For most of its history, organizers of Spoleto Festival USA, the annual performing arts festival held in Charleston, are usually busy this time of year putting the final touches on its schedule often working through the holidays.
But today the festival, in its 37th year, announced its lineup. Tickets go on sale Monday.
“This is a bit of an experiment. It was a push to put all the programs together,” said Nigel Redden, the festival’s general director. “This year at least everyone will be enjoying Christmas.
“I’m actually excited that it’s ready this early, so we can do some other things.”
Like raise money, Redden said, a necessary requirement of organizing one of the world’s premiere arts events.
The festival, which begins May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day, runs through June 9. There will be about 160 performances during the two-week festival, making it one of the largest in Spoleto history. It’s an extraordinary undertaking for organizers since one of Spoleto’s primary venues, Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, is in the midst of a renovation and the festival will be without it for two seasons.
The TD Arena at the College of Charleston, the home of the Cougars’ basketball teams, will be transformed into a performance venue.
As expected, Spoleto will feature an array of world-class opera, theater, dance and music, meeting the challenge of being current and relevant.
“I feel that we should have programming that is thought-provoking,” Redden said. “Some of the programs that we mount, they should involve a certain amount of emotional content that can be something you really have to get your teeth into, and other things should be fun. Some things should be provocative. And some things should be simply entertaining.
“The trick is to get the balance right.”
Speaking of balancing, in recent years, the festival’s physical theater offerings have been met with rapturous applause from audiences and critics. Two years ago it was Circa, a theatrical circus of physical strength aided by humor. Last year, Traces, referred to as a cabaret-circus, combined acrobatics with alternative forms of dance to engage audiences.
The 2013 troupe scheduled to dazzle physical theater fans: French contemporary circus troupe Compagnie XY, which will perform a show titled “Le Grand C.”
Here are selected festival highlights:
“Matsukaze”: The contemporary opera by Toshio Hosokawa, about the spirits of two sisters wandering the earth, will have its American premiere. The production will be conducted by John Kennedy and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, who was at the helm of festival productions “Monkey: Journey to the West” and “The Peony Pavilion.”
“Mese Mariano” and “Le Villi”: The Italian operatic double bill is of Umberto Giordano’s “Mese Mariano,” about a mother yearning to be with a child she was forced to abandon, and “Le Villi,” Puccini’s first opera in which a unfaithful lover is forced to dance himself to death.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: The Shakespearean classic is re-created by Tom Morris and Handspring Puppet Company.
“The Intergalactic Nemesis”: The theater production is being promoted as a “live action graphic novel” that, according to press notes, draws inspiration from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Star Wars” and the pulp series of the ’30s.
“Bullet Catch”: Performance artist Rob Drummond uses alter ego William Wonder to tell the history of the bullet-catching magic trick, an illusion that, if done wrong, can lead to death.
“Mayday Mayday”: Tristan Sturrock, who performed at the festival in 2006 in “Tristan & Yseult,” returns with a true-life tale.
Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia: The combination of flamenco — a kind of Spanish music, song and dance — and ballet.
Shantala Shivalingappa: The Indian Kuchipudi dancer relates illuminating stories through her movements. Festivalgoers would be wise to read their programs beforehand.
Jared Grimes: The tap and hip-hop dancer, who will have an ensemble, will premiere a program created for Spoleto.
Compagnie Kafig: A athletic combination of samba, hip-hop and capoeira dance.
Wells Fargo Jazz: Gregory Porter, Punch Brothers and Eli Degibri, among others, will perform a range of music from jazz to bluegrass to classical music filtered by jazz.
Music: Joseph Flummerfelt, after more than 30 years as Spoleto’s artistic director for choral activities, will bid farewell. He will be conducting the Westminster Choir, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in a Verdi’s “Messa de Requiem.”
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday and can be purchased online at spoletousa.org or by calling (843) 579-3100. Festival gift certificates can be purchased in any amount and used toward tickets.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.