World-renowned Spoleto arts festival opens in Charleston

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Charleston is opening 17 days of operas, plays, chamber music and jazz Friday as the world-renowned Spoleto Festival USA returns.

The 43rd season of the arts festival kicks off Friday at noon with the opening ceremony from Charleston City Hall. It will run through June 9.

The spotlighted performance is the opera "Salome." Spoleto plans a contemporary retelling of the 1905 Richard Strauss opera. It is based on an Oscar Wilde play of the same name about the Biblical story of the woman who asked for the head of John the Baptist.

The Spoleto Festival USA choir will join the festival's orchestra and the Charleston Symphony for a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion on June 4.

The festival is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Geoff Nuttall's role as director of the festival's chamber music program.

Spoleto General Director Nigel Redden said Nuttall has 11 eclectic chamber music programs scheduled through the festival.

Four of Nuttall's programs include a mystery performance, where the violinist won't reveal the artists or the selections played until the concert. Nuttall said that is a nod to the man he replaced in 2009, Charles Wadsworth.

"The eclecticism of the series as a whole really started with Charles, though he never announced the programs ahead of the concerts. The audience's trust in his programming was such an inspiration to me. So this year, I'm working on a tip-of-the-hat to him and bringing some elements of surprise back," Nuttall said.

The festival will take place in 11 indoor and outdoor venues.

Redden said his goal is to continue Spoleto's long tradition of mixing old, traditional works with a modern twist.

"For the 43rd season, the programming continues to transcend time and place, with long-heralded masterworks alongside world premieres and reimagined classics — fitting for the festival's setting in Charleston, an ever-evolving metropolis steeped in a rich and complex history," Redden said.

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