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Spoleto Festival USA Announces 2007 Program

By Matthew Westphal
and Vivien Schweitzer
02 Jan 2007

Spoleto Festival USA's traditional outdoor finale concert at Middleton Place near Charleston.
photo by William Struhs

The 2007 Spoleto Festival USA will feature a number of American premieres, including the modern-day US debut of a rare comic opera by Gluck, a new song cycle by Philip Glass, and the first appearances in this country of the new national ballet company of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, an ensemble founded and headed by American Ballet Theater star Nina Ananiashvili.

The centerpiece opera of the festival's 2007 program, which was announced on New Year's Eve, will be the Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht satire, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The well-known team of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier will direct, and the festival's music director, Emmanuel Villaume will conduct all six performances at the Sottile Theatre in Charleston.

Gluck may be known for such great operatic tragedies as Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphigénie en Tauride, but Spoleto USA will present what are likely the first modern performances in the U.S. of the composer's one-act comedy L'île de Merlin (ou Le monde renversé). In this light-hearted fantasy, Merlin's Island really is a world upside-down: rich women there are required by law to marry poor men, the lawyers are all honest, spouses are always faithful, and, because fighting is banned entirely, disagreements are settled by games of chance. Christopher Alden will direct the production; conducting will be Baroque specialist Harry Bicket, who was in the pit for the Handel Rodelinda starring Renée Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera and who takes over the directorship of the period-instrument ensemble The English Concert this year.

Pascal Dusapin's opera Faustus, the Last Night, which received its world premiere in January 2006 at the Berlin Staatsoper, will get three performances in Charleston in a new production by David Herskovits, director of New York's Target Margin Theater. The work, with an English-language text by the composer, is based on Christopher Marlowe's Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus but also refers to other sources, from Shakespeare to Gertrude Stein. These will be the first American performances of any opera by Dusapin.

Book of Longing, a new 12-part music cycle by Philip Glass based on Leonard Cohen's recently released poetry collection of the same name, will receive its U.S. premiere at the festival. It will be performed by singers and instrumentalists drawn from indie rock, classical and new music circles — and will include Glass performing on keyboards.

Spoleto's acclaimed contemporary music series, Music in Time, will begin with an appearance by the Bowed Piano Ensemble, followed by a concert of new music for accordion headlined by the renowned "downtown" accordionist and composer Guy Klucevsek. Karlheinz Stockhausen's Himmels-Tür ("Heaven's Gate") will get its first American performance during the series, and there will be two tie-ins with the festival's opera productions: a program of chamber music by Dusapin, and Morton Feldman's arrangement of "Alabama Song" from Weill's Mahagonny.

The festival's signature chamber music performances will be presented twice daily at Charleston's Dock Street Theater, organized by director, pianist and host Charles Wadsworth. The roster of musicians includes Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, soprano Courtenay Budd, violinist Chee-Yun Kim, violist Daniel Phillips, pianist Wendy Chen, cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Andrés Díaz, flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, clarinetist Todd Palmer, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

Other music events include pianist Andrew von Oeyen joining members of the Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra for Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1; Emmanuel Villaume conducting the orchestra in Mahler's and Brahms's Fourth Symphonies; the Westminster Choir in its traditional a cappella concerts; and a gala performance of Verdi's Requiem, with Joseph Flummerfelt conducting the festival orchestra, the Westminster Choir and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Headlining Spoleto USA's dance program this year will be the first U.S. performances of the State Ballet of Georgia, which ABT superstar Ananiashvili went home to Tbilisi to found; the company will dance the classic Petipa version of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake. Making their festival debuts in 2007 are Israel's renowned Batsheva Dance Company, headed by choreographer Ohad Naharin, and the Montreal-based Rubberbandance Group, offering Elastic Perspective, a suite of dances blending hip-hop with ballet. Returning to the Charleston is the New York-based contemporary company Shen Wei Dance Arts.

Spoleto Festival USA's 31st season will take place from May 25 through June 10, 2007 in Charleston, South Carolina. Tickets are available for purchase starting today at www.spoletousa.org.




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