Each season, critics from around the country attend Spoleto Festival USA ensuring that what happens in Charleston does not stay in Charleston.
In addition to extensive local coverage in the Post & Courier and Charleston City Paper alongside daily radio podcasts produced by Spoleto Today for SCETV, the Festival attracts prestigious national and international media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times. Here is a sampling of what has been written about this year’s Festival:
The New York Times
“But a real emotional high point came in that concert [Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra’s program Concerto for Orchestra conducted by Joseph Young] with a highly charged performance of the Adagio by Samuel Barber, a composer who was close to Spoleto’s founder, Gian Carlo Menotti. It tied together many of the festival’s threads — its personal relationships and conflicts as well as its artistic triumphs — and packed a considerable wallop.”
“… it is “Katya Kabanova,” an opera more or less in the conventional mold, that has been the festival’s runaway hit so far, in a beautifully understated production by Garry Hynes, the noted Irish theater director, making her operatic debut.”
“Betsy Horne, an American soprano who has been developing a substantial career in Europe, gave an excellent performance as Katya, both dramatically and vocally, on Saturday evening. Her tone was clear and lovely throughout her range, and she developed her character touchingly and persuasively.”
The Wall Street Journal
“When John Adams’s Nativity oratorio “El Niño” had its world premiere in Paris in 2000, the specificity of the Peter Sellars staging—an impoverished Latina teenager gives birth in contemporary Los Angeles—had a distancing effect. A haunting new production directed and designed by John La Bouchardière at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA was a richer experience, exploring the multiple layers of this deeply felt composition. Using both modern dress (the costumes are by Magali Gerberon) and medieval iconography, Mr. La Bouchardière’s concept is about miracles and how much we need them—no matter what the era.”
Financial Times (UK)
“By treating “El Niño” as a kind of Christian mystery play in which the core drama is enacted by puppets, La Bouchardière, who also designed the set, ensures that the story is arrestingly told while leaving ample leeway for interpretive elaboration by solo singers and chorus (the Westminster Choir), all enacted in Memminger Auditorium on a dirt-covered floor situated between audience and orchestra… With the driving minimalistic iterations of Adams’ score securely projected under Joe Miller’s direction, Spoleto Festival USA makes a strong case for “El Niño”…”
The Charlotte Observer
“Betsy Horne exemplifies what’s best about Spoleto: The sense of discovery audiences get when a little-known artist gives a triumphant performance.”
“I’ve listened to Mendelssohn for 40 years, but this performance [Inon Barnatan, piano; Livia Sohn, violin & David Ying, cello] revealed new emotional depths. I’ve heard great renderings of the Mozart, including a dazzling one by Paul Lewis and the Leopold String Trio at Wigmore Hall, yet this one added a layer of playfulness that reopened my ears. That’s why I never miss Spoleto.”
“… one of the best Spoleto USA festivals I’ve attended in three decades of covering it… This [Facing Goya] is Spoleto at its most typical: presenting a work you’ll see almost nowhere else (this was its U.S. premiere) and hiring an inventive international director to challenge audiences. But not all of the festival was this cerebral: A theatrical adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s suspenseful novel “My Cousin Rachel” wanted nothing but to keep you at the edge of your Dock Street Theatre seat.”
“It’s rare that everything I see there works for me, but I went six-for-six this year. Both operas (“Goya” and “Kat’a Kabanova”), the play, two chamber music concerts and an afternoon of virtuosity and high emotion from Hubbard Street Dance all left me smiling and/or thinking.”
”To inspire us, the art, artists and organizers of Spoleto Festival USA burst onto the 91-degree heat on the corner of Meeting and Broad streets in Charleston on May 23 with Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Welcoming words by Joseph P. Riley, the Charleston mayor of 40 years, followed, and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney of Emanuel AME Church offered an invocation to the God of creation and creativity. Then cannons boomed, confetti flew and a Hubbard Street (Chicago) dancer performed a solo in the heat of the noonday sun, somewhat ironically to “The Chapel in the Moonlight” sung by Dean Martin. That’s how you open a world-class arts festival and let the inspiration begin.”
Charleston City Paper
“Gratefully, we do come away from each festival season with one reassuring notion confirmed. On our dinner dates with Spoleto, over many delicious courses wildly varying in their presentation and ingredients, we come to appreciate that there are many paths to excellence and the creation of wonders for our palate to entertain. The world is on our plates, our appetites are sharpened by the sheer romance of it all.”
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To access our online library of Spoleto Festival USA press clippings, click here.
Read our “Spoleto Festival USA 2014: A Resounding Success” press release here.
Watch video recaps of the 2014 Festival: