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 47th season, Spoleto Festival USA is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival.

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 is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

2023 dates: May 26 – June 11

Our Story

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. Read more about Spoleto’s founding and program history HERE


“It will not be like most Festivals… but a unique and fertile ground for the young, and a dignified home for the masters.” — Gian Carlo Menotti on his founding vision for Spoleto Festival USA in 1977

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.

The Festival is proud to provide young performers the opportunity to work with master artists, conductors, directors, designers, and performers. Illustrious artists who performed early in their careers at Spoleto Festival USA include Renée Fleming, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Each season, the Festival employs more than 500 full-time, part-time, and seasonal staffers, including 80 musicians for the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and 60 apprentices in arts administration and production. Learn about the apprentice program HERE.

Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra

Central to the Festival’s  success each season, the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra is one of the country’s most prestigious ensembles for young professional musicians. As the orchestra in residence for Spoleto Festival USA, the Orchestra accompanies Spoleto’s opera selections and symphonic concerts, and smaller ensembles are selected to participate in choral, chamber, and contemporary performances.

“The orchestra, culled from advanced conservatory students and young professionals through nationwide auditions, still strikes me as the best american orchestra of its kind.”American Record Guide

Assembled anew each year through nationwide auditions, the Festival’s Orchestra takes on a dynamic new identity with the participation of both returning and new musicians. Each ensemble member is selected for his or her skill, artistry, and versatility, and the resulting group of talented and diverse young professionals is consistently lauded in the press. Alumni of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra can be found in almost every professional orchestra in the United States.

Click HERE to purchase a commemorative Spoleto 40 coffee-table book, documenting the Festival’s full history and impact, from its founding to its 40th anniversary season. This book was published in 2016 and written by Allan Kozinn, a music and culture critic.