THE FESTIVAL OF Two Worlds is coming, at last, to the New World. It was 20 years ago that the composer Gian Carlo Menotti opened the first Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. On Wednesday, after two decades of searching for a suitable site, the "other world" of the international arts festival Menotti founded opens on its newly chosen ground Charleston S.C.
What Menotti has planned for his first Charleston Spoleo festival [WORD ILLEGIBLE] heady mixture of opera, theater, dance, choral and chamber music, and a touch of the flamboyant - in other words, the same kinds of things that have [WORD ILLEGIBLES] Spoleto a [WORD ILLEGIBLES] gathering place of Europeans and Americans since 1957.
Menotti found in Charleston, with its secure [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in this country's history, amid its gracious intebellum comes and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] atmosphere that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] ideal [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the kinds of programs he has [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Spoleto [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that surely small town nestled among [WORD ILLEGIBLE] hills northeast of Rome and a bit soung of Assisi and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Menotti makes imaginative use of the tine gem of a theater called the Caio Melissa, the larger, but still intimate opera house, and the grand space in front of the cathedral. For some of the experimental novelties in theater or dance, he may suddenly move into a small, bare basement space just to try something new.
Charleston has the Dock Street Theater, which Menotti calls "a tiny jewel of a theater, possibly the first proscenium arch theater in the U.S." In this theater were given the country's first chamber music concerts. There is also a large, open-air amphitheater called the Cistern on the campus of the College of Charleston. Here big choral works like Haydn's "The Creation" will sound as confident and self-assured as they do when sung on the piazza in front of Spoleto's cathedral.
Visitors can see the Charleston of Catfish Row and Fort Sumter, the Charleston that somehow escaped the burning and looting that destroyed the old beauty of so many Southern crities during the Civil War.
Menotti is volubly enthusiastic about Charleston's unspoiled beauty an the special spirit he feels there. "It was love at first sight," he said after his first visit to the city. And so, in a schedule that runs to June 5, will be directing the first of what he fervently hopes will become this world's annual counterpart of the Festival of Two Worlds.
Menotti is matched in his enthusiasm by that of South Carolina Gov. James B. Edwards, who wrote me recently to say that to him, the festival shows that "South Carolina has made great strides in our international relationship with other countries," and that he has "had the pleasureof previewing some of the highlights of this festival and can assure you that it will establish a new plateau in cultural enjoyment." According to the governor, the festival is enjoying record sales with many of the planned events already sold out.
The festival is budgeted at $850,000. Support has come in from the South Carolina arts council, the city, the National Endowment for the Arts, from national corporations and private state sources. The sponsors and hoping that these contributions, together with ticket sales, will cover the costs.
Opening night is Wednesday, with a pew production (premiered last summer in Spoleto) of Tchaikovsky's opera, "The Queen of Spades." Its conductor will be the Washington-trained Guido AjmoneMarsan, and the pivotal role of the Countess will be sung by the world-renowned Magda Olivero. The festival's othr opera will be a new production of Menotti's "The Consul," with the composer acting as stage director, something he does better than anyone else.
For theater there will be the world premiere of "Mollie," by Simon Gray, remembered for "Butley," and whose "Otherwise Engaged" continues a Broadway run. There will also be a black version of Euripides' "Medea," called "Black Medea - A Tangle of Serpents." This is the work of A Jesuit priest, Father Ferlita of Loyola University in New Orleans. Another of the festival's major attractions will be the hit musical. "Green Pond," which is shown on Kiawah Island near the city.
Dance will be a major element as it has always been at the Italian festival. The Ohio Ballet and the Elliot Feld Ballet Company will be in residence with established works as well as premieres. On June 4 there will be a day-long "Celeration of Scriabin." Faubion Bowers will lecture, and the customary noonday concert, presided over by Charles Wadsworth, will make a specialty of Scriabin novelties. At 2 p.m. that day there will be a dance gala, at 5 p.m. a recital by pianist John Ogdon, at 8 p.m. a repeat of the dance gala, and a midnight a "Prometheus Concert," in which Dennis Wayne will dance the title role in Ted Shawn's "Prometheus."
The dance gala will include nothing less than the premiers of a 25-minute work by Anna Sokolow followed by five pas de deux taken from the work of Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Glen Teltley and others. These will be danced by Patricia McBride and Jean Pierre Bonnefous, Carla Fracci and Charles Ward, Martine Van Hamel and Rob Besserer, and Alicia Alonso and Jorge Esquivel. As if that were not enough, there will be revivals of famous works set to Scriabin music by Ninette de Valois and Isador Duncan.
Charles Wadsworth is one of the biggest names in Spoleto's history. For two decades, as many hundreds of fans as could crowds into the Caio Melissa flocked there at noon for the impromptu programs of chamber music. Rarely announced ahead of time, these hours were performed by some of the world's top musicians while Wadsworth, perched on the edge of the stage, would talk to the audience in his fractured Italian, delighting them as much with his charming goofs as the music with its splendors. In Charleston, Wadsworth will share these noontime assignments with Peter Serkin, who is also going to Spoleto with him later in the summer.
The famous Westminister Choir, which has been in residence in Spoleto for the past few years, will be singing in Charleston throughout the next two weeks, in and out of some of its famous churches, and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, which includes some of the best younger players in this country, will be busy every day. If all of these events do not sound like enough, there will be films, theatrical exhibits, and lectures. In addition to which, Charleston hopes that all its visitors will take in the public tours of the city.
It sounds, all in all, as if Charleston is making an ambitious effort to burst onto the map of major summer cultural attractions. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Gian Carlo Menotti, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] , who says of Charleston, S.C., "It was love at first sight."