Spoleto Festival USA General Director Mena Mark Hanna on Friday announced the programming for the 46th season of the performing arts festival being held from May 27th to June 12th. This 17-day celebration of arts and culture features more than 120 events in venues throughout the city. Tickets are available to the public beginning February 22nd at 10 am.
“Charleston has seen tremendous growth and rapid change, with nearly 60,000 people relocating to the area in the last decade,” said Hanna. “I see Spoleto at a unique point to not only grow with the city, but to continue to be a steward of its cultural life, just as the Festival did in its early years.”
For the first time since 2019, international artists will once again convene in Charleston to perform in a variety of programs. Below is a preview of some of the events with description provided by Spoleto Festival USA.
At the centerpiece of the season is Omar, Spoleto’s world premiere opera with music by Rhiannon Giddens (above right) and Michael Abels, directed by Kaneza Schaal (May 27th, 30th, June 2nd, 5th, 8th, 12th), and conducted by John Kennedy. Expanding the traditional opera canon and providing a platform for marginalized voices, this work is part of a watershed moment that challenges the standard practice and repertoire of opera, questioning how it has been performed and what it can mean today. With a libretto by Giddens, Omar follows the life and autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, an African Muslim scholar who, in 1807, was captured in West Africa and brought to Charleston—a main harbor of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In sharing Omar Ibn Said’s memoir, the opera underscores a largely undiscussed truth: as many as 30 percent of enslaved Africans who arrived in the colonies and the United States were Muslim.
“Within and beyond Omar,” said Hanna, “Spoleto’s program explores migration—be it forced, exiled, or voluntary. Enslavement is a forced migration, for example. And in looking at our country’s origin points, it’s crucial to include Africa as a key genesis of the United States. That can no longer be ignored.”
These themes distill throughout the program, from jazz and Americana concerts in the College of Charleston Cistern Yard to classical music, dance, and theater performances. Opening the First Citizens Bank Front Row series, for instance, Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi perform (May 28) selections from their two Grammy-nominated albums there is no Other and They’re Calling Me Home, tracing African and Arabic sounds’ influence on Western music. On May 29, Senegalese icon Youssou NDOUR—whose music embraces West African traditions as well as issues of social justice and racism—headlines the Wells Fargo Jazz series. In a new acoustic set he’s calling “Mbalax Unplugged,” NDOUR performs a mix of traditional Senegalese melodies and never-before-heard pieces composed during the pandemic that evoke his practice as a Sufi Muslim.
The transmission of cultural traditions throughout the African Diaspora is explored in a concert from jazz pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (May 30) as well as in choreographer Reggie Wilson’s POWER (May 28, 29). Drawing on extensive research, the production reimagines the devotional practices of Black Shaker communities and brings a new perspective to the spectrum of American Christian religion, Shouts, and the evolution of Africanist worship.
The Black experience is highlighted in such musical works as Alongside a Chorus of Voices, a new piece from composer Jessie Cox receiving its US premiere during the Music in Time series on May 29 and in a concert entitled Lift Every Voice on June 1. In this choral program that commemorates the Denmark Vesey rebellion in Charleston 200 years ago, soloists and choristers of Omar engage the audience on a musical journey from Spirituals to contemporary pieces, including Richard Smallwood’s Total Praise, Betty Jackson King’s It’s Me, O Lord, and Ronald M. Carter’s Lift Every Voice and Sing. In the theatrical realm, Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood examines the aftermath of the 2014 shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Running June 3 to 6, this one-woman play recounts real community members’ reactions and conversations surrounding the events that sparked a national movement.
Faith and representation are at the forefront of Karim Sulayman’s Unholy Wars (May 29, June 1, 3, 6), which stitches together operatic selections from the Italian Baroque period centered around the Crusades. Using Claudio Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda as a keystone, Sulayman refocuses these narratives, addressing issues of Orientalism in the Baroque works to reveal a new story from his Arab American perspective. This world premiere includes animation by Syrian artist Kevork Mourad, new interstitial compositions by Mary Kouyoumdjian, and choreography by Ebony Williams. Early music specialist and violinist Julie Andrijeski provides musical direction.
A new composition from Nico Muhly adds to this season’s discussions. A contemplative recontextualization of the Stations of the Cross, Muhly’s work for harp—performed by Parker Ramsay—and eight singers is punctuated with text by librettist Alice Goodman to reveal the brutality of a man’s wrongful condemnation and suffering. The work receives its world premiere at King’s College Cambridge this spring; its US premiere in Charleston at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church (June 7) is also part of Spoleto’s Music in Time series, curated by Festival Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy.
The final Music in Time concert (June 6) features three orchestral works from Tyshawn Sorey, a jazz percussionist and MacArthur Fellow praised by The New Yorker as “an extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.” The concert includes For Roscoe Mitchell, which features cellist Seth Parker Woods and members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, as well as Sorey’s Autoschediasms, which Sorey and the musicians will create in real time using what Sorey calls spontaneous composition. Sorey also takes the stage during Spoleto’s Wells Fargo Jazz series (June 4), performing in a new trio alongside pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer.
Working closely with such lauded composers as Sorey remains one of the main boons for the young professional artists of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra. This year, in addition to accompanying the world premiere of Omar and the reworked La bohème (May 28, 31, June 4, 7, 11)—conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni—the full ensemble plays the US premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s AIŌN, as well as a reconstruction of Edmund Thornton Jenkins’s Rhapsodic Overture, arranged by Tuffus Zimbabwe. Adding to this program on June 3, rising-star pianist Julia Hamos joins the ensemble to feature in György Ligeti’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.
Modeled after the successful Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, the Festival’s newly formed Chorus will be one of the busiest ensembles throughout the season. Its members perform in Omar, La bohème, and The Street, as well as in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (June 9) and two choral concerts in St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church (June 3, 11) highlighting Romantic pieces from composers including Bruckner, Brahms, Pearsall, and Britten. Assembled anew each year through national auditions, the Chorus will take on a dynamic new identity each season, reflecting the diverse scope of artistry and versatility of its singers as well as the various pieces of seasonal repertory. Like the Orchestra, which in 2022 has 87 musicians, the number of vocal fellows selected for the Festival Chorus shifts each season depending on the program’s repertory; in 2022, there are 56 choristers.
A keystone of Spoleto Festival USA, the Bank of America Chamber Music series continues in 2022. Geoff Nuttall, Festival Director of Chamber Music, curates each of the varied 11 programs and offers his singular mix of old and new. Punctuating this year’s programming will be recent and new works by contemporary composers including Paul Wiancko, Mark Applebaum, and Steven Banks—the series’ first saxophonist. Joining Nuttall’s venerable band are several new faces: recorder virtuoso Tabea Debus, violinist Alexi Kinney, and the Castalian String Quartet. Once again, the 33 hourlong concerts will be performed at 11:00am and 1:00pm in the Dock Street Theatre; complete programming will be announced this spring.
Tickets to the 2022 season become available to public February 22nd. To mark that occasion, Spoleto is revealing its final piece of the season: a play at the historic Dock Street Theatre running for 14 performances throughout the length of the Festival.
The 2022 season, at a glance:
- World premiere: Omar
- World premiere: Unholy Wars
- New production: La bohème
- Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group in POWER
- Stars of New York City Ballet
- Malpaso Dance Company
THEATER AND PHYSICAL THEATER
- Dock Street Theatre Play (announced February 22)
- US premiere: Plexus Polaire’s Moby Dick
- Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood
- Meow Meow in concert
- US premiere: Machine de Cirque’s La Galerie
- Bank of America Chamber Music at Dock Street Theatre
- Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra plays Edmund Thornton Jenkins, György Ligeti, and the US premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s AIŌN
- Spoleto Festival USA Chorus Concert
- Choral concert: Lift Every Voice
- Music in Time series, featuring the US premiere of Nico Muhly and Alice Goodman’s The Street, a triple bill from Tyshawn Sorey, and the US premiere of Jessie Cox’s Alongside a Chorus of Voices
- Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
- Shakey Graves headlines the Wells Fargo Festival Finale at Firefly
WELLS FARGO JAZZ
- Youssou NDOUR: Mbalax Unplugged
- Nduduzo Makhathini
- Tyshawn Sorey/Aaron Diehl/Matt Brewer
- Linda May Han Oh and Fabian Almazan
- Ravi Coltrane plays the work of Alice Coltrane
- Cécile McLorin Salvant
FIRST CITIZENS BANK FRONT ROW
- Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
- Allison Russell
- The War and Treaty
- Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
ARTIST TALKS AND MORE
- Conversations With: CBS News correspondent Martha Teichner interviews Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, Dael Orlandersmith, and Mena Mark Hanna
- Jazz Talks: Wall Street Journal critic Larry Blumenfeld interviews Youssou NDOUR and Tyshawn Sorey
- Festival Feast with Acclaimed Chefs Rodney Scott and Kevin Mitchell
For more information, visit spoletousa.org.
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