The fare offered at this year's Spoleto Festival in Charleston is rich and varied -- far more than any one reviewer can take in. In addition to the most publicized events such as Menotti's opera, "The Last Savage," concerts of his choral music and the chamber music in the Dock Street Theater, there have been Indian dancers, Spanish mimes, Italian folk singers, Australian ballet and more opera, choral concerts, chamber music, jazz and plays. Many can still be seen and heard before the festival ends Sunday night.
Preview: The Sydney Dance Company, which made its U.S. debut in New York a few days ago, danced in Charleston this week. The company will be at Wolf Trap this Saturday afternoon and evening. The afternoon program includes their version of Ravel's "Sheherazade," which is one gorgeous spectacle. They are also bringing a high-voltage, controversial, full-length "Daphnis et Chloe." It should be seen.
Chamber operas are popular attractions in Charleston this season. Charming performances of Gluck's "L'Ivrogne Corrige," or "The Reformed Drunkard," have been added to last year's smash hit, "Monsieur Choufleuri" by Offenbach. The Offenbach is in the Washington Opera's repertoire for the coming season. Its witty satires on Bellini, Rossini and other popular idols of the last century will surely make it as much of a success here as it has been for two years in Spoleto/Charleston.
Three chamber operas by Stanley Hollingsworth, two of them world premieres, turned out to be mildly charming when they were not boring, which, alas, was the case a fair amount of the time. The new operas were "The Selfish Giant," after Oscar Wilde's story, and "Harold Loved His Umbrella," based on a children's story by Rhoda Jenkins. Hollingsworth has not been able to do much with a text that includes such lines as "You have not lost a child, you have gained an umbrella!" It is unlikely that such unbounded affection for umbrellas has been seen on a stage since Salvador Dali's memorable "Labyrinth" was danced to the Bacchanale from "Tannhauser."
The world premiere of Diane Kagan's play, "The Corridor," proved to be the one unabashedly painful item in this year's festival.
One of the lovely aspects of the festival in Charleston is the way music pervades so much of the city. At the pre-birthday party for Gian Carlo Menotti last Sunday night, an excellent string quartet played Handel and Mozart. At dinner in a number of restaurants you are likely to here the same sort of thing, and a walk along the picturesque sidewalks can turn into an almost unbroken concert of rehearsals, practicing and performing.
Big plans are well along for the festivals of '82 and the following year. One of the most important events next summer will be the U.S. premiere of the original version of Shostakovich's opera, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," which was given at Spoleto in Italy last year. Menotti, as he nears his 70th birthday, looks nowhere near that age. He plays tennis when he can find the time, is engaged in directing a number of operas, including the Washington Opera's "Boheme" this coming season, and has a commission to write a new piano concerto to be given next summer at the first Miam International Festival.