Spoleto Festival to expand schedule in 2011

January 01, 2011
By Michael Quinn

Kaaji Saariaho's opera "Émilie" will have its U.S. premiere this summer at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston.

The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina will mount one of its most ambitious seasons for its 35th anniversary year in 2011.

The 17-day event will present 152 performances by 48 ensembles in a wide-ranging program embracing opera, theater, dance, music, music theater, contemporary circus, and visual arts, showcasing national and international artists.

2011 will offer three opera productions, including the American premiere of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Émilie. Soprano Elizabeth Futral will sing the title role in a production directed by Marianne Weems, artistic director of the New York-based The Builders Association theater company; newly announced resident conductor John Kennedy will lead the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.

The centenary of the birth of Gian Carlo Menotti – the festival’s Pulitzer Prize-winning founder  – will be marked by John Pascoe’s production of The Medium, with Joseph Flummerfelt conducting. Mozart’s The Magic Flute completes the season’s trio of operas, with former festival music director Steven Sloane conducting a staging by directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier originally seen at the Angers Nante Opéra in France.

The Bank of America Chamber Music concert series – described by organizers as “the heart and soul of the festival – will again feature a changing roster of artists in 11 programs performed twice daily. Participants include the St. Lawrence String Quartet, pianists Pedja Muzijevic and Inon Barnatan, cellist Alicia Weilerstein, violist Hain-Yun Huang, and clarinetist Todd Palmer. 2011 will also see the festival debuts of viola player Carolyn Blackwell and oboist James Smith.

Conductor James Gaffigan will also make his Spoleto debut this year in a program featuring music by Richard Strauss, Debussy and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. Other concerts will include Flummerfelt conducting Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody and the Te Deum by Bruckner, and an a cappella performance by the Westminster Choir.

The season will also feature a number of dance, jazz, theater, contemporary circus and visual arts events, as well as Lee Breuer and Bob Telson’s The Gospel at Colonus, a radical reworking of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus set in a modern-day Pentecostal church that blends Greek tragedy with American gospel music.

The 2011 Festival opens on May 27 and runs through June 12. Go to spoletousa.org.

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