State of the Art

My Spoleto 2015 wish list

The set of the short Asian opera “Paradise Interrupted” gets built in front of the audience.
The set of the short Asian opera “Paradise Interrupted” gets built in front of the audience. Courtesy of Jennifer Wen Ma

I’ve missed just one Spoleto Festival USA since 1983, but I’ll have to wait until retirement to achieve my dream: to stay long enough to encompass all major performances.

The 2015 event, which runs May 21-June 7 in Charleston, cries out for multiple visits. If I were living the dream this year, these are the three events I’d see over each of the three weekends:

First weekend

“A Streetcar Named Desire” – The Scottish Ballet does a danced (and partly spoken) adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ tragic play.

“Paradise Interrupted” – Spoleto has specialized in Asian theater/opera. In this one, the set (a vast garden) will grow in front of you. It’s a world premiere collaboration between artist Jennifer Wen Ma and composer Huang Ruo.

Mônica Salmaso – This Brazilian jazz singer will explore the songbook of her native land going back decades, along with pianist Nelson Ayers and saxophonist-flutist Teco Cardoso.

Second weekend

Bank of America Chamber Music – Programmer Geoff Nuttall has salted the 2015 series with more vocal works and contemporary pieces. An example: a concert featuring a chamber-sized scoring of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, Oliver Knussen’s “Elegiac Arabesques” for clarinet and English horn, and Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet.

Westminster Choir: “The Little Match Girl” and “Jephte” – This great choir anchors all vocal productions at Spoleto, operas included. Joe Miller leads David Lang’s Pulitzer-winning piece based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale plus Giacomo Carissimi’s adaptation of the Old Testament story about a general who inadvertently agrees to sacrifice his daughter.

Trisha Brown Dance Company – Brown choreographed postmodern dances from 1966 through 2010. This program of four pieces includes “Set and Reset,” with Laurie Anderson’s music and Robert Rauschenberg’s sets and costumes, and “If you couldn’t see me,” in which a soloist performs on a bare stage to an electronic score.

Third weekend

“Veremonda, L’Amazzone di Aragona” – Francesco Cavalli’s comedy-drama – an opera about the Spanish king and queen’s siege of the Moorish-held Rock of Gibraltar – debuts in a new performing edition after 350 years.

“Knee Deep” – Spoleto has often featured unusual circuses, and Australia’s Casus Circus fits right in.

“Romeo and Juliet” – Actors from Shakespeare’s rebuilt Globe Theatre do the first U.S. performances on the tour.

Toppman: 704-358-5232