Emphasizing the importance of honoring festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti on the centennial of his birth, the Spoleto Festival USA board convened its February meeting Saturday to report the state of affairs on fiscal and artistic fronts.
Joseph Flummerfelt, Spoleto artistic director for choral activities, said that the centerpiece of its celebration of the late composer and librettist would be a new production of Menotti's "The Medium," one of three operas to be presented during the festival (May 27-June 12).
"Opera was central to his work," said Flummerfelt, whom Menotti first brought to Spoleto, Italy, 40 years ago. "I was a junior in college when I first encountered his work, and it was the same opera. 'The Medium' is a compelling tale. We will be approaching this year it with a significantly different focus, and I am fortunate to be conducting it."
Festival Producer Nunally Kersh of the program committee reported that all three operas have been cast, expressing delight at the caliber of performers and production values.
Representing the executive/finance committees, Ed Sellers and Tasha Gandy reported that the festival's total net assets were $12,125,560 as of the end of the fiscal year on Aug. 31, 2010, and that projected total operating budget for 2011 was $7,138,662.
Festival General Director Nigel Redden noted some disappointments in the area of financial support from foundations, and that $242,000 was needed to balance the operating budget.
But Redden added that, to date, ticket sales were going well. He said that although sales are slightly behind those of a year ago, ticket sales in 2010 were "extraordinarily ahead" of the pace of the previous few years.
"Ticket sales are likely to be end-loaded this year," he said.
Bill Medich of the development committee underscored the market trend of individual donors continuing to provide the principal scaffolding of the festival, but reported that a $20,000 gift had been received from Philips Electronics and $15,000 from the Boeing Company.
Denise Barto of the special events committee said the annual Spoleto Auction had gotten the festival off to "a really good start" to its special events calendar, having raised $90,000 during the live auction and another $21,000 in orchestra sponsorships, with proceeds from an online auction and auction ticket sales still to be factored in.
On the artistic side, Redden addressed the subject of renovations and alterations to the Sottile Theatre, where "The Magic Flute" will be performed. Redden also praised the cooperation of the College of Charleston in rendering it as an enhanced performance space.
"I think the Sottile will be even more magical now," Redden said. "The theater also will be much improved acoustically. The college has been meticulous in this."
John Kennedy, who will serve as resident conductor of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra this year, said he was continuing the process of auditions, noting that the Spoleto Festival was part of a network of summer festivals drawing from a rich pool of young talent.
"I've seen a real evolution in how the orchestra has grown and in the acclaim it has received," Kennedy said. "I think it is fair to say that our program is now viewed (by young musicians) as the most desirable in the United States. For them, Spoleto is a genuinely professional experience, during which they can rub elbows with established professionals and be expected to perform at a high level each night. The orchestra fills an important role because it is such so much a part of their development."