Charleston is Home to the Spoleto Festival USA

Highlights of the 39th season of America’s premier performing arts festival.

When Italian-American composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti founded Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy, in 1958, the name he chose reflected his intention to one day replicate a “twin” summer music and opera festival somewhere in the world. Because the Italian festival was initially designed as a window into the American performing arts scene for European audiences, it had a strong American administration from its inception.

In 1977, Menotti’s “Two Worlds” vision became a reality when the inaugural season of Spoleto Festival USA opened in Charleston, taking the country’s performing arts world by storm. Almost four decades later, Spoleto is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival. Each spring, for 17 days and nights, the festival fills Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists, as well as emerging performers in dance, music, opera and theater.

The lineup for 2015 included the world premiere of the contemporary opera Paradise Interrupted at Memminger Auditorium. Also, the world premiere of a new Spoleto Festival USA–commissioned performance edition of Francesco Cavalli’s Veremonda, l’amazzone di Aragona was performed in the first staging of this Baroque opera in over 350 years — and first American performances — at the Dock Street Theatre.

Also of note is that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company made its Spoleto Festival USA debut with the first U.S. performances of a brand-new production of Romeo and Juliet at the Dock Street Theatre.

A 1,000-year-old performance tradition from Vietnam also came to the festival for the first time with the debut of the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. Performances weave together fast-paced and fantastical traditional tales played out by puppets that dance, skip and glide over the water’s surface.

Spoleto Festival USA celebrated its 39th season with over 150 performances taking place in 14 venues located throughout the historic city of Charleston.