Here at City Paper, it seems like Spoleto’s already been going on for a while. We’ve spent so much time preparing for it, it’s easy to forget that one of the country’s best arts festivals might actually be sneaking up on locals. With that in mind, here’s a short preview of some of the early festival events. Having your weekend planned out now will give you extra time to sift through our lengthy guide that comes out on Wednesday.
But before we get to all that, make sure you're following Arts & Scene Editor Erica Jackson on Twitter. She'll have the scoop on every little Spoleto detail.
Although Spoleto doesn’t officially start until Friday, plenty of visual arts exhibits are already open. Many of these exhibitions, at places like the Art Institute of Charleston, New Perspectives Gallery, City Gallery, and the public library, among others, will be on display throughout the festival. Cory Oberndorfer's Novelty has its opening reception on Wednesday, and Thursday is the opening of Call and Response: Africa to America. If you can get a head start now, it’ll sure help once all the shows get going in a couple of days.
Spoleto's opening ceremonies take place at noon in front of Charleston City Hall. It's not usually the most exciting of affairs, but it’s free. The Piccolo Spoleto Brass Ensemble will perform, and there will be a surprise appearance from a Spoleto artist. Immediately afterward, Spoleto kicks off with the Bank of America Chamber Music Series, a very traditional and always-popular part of the festival, over at the Dock Street Theatre at 1 pm.
Friday night will mark the first of many consecutive evenings when Festival fans have to make some tough decisions on what to include in their plans. But one of the only Spoleto events that you won’t have another chance to go to is the Opening Night Fête at the Murray Center (The Spoleto Festival USA Headquarters) at 14 George St. Spoleto is offering a $250 package deal for tickets to Les Ballets Trockaderos de Monte Carlo at 7 p.m. and the Fête at 9 p.m., so you can kill two birds with one stone. (Of course, for $250, you could probably hire a sniper to kill the birds instead).
If a garden cocktail party isn’t really your thing, you can check out the Norma Winstone Trio (the Grammy-nominated jazz singer with an Italian pianist and a German reed player) at 9 p.m. over at the CofC Cistern; they're only performing this Friday and Saturday and you won't want to miss it.
As for Piccolo Spoleto’s opening day and night, well there’s really too much going on to give particular attention to any one event. Fortunately, there’s so much diversity—blues, theater, improv comedy, family events, gospel—you probably won’t have much trouble finding something that really calls to you. We recommend finding something that's a one-night-only event or with an extremely short time span. Keep in mind that many of the musical acts, especially the jazz and blues performances that are part of a series, fit into that category.
Also, if attending ballet, opera, and jazz doesn’t make you feel classy enough already, you can also stop in Peninsula Grill between shows to sip on their signature Spoleto cocktail: Il Spoletano. It's a mix of peach puree and Rugeri Prosecco.
The bottom line is, you’re probably going to have to do some real grunt work and planning if you really want to catch a big chunk of the Spoleto action. Hopefully, these tips will get you through the opening day. You've only got 16 more after that.