Spoleto Festival USA

Spoleto Festival USA
Photo: spoletousa.org
Spoleto Festival USA is an annual performing arts festival held in Charleston, South Carolina. One of the largest events of its kind in the United States, it was founded in 1977 as a counterpart to the Festival of the Two Worlds (Festival dei Due Mondi) held in the Italian city of Spoleto since 1958.

The Festival dei Due Mondi is an annual music and opera festival founded by Italian-American composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti who wanted to create the festival that would have European and American culture face each other. To emphasize this concept, he later founded a twin festival in the USA.

When Italian organizers planned an American festival, they searched for a city that would remind of Spoleto, both in terms of its charm and the abundance of theaters, churches and other venues that could be used as performance spaces. Charleston was a perfect fit. It is a relatively small and intimate city, so festival attendees can walk from one venue to the next, but its community is big enough to cater to the large number of visitors. Its architecture and atmosphere remind of that of an Old World city, but at the same time Charleston is undoubtedly American.

As we’ve already mentioned, Spoleto Festival USA was founded as a twin festival to the Festival of the Two Worlds. However, it became an independent event in the mid-1990s, largely due to the tension between its Italian and American organizers. In the decades since its inception, the festival has firmly established itself as one of the world’s leading events of its kind.

Spoleto Festival USA runs over 17 days in late spring and early summer. It encompasses opera, classical music (symphonic, choral and chamber), jazz, blues, soul, dance and theater, showcasing both up-and-coming and established artists from all over the world. The program of the festival includes over 150 performances, some of which are American or world premieres. Each year, Spoleto Festival USA produces its own operas, focusing on new interpretations of traditional works or rarely performed operas by famous composers.

The main goal of the festival is to present exciting, high-quality programming showcasing all forms of the performing arts. It provides unusual performance opportunities for seasoned artists and helps young artists find new audiences. It also gives up-and-coming artists a unique opportunity to work with veteran directors, conductors and fellow performers. World-renowned artists who have participated in the festival early in their careers include Yo-Yo Ma, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Joshua Bell, Emanuel Ax, and Renée Fleming.

Spoleta Festival USA has its own resident orchestra whose members are selected by nationwide auditions held each year. American conductor and composer John Kennedy serves as Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities, but the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra also works with guest conductors during the festival. For young musicians, playing in the orchestra is a great honor and a source of extensive performance experience. Its alumni can be found in many professional orchestras in the US and abroad.

Spoleto Festival USA

Photo: Julieta Cervantes




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