For 17 days each spring, every possible venue, large and small, is filled from noon to night with opera, jazz, theater, dance and more during the annual Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston.
One of the top annual cultural events, the festival brings cutting-edge performers and artists from around the globe to the Southeast for an intense art marathon.
This year, organizers have crammed more than 120 performances between May 24 and June 9, making 2013 the largest and busiest Spoleto Festival yet.
The events of the concurrent side-festival Piccolo Spoleto will more than double the options.
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1. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: The Bristol Old Vic production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will feature the inventive artistry of Handspring Puppet Company, which designed the horses for the stunning production of “War Horse.” Organizers know they have a sure hit. Get tickets early. May 23-June 9. $26-$80.
2. “Le Villi” / “Mese Mariano”: This double bill offers a chance to see two seldom-performed one-act operas: “Le Villi” by Giacomo Puccini and “Mese Mariano” by Umberto Giordano. In Puccini’s first opera, a young man who abandons his fiancee for a seductress is tormented by vengeful spirits after her death. In “Mese Mariano,” a fallen woman seeks to visit the son she gave up in her youth. May 25-June 7. $25-$90.
3. “Messa da Requiem”: With each passing year, there are fewer connections to the people who created the festival. This makes the opportunity to see Verdi’s dramatic “Requiem” conducted by Joseph Flummerfelt a major event. Flummerfelt has been Spoleto’s artistic director for choral activities for 30 years, and this will be his farewell before retiring. June 6. $15-$65.
4. Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia: Spain’s renowned Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia takes the art to new heights, blending its exacting take on the traditional folk form with a boldly contemporary approach to dance performance. May 31-June 2. $15-$60.
5. Behind the Garden Gate: Anyone who’s been to Charleston has caught glimpses through wrought iron gates or beyond stone walls into lush, hidden courtyards and gorgeous, tucked-away gardens. For the first time, Spoleto has added an official garden tour, allowing visitors the opportunity to explore the secret gardens of the historic city’s finest houses. May 25. $50.
6. “Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art”: The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art hosts “Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art” featuring artists who use books as their primary material. May 23-July 6. Free.
7. Rosanne Cash: Cash’s latest album, “The List,” is a collection of cover songs drawn from 100 essential country songs her father, Johnny Cash, gave her when she was 18 and learning the ropes. She likewise draws from a rich heritage in performance with a show that can be loose, fun and joyful, but also serious, weighty and heartrending. June 2. $35-$50.
8. “The Intergalactic Nemesis”: What does a “live-action graphic novel” look like? Writer Jason Neulander and artist Tim Doyle found they had an unexpected hit when they turned their graphic novel “The Intergalactic Nemesis” into a live performance. Three actors give voice to Doyle’s artwork projected on a two-story screen for this epic story inspired by the sci-fi pulp serials of the 1930s. June 5-9. $25-$35.