Ready for Spoleto? Here's your sampler

We're mere days from the cultural explosion that launches summer in the Carolinas.

The Spoleto Festival USA opens its 34th edition Friday. It will take over Charleston with 17 days of music, theater, dance, opera and more - even a circus.

This year, the festival will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder: composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who came to Charleston in 1977 with a spinoff of the arts extravaganza he launched in Spoleto, Italy, in 1958. Now the American branch will salute him with a production of "The Medium," one of the operas that made Menotti a sensation. Imagine an opera having a successful run on Broadway: Menotti and "The Medium" pulled it off when he was only in his 30s.

The festival holds so much variety that's it's useless to attempt any sweeping characterizations. So here's a sampling.

Opera: "The Medium." Menotti's one-act thriller centers on a fake psychic who loses her grip on her scam. Another option: Mozart's fairy tale "The Magic Flute."

Music: Midday chamber music concerts. The St. Lawrence String Quartet shares the series, a Spoleto favorite, with an array of instrumentalists. Jazz and popular musicians include singer Dianne Reeves; Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones; and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

Theater: "The Cripple of Inishmaan." Ireland's Druid Theatre Company performs Martin McDonough's dark comedy: In 1934, the residents of a remote island learn that a Hollywood director will shoot a movie there. A revival of the Broadway hit "The Gospel at Colonus" is another choice.

Dance: Corella Ballet. Angel Corella, a star of New York's American Ballet Theatre, leads his own company based in Spain. Another option: "Khmeropedies I & II," furthering a dance style that flourished for centuries in Cambodia's royal court.

Also: "13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests." The artist's silent-film portraits of Edie Sedgwick, Allen Ginsberg and other 1960s personalities are accompanied by a score by indie-pop musicians Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. Another option: Circa, a seven-member circus troupe from Australia.