For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera; theater; dance; and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Now approaching its 40th season, Spoleto Festival USA is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival.
The Festival’s mission is to present programs of the highest artistic caliber while maintaining a dedication to young artists, a commitment to all forms of the performing arts, a passion for contemporary innovation, and an enthusiasm for providing unusual performance opportunities for established artists. This focus has brought the Festival international acclaim year after year. Contributing to the Festival’s ongoing success is its location in Charleston. Recognized the world over for its stunning natural beauty, impressive array of preserved historical architecture, and wealth of charming performance venues, Charleston provides an incomparable setting for audience members and guest artists alike.
Spoleto Festival USA was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, Christopher Keene, and others who sought to create an American counterpart to their annual Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. Looking for a city that would provide the charm of Spoleto as well as its wealth of theaters, churches and other performances spaces, they selected Charleston as the ideal location. The historic city provided a perfect fit: intimate enough that the Festival would captivate the entire city, yet cosmopolitan enough to provide an enthusiastic audience and robust infrastructure.
In the decades since its inception, Spoleto Festival USA has firmly established itself as one of the world’s leading festivals, presenting more than 200 world or American premieres. Notable past premieres and commissions include: Matsukaze by Toshio Hosokawa; Monkey: Journey to the West by Chen Shi-Zheng, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett; Peter and Wendy by Lee Breuer; Creve Coeur by Tennessee Williams; The American Clock by Arthur Miller; The Mechanical Organ by the Nikolais Dance Theatre; Miracolo d’Amore by Martha Clarke; Empty Places by Laurie Anderson; Hydrogen Jukebox by Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg; Praise House by Urban Bush Women; Three Tales by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot; and Tenebrae by Osvaldo Golijov. World-renowned artists who performed early in their careers at Spoleto Festival USA include Renée Fleming, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, the Emerson String Quartet and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.