent film era. It includes original footage obtained through the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collection and a soundtrack by Michael Gordon. The orchestra, under the baton of Kennedy, will play along with the soundtrack, adding a detuned layer of sound and a peculiar effect to the proceedings.
Journalist Martha Teichner will return for four discussions, part of her "Conversations With" series. And the festival will once again collaborate with the Charleston Horticultural Society and The Garden Conservancy to arrange self-guided tours of local private gardens.
The Post and Courier will provide its annual extensive coverage of the festival, deploying graduate students from Syracuse University who specialize in arts journalism, a group of local freelance writers and reviewers and a selection of staff reporters and photographers.
Tickets for festival events go on sale 10 a.m. Jan. 20. They can be purchased online at spoletousa.org or by calling (843) 579-3100. The box office, located at the Charleston Visitor Center, will open March 16.
Donors who give at least $100 to the festival are eligible to buy tickets early, starting Tuesday. Information on the donor presale can be found at spoletousa.org.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter