March 24, 2020
Spoleto Festival USA Announces Unprecedented Cancellation of Its 2020 Season
For 43 years, Spoleto Festival USA has gathered artists of all kinds, turning Charleston, South Carolina, into a cultural haven for a 17-day celebration of artistic innovation and tradition. Yet after monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and operating in compliance with recommendations of health organizations and civil authorities, Spoleto Festival USA has cancelled its 2020 Festival, originally scheduled for May 22 to June 7.
This is the first cancellation in the Festival’s history. “2020 promised to be an exceptional year for Spoleto Festival USA,” said General Director Nigel Redden. “But to continue plans in the face of COVID-19 would be irresponsible to our artists, audience members, volunteers, and staff, and to Charleston itself. We will be ready to celebrate the arts and Charleston again in 2021 when we all hope our world returns to normal.”
The Festival will be contacting all who have already purchased tickets to the 2020 season. They will receive a full credit to their Spoleto accounts for use on any future Festival purchase; a value which will never expire. In addition, ticket holders may choose to donate the value of their tickets to the Festival as a tax-deductible contribution or elect to receive a full or partial refund.
Please note that Festival staff is operating remotely, and there may be slight delays in response time as we work to address all messages received. We ask for the public’s continued patience as our team navigates this process and grapples with next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions (updated 3/31/2020)
Q: Why was it necessary to cancel the Festival this year?
A: Rising concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to cancel, as the safety of our performers, staff, and audience remained paramount. Ahead of the Festival this spring, many technical staff members were scheduled to arrive in Charleston as early as April 20, with many performers arriving April 27 and May 10—dates falling well within the CDC’s guidelines against group gatherings. This season also featured artists from 10 countries worldwide, many of which have also been heavily impacted by COVID-19, and some of which are currently subject to travel bans.
Q: Why can’t the Festival just be postponed to later in the year?
A: Unfortunately this is not a realistic option for the Festival or for many of our featured artists whose schedules and touring itineraries book many months in advance. Spoleto also relies heavily on College of Charleston facilities–including five performance venues as well as the dorms to house artists and staff–that are in use by the school outside of the Festival dates. Finally, many members of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra are college or graduate students, as are members of Spoleto’s longtime choir in residence, the Westminster Choir.
Q: Will the same performers originally scheduled for this year appear during the 2021 Festival?
A: Most notably, the world premiere of Omar, our commissioned opera by Rhiannon Giddens based on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, will now premiere during the 2021 season. Outside of this Festival production, we intend to offer as many artists the possible opportunity to return next year, but we cannot guarantee the same lineup. We do understand–and share!–the excitement for our 2020 season, and we can assure you that next year’s Festival will be just as strong.
Q: What about the tickets I’ve already purchased?
A: By default, the total value of all ticket purchases will be converted to a credit on your Spoleto account. It will never expire and can be used for any future Spoleto purchase. Additionally, ticket buyers are free to convert their credit to a contribution or to request a full refund. Our staff will contact all ticket buyers by email to confirm which option they prefer. Any questions or special requests can be directed to [email protected].
Q: I used a gift certificate to purchase my tickets and want a refund. What happens now?
A: The value of your tickets will be returned to a gift certificate. The gift certificate code will be emailed to you upon completion.
Q: I’ve purchased tickets to special events that have been cancelled. How will these be refunded?
A: Tickets to the Omar opening night party (May 22) will be returned as general performance tickets: the value will be automatically transferred to a credit on your Spoleto account, available to use for any future Spoleto purchase, or can then be refunded to you or converted into a contribution. Those with tickets to the Opening Weekend Fête (with the Scottish Ballet on May 23) should call Spoleto’s Development Department at 843.724.1192. Additional questions about special events can be directed to the Development Department, by phone at 843.724.1192 or [email protected].
Q: What can I do to help?
A: First of all, please follow guidelines of public health experts to keep yourselves and vulnerable members of our community safe and healthy during this difficult time. Secondly, please note that Festival staff is operating remotely. Please be patient as we work to respond to all messages without access to our facilities. And finally, consider making a donation to help offset the loss of the 2020 season and ensure a bright future. As a non-profit organization, a major tenet of Spoleto’s mission is supporting young and emerging artists. We recognize that this group’s unexpected loss of income will continue to grow as cultural organizations everywhere are impacted by shutdowns, and we urge those with the resources to consider making tax-deductible contributions in support of the Spoleto community.
Q: What are the dates for next year’s Festival?
A: We look forward to seeing you May 28 to June 13, 2021, in Charleston, South Carolina!