Here’s who’s com­ing to Spo­leto

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN Cor­re­spon­dent

Over the last decade, Spo­leto Fes­ti­val USA has boosted its pro­file by pre­sent­ing Amer­i­can pre­mieres of con­tem­po­rary op­eras from Europe, re­con­struc­tions of lost clas­sics that have lain dor­mant for cen­turies, big bal­let com­pa­nies with in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tions and hefty works by the most prom­i­nent liv­ing com­posers.

But some­times in­no­va­tion shouts, and some­times it whis­pers. The 43rd an­nual fes­ti­val, which runs May 24-June 9 around Charleston, has none of those splashy of­fer­ings, but its 140-plus per­for­mances en­com­pass a re­mark­ably wide range of ex­pe­ri­ences. (Get full ticket and con­tact in­for­ma­tion at spo­leto usa.org.)

The sched­ule ac­tu­ally be­gins May 23 in Dock Street Theatre with an “au­di­ence choice” pre­view by Shake­speare’s Globe, in which the eight-per­son cast per­forms a play voted on that evening by the­ater­go­ers. (Your op­tions are “Twelfth Night,” “The Com­edy of Er­rors” and “Per­i­cles,” all of which th­ese Lon­don­ers will do later on spec­i­fied oc­ca­sions.)

The fest ends June 9 in River­front Park with a con­cert by soul/gospel singer Cur­tis Hard­ing, who has been given the slot more com­monly al­lot­ted to a band. And in be­tween … well, if I had to pick a dozen things to see, they’d be th­ese:

“Salome” – For the first time in 10 years, the lineup in­cludes just one opera: Richard Strauss’ 100-minute, one-act adap­ta­tion of Os­car Wilde’s over­wrought play, im­proved by Hugo von Hof­mannsthal’s li­bretto. Di­rec­tors Pa­trice Cau­rier and Moshe Leiser staged this opera here in 1987 — in a 1930s Ger­man hot­house, if mem­ory serves — but will now do a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion with Melanie Hen­ley Heyn, Paul Groves and Kostas Smo­rig­i­nas in the leads.

“Pay No At­ten­tion to the Girl” – Five ac­tors from Tar­get Mar­gin The­ater in­ter­weave sto­ries about the sexes taken from “One Thou­sand and One Nights,” the col­lec­tion of Is­lamic folk tales from Turkey, Per­sia, In­dia and other na­tions. Mean­while, Le­banon’s Cara­calla Dance Theatre sets pieces from that same col­lec­tion to western clas­si­cal and Ara­bian mu­sic in “One Thou­sand and One Nights.”

“Let­ter to a Friend in Gaza” – I like mul­ti­me­dia pre­senta-

tions, so I’m in­trigued by vet­eran Is­raeli film­maker Amos Gi­tai’s idea: Four ac­tors (two Pales­tini­ans, two Is­raelis) con­sider the foun­da­tions of the con­flict at the Is­rael-Gaza bor­der. The piece com­bines film, mu­sic and po­etry in a trib­ute to French writer Al­bert Ca­mus’s “Let­ters to a Ger­man Friend,” an­other state­ment about links be­tween two war­ring cul­tures.

“Roots” – The English the­ater com­pany 1927 has come here three pre­vi­ous times with in­ven­tive (if fre­quently baf­fling) com­bi­na­tions of live ac­tion, com­plex mu­si­cal scores and hand-drawn animation. This show delves into rare folk­tales (those are big this spring) “that of­fer a glimpse into imag­i­na­tions from a pre-in­dus­tri­al­ized age,” ac­com­pa­nied by a sound­scape fea­tur­ing “Peru­vian prayer boxes, don­key jaws, vi­o­lins, and mu­si­cal saws.” Um­mmm…why not?

“Circa” – Spo­leto USA al­most al­ways of­fers one ex­tra­or­di­nary piece of phys­i­cal the­ater, and this looks like it: The three­p­er­son ac­ro­batic troupe from Aus­tralia (which sold out here in 2011) blends cir­cus skills with dance the­ater, this time in a piece set to Bach ( played by a live vi­o­lin­ist) min­gled with a pre-recorded elec­tronic sound­track.

“Path of Mir­a­cles” – Bri­tish com­poser Joby Tal­bot’s hour-long,

work (sung by West- min­ster Choir) was in­spired by the Camino de San­ti­ago in north­ern Spain. Pil­grims have walked Saint James’ Road for 1,200 years as an act of wor­ship and atone­ment, and John La Bouchardière (who di­rected John Adams’ “El Niño” here in 2014) makes this into a mu­sic the­ater event.

Bank of Amer­ica Cham­ber Mu­sic Se­ries – The full pro­gram won’t be an­nounced un­til April, but you can’t go wrong with any con­cert. Pro­gram­mer Ge­off Nut­tall cel­e­brates his 10th an­niver­sary with two pre­mieres: com­poserin-res­i­dence Paul Wiancko’s quin­tet, played by oboist James Austin Smith and Nut­tall’s own St. Lawrence String Quar­tet, and pian­ist-com­poser Stephen Prutsman’s work for string quar­tet and sound­track.

Com­pag­nie Hervé Koubi – Chore­og­ra­pher Bill T. Jones’ work can be bril­liant or bom­bas­tic, and the de­scrip­tions of his “Anal­ogy Tril­ogy” for this year’s fes­ti­val leave me cold. In the ab­sence of clas­si­cal dance, I’d go in­stead with Koubi, in which 13 male dancers from Africa and Europe blend street forms — capoeira, break­danc­ing, and mar­tial arts — with mod­ern dance.

Esper­anza Spald­ing – Spo­leto has rightly prided it­self on its jazz line­ups, which this year will in­clude the 17-piece Daf­nis Pri­eto Big Band, Carla Bley, David Virelles, a Geri Allen Trib­ute Quin­tet (honor­ing the pian­ist who died last year) and the sax-pi­ano duo of Mark Turner and Ethan Iver­son. Bassist-vo­cal­ist Spald­ing, who won a best new artist Grammy eight years ago, will play out­doors in The Cis­tern at Col­lege of Charleston, a lovely place to hear her.

Punch Broth­ers – Speak­ing of The Cis­tern, she’ll be fol­lowed there by this eclec­tic quin­tet: man­dolin­ist Chris Thile, gui­tarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kow­ert, banjo player Noam Pikelny and vi­o­lin­ist Gabe Witcher. They play mostly blue­grass, but Thile has al­ways thrown curves into his con­certs and record­ings, so keep an open mind.

“Black Re­frac­tions: High­lights from The Stu­dio Mu­seum in Har­lem” – I usu­ally skip shows at Gibbes Art Mu­seum, but I’d make time for this trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tion out of New York. It of­fers mul­ti­ple ap­proaches to art by African-Amer­i­can men and women from the 1930s through the present, in­clud­ing such heavy­weights as Ja­cob Lawrence, El­iz­a­beth Catlett, Thorn­ton Dial and Char­lotte na­tive Ro­mare Bear­den. It stays up through Aug. 18.

CAR­MEN DANESHMANDI

Bassist Esper­anza Spald­ing

Cour­tesy of Shake­speare's Globe

Shake­speare’s Globe re­turns to the Dock Street Theatre at Spo­leto, with a ro­ta­tion of “Twelfth Night,” “The Com­edy of Er­rors” and “Per­i­cles,” as well as Au­di­ence Choice per­for­mances.

Paul B. Goode

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Com­pany in “Anal­ogy/Lance: Pretty aka the Es­cape Artist,” part of Jones’ Anal­ogy Tril­ogy.

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