We’re nearly a month away from Spoleto 2010, and here in the City Paper offices, that means crunch time. We had a nice little chit-chat with festival organizers this morning about what to expect this year. The offerings are abundant and varied, and we noticed a few noteworthy overarching themes.
Dance. Traditional ballet lovers will be satisfied with at least one of this year’s offerings (Giselle, National Ballet of Georgia), but those looking for something a little more cutting-edge have some exciting choices. In fact, if you’re looking for something young and hip, dance is where it’s at this year. New York-based Gallim Dance presents I Can See Myself In Your Pupil. This troupe, choreographed by Andrea Miller, is described as “fiercely physical” with “a delicious strangeness and coiled sensuality.” They dance to music as varied as Balkan Beat Box and Puccini. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male classically-trained ballet troupe. Charleston native Robert Carter (no, not the chef) is a star member of the Trocks — look for the black man in the platinum wig. Lucinda Childs’ Dance, featuring an original score by Philip Glass, recently marked its 30-year anniversary. A 1979 film by Sol LeWitt will be projected onto a scrim in front of the stage, interacting with the dancers. And then there’s Oyster, performed by Inbal Pinto & Avshalon Pollak Dance Company. Inspired by a short story by Tim Burton, this genre-defying show includes elements of dance, theater, and carnival sideshow. The brief video we previewed had us hooked — it looks weird and stunning.
Roots Music. Spoleto organizers must have taken a cue from the huge popularity of groups like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Punch Brothers, because this year’s festival has an impressive roster of acts playing traditional, old-fashioned music. Tickets to the New York-based Ebony Hillbillies’ one-night show in the Cistern will most likely sell out. Jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, and rock influences all make their way into this quartet’s shows. Performing as part of the Wachovia Jazz Series, 21-year-old Julian Lage is no novice. At the age of eight, he already had a documentary devoted to him. With influences ranging from Carlos Santana to Chris Thile, his debut album Sounding Point was nominated for a Grammy. They’re not American, but Mali-based Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba play “the closest form of blues that exists in Africa,” using instruments like the ngoni (a predecessor of the banjo). And the Carolina Chocolate Drops return to town, performing at a venue that will surely accommodate their many local fans — Middleton Place plantation. Eschewing the traditional orchestral finale, this year’s blow-out event will feature a lively show from the Carolina-based trio.
Opera. Love it or hate it, opera has a huge presence in this year’s festival, with three featured operas spanning three centuries. Tickets are selling fast for Flora, an 18th-century English ballad opera with strong Charleston connections. When it was first staged in Charleston in 1735, it marked the first time an opera or musical play was performed in colonial America. Its huge success inspired the building of the original Dock Street Theatre, which, appropriately, is where it will be staged this season. Andriana Chuchman will sing the title role — you may recognize her from the 2009 Spoleto production of Louise. On the more contemporary side is the American debut of Wolfgang Rihm’s Prosperina. The opera has received a boatload of buzz in its native Germany, where magazine Opernwelt named it Production of the Year. It’s based on Goethe’s melodrama about the Roman deity Properpina/Persephone, and the set and costumes (designed by Marsha Ginsberg) were inspired by the Aiken-Rhett House. Heather Buck (Faustus, The Last Night, 2007) will sing the title role. With a similar focus — ancient gods — but distinctly different cast — marionettes — Haydn’s Philemon and Baucis will be staged by the Colla Marionette Company. Pulling strings in Italy since the 18th century, it’s the company’s fifth appearance at Spoleto.
We’ll leave you with this for today, but there’s so much more to get excited about —from Die Roten Punkte to Block Ice & Propane to the return of the Gate Theatre. Check back to Spoletobuzz frequently for more updates.