State 125

Spoleto Festival USA: Charleston’s premier performing arts event

A martial artist member of the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe performs at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Spoleto Festival in front of City Hall, Friday, May 23, 2008, in Charleston, S.C.. The Spoleto Festival USA renewed ties with the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, on Friday amid brass fanfares, jazz, tumbling acrobats and a shower of white confetti.
A martial artist member of the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe performs at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Spoleto Festival in front of City Hall, Friday, May 23, 2008, in Charleston, S.C.. The Spoleto Festival USA renewed ties with the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, on Friday amid brass fanfares, jazz, tumbling acrobats and a shower of white confetti. Associated Press

In 1977, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, Christopher Keene, and others sought to create an American counterpart to their annual “Festival of Two Worlds” in Spoleto, Italy. With the help of Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., the 17 day festival, designed to highlight both new and established artists, found its home stateside in the historic city of Charleston. Spoleto Festival USA was born.

In the decades since its inception, Spoleto Festival USA has been regarded as one of the world’s leading festivals, with more than 200 premieres. World-renowned artists who performed here early in their careers include Renée Fleming, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, the Emerson String Quartet and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

“There is nothing like the Spoleto Festival USA in the world, and for everyone who participates, when the festival is over, they are changed,” Riley was quoted as saying at the opening of this year’s festival in May. “And for the city that gives the festival, when the festival is over, it is changed as well. For a great arts festival overwhelms its sponsoring city with unrelenting, day-and-night exposure to the driving quest for excellence.”

Dwaun Sellers, dsellers@thestate.com

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