Festival General Director Nigel Redden announces the program for the 43rd annual Spoleto Festival USA, taking place May 24 through June 9, 2019. For 17 days and nights, a variety of artists converge in Charleston, South Carolina, filling the city's theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with wide-ranging performances and concerts.
"Since its establishment in 1977, the Festival has been singular in its timeless dedication to the old and the new," says Redden. "For the 43rd season, the programming continues to transcend time and place, with long-heralded masterworks alongside world premieres and reimagined classics-fitting for the Festival's setting in Charleston, an ever-evolving metropolis steeped in a rich and complex history."
The Festival's new production of Salome opens the season in the Charleston Gaillard Center. Directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser are leading the contemporary retelling of Richard Strauss's 1905 opera, based on the Oscar Wilde play of the same name, and setting the masterwork (which includes the famous "Dance of the Seven Veils")in a present-day city. This is Caurier and Leiser's ninth Festival return; their first Spoleto production in 1987 was also Salome. Maestro Steven Sloane, a former Spoleto Festival USA Music Director, conducts.
Joby Talbot's Path of Miracles is another vocal work bridging centuries. Sung by the Westminster Choir with staging by John La Bouchardière (El Niño, 2014), Talbot's score, though composed in 2005, follows the Camino de Santiago, a spiritual pilgrimage begun more than 1,200 years ago across Northern Spain to the burial grounds of Saint James. The Westminster Choir also gives two solo concerts, which include work from such ranging composers as Claudio Monteverdi, Stephen Leek, and ?riks Ešenvalds. And on June 4, the Choir, together with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, performs Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion.
Assembled anew each year following a series of nationwide auditions, the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra serves as the Festival's resident ensemble, accompanying the opera and choral works as well as presenting symphonic and chamber concerts throughout the season. At the ensemble's helm is Festival Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy, who selects each musician (more than 90 in 2019) for his and her versatility as well as artistry-reflecting the season's varied repertoire. For a program of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, conductor Evan Rogister leads a program of selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet orchestral suites paired with Shostakovich's fifth symphony. In an evening called Classical Showcase, the Orchestra, led by conductor Michelle Rofrano, highlights works from both the classical and neo-classical periods, including Fanny Mendelssohn's Overture in C and Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto in E-flat. And among other more contemporary works, members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra also perform Britta Byström's Rebellion in Greenery; three film scores by Michael Gordon; and 30, a world premiere by Stephen Prutsman for string quartet and soundtrack.
Several world premieres highlight Spoleto's 2019 season. On May 30, Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai presents the world premiere of Letter to a Friend in Gaza, a theatrical performance that stitches together film, music, and poetry as four actors-two Israeli and two Palestinian-present texts exploring exile and repatriation. Roots, a world premiere from 1927, draws together folktales from preindustrialized civilizations for its newest multimedia production, blending hand-crafted animation, music, and live performance.
A world premiere oboe quintet from American contemporary composer Paul Wiancko accents the Bank of America Chamber Music series. Created specifically for oboist James Austin Smith and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the new work will debut on one of the 11 eclectic chamber music programs, all organized by violinist and host Geoff Nuttall and announced in full in April. Spoleto's 2019 season is Nuttall's 10th as the Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director of Chamber Music, and a stellar lineup of returning Festival favorites and distinguished newcomers marks the occasion.
Some of the Festival's most popular theater and dance companies are returning this year. Shakespeare's Globe (Romeo and Juliet, 2015) is offering a rotation of Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, and Pericles, as well as the exuberant and historically informed Audience Choice events, letting attendees collectively choose which play to see in the moment. Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company- making its sixth Festival appearance-is presenting Analogy Trilogy, three evening-length dance-theater works inspired by W. G. Sebald's 1992 collection of narratives, The Emigrants. On June 1, the company is performing each of the pieces back-to-back, in their intended trilogy.
Two works this year take disparate approaches to the stories within One Thousand and One Nights. Caracalla Dance Theatre, based in Beirut and one of the Middle East's leading dance companies, mounts the US premiere of One Thousand and One Nights, a spectacular production for more than 40 performers, in the Gaillard. On a smaller scale in the Woolfe Street Playhouse, the Brooklyn-based Target Margin Theater offers Pay No Attention to the Girl, a play for five actors led by founding Artistic Director David Herskovits (Porgy and Bess, 2016) that is adapted from various translations of the ancient folktales.
The 2019 Wells Fargo Jazz series highlights both the importance of the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition in the United States as well as three generations of visionary female jazz artists. Bass and vocal phenomenon Esperanza Spalding opens the series with two nights in the College of Charleston Cistern Yard, before drummer Terri Lyne Carrington leads a star-studded tribute (featuring saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Robert Hurst, and tap dancer Maurice Chestnut) to visionary pianist Geri Allen, who passed away in 2017. Carla Bley-an NEA Jazz Master whose 60-year career spans hundreds of compositions and self-produced albums-brings her wit and progressive voice to the Festival for a nowadays rare US concert. The series also includes performances by pianist David Virelles and master Cuban percussionist Román Díaz; Dafnis Prieto Big Band, whose breakout album Back to the Sunset was nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award; and Mark Turner (saxophone) and Ethan Iverson (piano) in duo.
The Festival's popular music offerings are also varied. The First Citizens Bank Front Row series includes Grammy-nominated acoustic quintet Punch Brothers, who "with enthusiasm and experimentation, take bluegrass to its next evolutionary stage" (The Washington Post), as well as the allfemale trio I'm With Her. While the band's members-Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O'Donovan-are steeped in folk traditions of the highest order, the trio has a more modern sensibility. Curtis Harding, known for his signature fusion of soul, gospel, R&B, and rock, headlines the Wells Fargo Festival Finale, held for the first time at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. Overlooking the beautiful Cooper River, Riverfront Park's ground open at 5:00pm. Guests are invited to bring blankets, chairs, and picnics; the music begins at 6:30pm (opening musicians to be announced). A sparkling display of fireworks will follow Harding's 8:30pm concert, drawing the 2019 Festival to a celebratory close.
The full 2019 program, featuring more than 150 ticketed events, is outlined below and can be found here, along with an event calendar. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, January 16, at 10:00am by phone at 843.579.3100 and online at spoletousa.org. A donor pre-sale begins Monday, January 7. Tickets can be purchased in person through the Spoleto Festival USA Box Office at the Charleston Gaillard Center (95 Calhoun St.) beginning April 30. Additional information can be found online and below the program details.