Marcus Overton

Spoleto Works Its Magic

Our work at Spoleto has fallen into a rhythm of long days that usually end only a little before midnight, but today was different in a wonderful way. I decided just to take a break in the outside world, run some errands and get back to the studio by 9:30 or so to rejoin my colleagues.
Punch Bros3_250.jpgSpoleto magic took over: the sounds of Chris Thiele and the Punch Brothers were making the trees in the College of Charleston’s Cistern literally sway. The audience was spellbound, there was a crescent moon peeping through the trees, and dozens of non-ticketholders were lined up along the wrought iron fence, getting some musical kicks for free. That queue included several members of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, on their way home (fiddle cases slung over their shoulders) who were enjoying a slightly different “Song of the Earth” than the one by Mahler they had just played at Gaillard.
It was all quintessential Spoleto: Mahler a few blocks away — transcendent, majestic — and Chris Thiele’s unique blend of bluegrass and traditional American folk in the Cistern, with PIccolo Spoleto theatre performances across the street. The whole panoply of theatre, music, and the balmy Charleston night: everything that makes Spoleto the unique experience of place and performance it is.

Spoleto 2009: A Theme Emerges?

At the beginning of every Spoleto Festival I have attended (that’s 18, counting this one), Festival management has claimed there is no “theme” or unifying concept for that year’s Festival. Spoleto Festival USA has always taken considerable pride in its cheerfully uncentered eclecticism, and the fact is that it’s true: the festivals don’t have a pre-determined theme.
But as sure as the sun is shining and the humidity is climbing in Charleston, a theme begins to emerge after a few days — no matter how wildly different in subject matter, in genre, and in location the performances may be.
So….what’s emerging in 2009? Here’s how it seems to me: there is a certain darkness in human nature, but it is brightened a little by an occult optimism. The brightness lurks behind the dark and keeps us from complete despair. You can see this in LOUISE, the “big” opera this year, in which even Louise’s seduction by the city of Paris (which seems at first to be an exhilarating act of liberation) leaves the viewer uneasy and unsatisfied. In KneeHigh Theatre’s DON JOHN, the hero seems to get his (ultimate) comeuppance in the end, but somehow the ending is inadequate. Even Don John’s death is not enough to make up for what he has done.
Addicted loud.jpgMaybe the picture will change as the Festival heads into its second full week. More performances could give greater shade and texture to first impressions. A glimpse at ADDICTED TO BAD IDEAS at its dress rehearsal this afternoon doesn’t lead me to think that sweetness and light are on the way. But deafness most assuredly IS on the way, if the ADDICTED audiences don’t use the earplugs SFUSA has promised to provide!

WDAV 89.9 and SCETV To Broadcast Live from Spoleto Festival USA

Unprecedented Partnership Will Enable Broadcasts to Be Heard Across the Carolinas and Around the World
May 20, 2009 — DAVIDSON, NC… For 17 days and nights each spring, tens of thousands of tourists, arts lovers, and critics flock to Spoleto Festival USA. They fill Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces to witness renowned artists in chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music, as well as opera, theater and dance.
At the opening of this year’s Spoleto Festival USA on May 22, radio and online listeners will have a new option for enjoying Spoleto Festival USA: they can listen to several hours of live broadcasts each weekday–direct from Charleston, South Carolina–on WDAV-FM 89.9 Classical Public Radio or South Carolina ETV Radio’s Classical NPR stations: WSCI-FM Charleston 89.3, WEPR-FM Greenville 90.1 and WLTR-FM Columbia 91.3.