In today’s Post and Courier, arts reporter Dottie Ashley strokes her chin about a notion that’s being bandied about on the QT among Spoleto Festival insiders since festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti died six days ago: what if Menotti’s death opens a door to the relinking of the two festivals — ours and the original one, which still takes place each summer in Spoleto, Italy?
When Menotti created the Spoleto Festival in Charleston in 1977, he was seeking an American partner city for the performing arts festival he’d founded in a storybook Tuscan hill town in 1958. Together, the two festivals were known as the Festival due Dei Mondi, or the Festival of Two Worlds. The two shared many of the same Big Festival acts (though not Piccolo, since the Little Fest is a fringe creation of the City of Charleston dating from 1978). Each May and June, Charleston would stuff itself to the gills with highbrow culture in the form of opera, dance, symphonic and chamber music, and a smattering of drama from around the world — and a month later, the whole shebang would travel to tiny Spoleto, Italy and do the whole thing all over again. (I had the great fortune of stumbling blindly into Spoleto, Italy in mid-festival once during a post-college European backpacking trip; if you think Charleston has charms in the spring, you ain’t seen nothin’.
After Menotti left the festival in a dustup over artistic control in 1992, he severed ties between the two festivals, but the Italian one's been going strong in the intervening 15 years — though as Dottie reports, fundraising slipped a bit in Menotti’s final years. She reports that “most” USA Festival board members would like to see a rejoining of the two fests if it makes financial sense, and Charleston festival general manager Nigel Redden says he’s already booked Spoleto Mayor Masssimo Brunini to speak at the Opening Ceremony on May 25. This could be the rebeginning of a beautiful friendship. —PS