Spoleto will honor Menotti with opera

This year's Spoleto Festival USA will commemorate the centenary of the festival's founder, Gian Carlo Menotti, by performing one of his operas for the first time since Menotti split with the Charleston festival in the early 1990s.

Menotti's thriller "The Medium" is one of three operas in store for the festival, from May 27 to June 12. The 35th annual arts explosion will include more than 150 performances by dozens of soloists and ensembles.

As always, the festival will embrace music, theater, dance and works that defy easy categorization. First-time Spoleto performers include the Corella Ballet from Spain; banjo player Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones; and the Druid Theater from Ireland, performing Martin McDonagh's "The Cripple of Inishmaan."

The schedule also includes the Spoleto debut of someone Charlotte music lovers already know: young conductor James Gaffigan, who was a candidate to be the Charlotte Symphony's music director. Stepping in while the festival seeks a new leader for its operatic and orchestral programs, Gaffigan will guest-conduct an orchestral concert.

Here's an overview of this year's offerings:


"The Medium": Menotti, born in July 1911 in Italy, was in his mid-30s when he wrote this drama about a woman who pretends to help people contact deceased loved ones.

Mozart's "The Magic Flute": The beloved fairy tale opera will be staged by the duo of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, who directed Kurt Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny" at Spoleto in 2007.

"Emilie" by Kaija Saariaho: The Finnish composer's one-character opera looks at the real-life phenomenon Emilie de Chatelet, a mathematician, scientist and free spirit of 18th-century France.


"The Cripple of Inishmaan": In Martin McDonagh's dark comedy, a Hollywood film crew arrives in an Irish village and enlists a local outcast to act in its movie.

"The Red Shoes": Kneehigh Theatre from Wales, which last came to Spoleto with "Don John" in 2009, returns with its version of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a girl whose vanity gets the better of her.

Two solo shows: "County of Kings: The Beautiful Struggle" is a coming-of-age memoir by theater artist Lemon Andersen. New York performer Edgar Oliver describes his decades living in a run-down boarding house in "10th Street: Self Portrait With Empty House."


Corella Ballet: The Spanish company was founded two years ago by dancer Angel Corella, a star of American Ballet Theatre.

"Khmeropedies I & II": Choreographer Emmanuele Phuon gives a modern turn to ancient Khmer dance from Cambodia.

Shen Wei Dance Arts: The Chinese-born choreographer and his company return to Spoleto with "Re-Parts I, II, III," which looks at the culture of Cambodia, Tibet and China.


A concert by the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan will offer Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and works by Debussy and Richard Strauss.

The ever-popular chamber music series will be anchored as always by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and the roster will include such regular players as cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

The jazz series will feature the return of singer Dianne Reeves and the Spoleto debut of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, featuring Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, who took up the trombone as a child in New Orleans and at age 24 is now a Grammy nominee.


Circa, a seven-member circus troupe from Australia, comes to Spoleto for the first time.

Writer-director Taylor Mac performs "Comparison is Violence or the Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook."

In "13 Most Beautiful ... Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests," indie-pop musicians Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips perform their original works to accompany a screening of Warhol's silent-film portraits of Edie Sedgwick, Allen Ginsberg and other 1960s personalities.