The absence of the iconic Dock Street Theater left a gaping hole in Charleston’s artistic world. Like Paris without the Louvre or New York without Madison Square Garden, we were slightly lost — especially during Spoleto. Needless to say, the theater’s re-opening, after years of costly renovations, caused quite a stir.
Thursday night hundreds gathered to see the first performances on the revitalized stage. Charles Wadsworth reportedly made a visit to the theater earlier in the day and claimed the acoustics were 30 percent better than before. Yet after hearing Denyce Graves’ commanding performance of “Habanera” from George Bizet’s Carmen, we’d say Wadsworth underestimated.
Spoleto chamber music composer-in-residence Jonathan Berger introduced some new music for the evening. The piece was officially titled “Hold On,” but dubbed “The Dock Rocks” for the night. Heather Gillespie, who won praise for her portrayal of Hagar in 1999’s Mamba’s Daughters, recanted a prologue written by DuBose Heyward for the opening ceremony in 1937. The piece seemed eerily fitting.
Other highlights of the evening included sonatas by George Frideric Handel, performed by the quartet of Melissa Reardon (viola), Pedja Muzijevic (piano), Geoff Nuttall (violin) and Christopher Costanza (cello). The group, unable to think of a name for the event, referred to themselves as Melissa and the Three White Men for the evening.
The full audience was also treated to a brief aperitif of Flora, an Opera, orchestrated by Neely Bruce. Performed for the first time in Charleston in 1735, the opera will be shown for the first time in centuries this year as a part of Spoleto Festival USA.