A holy babe and a babe digging herself out of a romantic hole. Falling angels and a man hoping an angel will arise. Dancers that tap and dancers that map identities and dancers that slap you in the kisser, philosophically speaking. A suffering Czech woman and a guy trying to hold his suffering in check.
And Laurie Anderson, with a program titled “The Language of the Future.” Where would you be likelier to encounter her than Spoleto Festival USA, which has spoken in the language of America’s cultural future since 1977?
The 38th annual spring blast in Charleston, S.C., runs May 23-June 8. Tickets are now on sale. (Details: 843-579-3100 or spoletousa.org.)
Spoleto has triumphed with Leoš Janácek’s “Jenufa” and “The Excursions of Mr. Broucek.” Now Garry Hynes, Tony-winning director of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” and director of the Irish theater company Druid, makes her opera debut with “Kátya Kabanová ,” a drama about an unhappy wife made more miserable by passion for a young man. Anne Manson, who led the Festival Orchestra in 2012, conducts.
John Adams’ opera-oratorio “El Niño” tells the Nativity story through European writings and sermons, gospels from the Bible and the Apocrypha, and Latin American poetry. British director John La Bouchardière will give it a full staging; Joe Miller, the festival’s new director of choral activities, will conduct.
Michael Nyman, best known for his music for the film “The Piano,” has recomposed a large portion of the score for his American premiere of “Facing Goya.” The opera, originally written for amplification, will be presented acoustically for the first time; it mixes science fiction, art history and conspiracy theory in a story about the desire to clone Spanish artist Francisco Goya.
Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen will shape the production; resident conductor John Kennedy will be on the podium.
Ireland’s Gate Theatre brings Joseph O’Connor’s stage adaptation of “My Cousin Rachel” in its American premiere. Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel focuses on a beautiful woman loved by two men: an older one, who dies mysteriously, and his ward, who’s bewitched by her but comes to believe she’s a poisoner.
Toronto actor-director Ravi Jain arrives with a U.S. premiere: “A Brimful of Asha,” an autobiographical work that examines his Indian family, arranged marriage and his quest for the perfect bride. Performance artist Anderson returns with one of her multimedia works about technology, communication, travel, and science.
We can probably classify Finnish aerialist Ilona Jäntti as theater. She’ll perform in the American premiere productions of “Footnotes” and “Gangewifre,” plus her signature piece “Muualla/Elsewhere.” The Australian acrobats of “Gravity & Other Myths” will offer the U.S. premiere of “A Simple Space,” an intimate work.
Four dance companies pack the Spoleto schedule.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will perform the work of two dance giants Charlotte seldom sees: British choreographer William Forsythe (“Quintett”) and Czech master Jiri Kylián (”Falling Angels”).
The New York troupe Keigwin + Company will import two high-energy works, “Megalopolis” and “Runaway,” melding the New York fashion scene and pop culture references.
Dorrance Dance, a New York-based tap troupe, will perform two programs: SOUNDspace, a piece revealing the purity of dance movement, and The Blues Project, with original music performed by Toshi Reagon’s five-piece jazz band.
And Gregory Maqoma makes his Spoleto U.S.A. debut with a solo work inspired by his ancestors’ struggle to maintain their Xhosa identity during 19th-century cultural shifts on South Africa’s Eastern Cape; he’ll work with singers and world-fusion guitarist Giuliano Modarelli.
Here Spoleto maintains a dual identity, part classical and part ... not. Much of the classical attention rightly goes to chamber concerts programmed by Geoff Nuttall of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which is in residence again. Pianist Steven Prutsman returns to premiere a piano quintet.
Westminster Choir Director Joe Miller, who’ll be in his first year as the festival’s new director of choral activities, will conduct two Westminster Choir concerts: an a cappella program in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul and a collaborative concert with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The Festival Orchestra will perform two concerts, one conducted by Joana Carneiro (anchored by Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra) and one in which Kennedy pairs Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 with two modern homages to it.
The “not” part goes all over the musical map: banjo virtuosos Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, cabaret-pop-jazz singer Kat Edmondson and the Kruger Brothers, whose Swiss roots influence their takes on Carolina folk music.
The jazz slate includes singer René Marie in a tribute to Eartha Kitt, recitals by saxophonist Håkon Kornstad and British pianist Gwilym Simcock and jazz vocals by Charenée Wade. Singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams makes her Spoleto debut with a blend of country, folk, and rock; the Aca Seca Trio will interpret South American popular music; mandolinist Danilo Brito will play in Brazil’s choro style.
And a daylong finale concludes the festival at Middleton Place with gourmet picnic fare, a beer garden, regional bands and Charleston’s own Shovels & Rope on the main stage.