Spoleto: 37 years, but still new

Compagnie Kafig performers perform an exerpt from "Kafig Brasil" by Mourad Merzouki during the opening ceremonies for the 2013 Spoleto Festival USA Friday. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 5/24/13

Brad Nettles

Forgive Spoleto Festival planners for scheduling some performances before Friday’s official opening. There is just so much to present and so little time. Seventeen days? Even 19 is a squeeze.

Art lovers who want to “do” Spoleto figure that out immediately. Two operas, seven theater productions, five dance companies, and music that ranges from the ever popular chamber music concerts to Rosanne Cash.

And that’s not even touching on Piccolo Spoleto, the companion festival that focuses primarily on Southeast artists involved in 700 events, many of them accessible to children.

Between the two festivals, audiences hear established musicians and undiscovered talent that might just make it big.

It is an opportunity that arts lovers don’t want to miss. And even the uninitiated might just find they like Rimsky-Korsakov after all.

And it is a time when Charleston is being seen under a different spotlight. It’s still admired for its history, architecture, restaurants and beaches.

But during Spoleto, its heart beats to the direction of skilled conductors. Many local people see Charleston through a different set of lenses for 17 days. Many visitors see a place where they would like to return.

Restaurant owners, merchants and hoteliers can expect the Spoleto Festival to shape their business for a few weeks and possibly longer. And conversations stray from politics and weather to Flamenco and jazz.

Now in its 37th year, the Spoleto Festival is an integral part of Charleston, and Charleston is integral to the festival, too.

But that’s no reason to take it for granted. Buy some tickets. Be amused. Be befuddled. Be enraptured.

Spoleto Festival USA is not just your father’s festival.