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Spoleto Festival returns with another banner slate of entertainment
Among the highlights: ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany’ and jazz legend Ahmad Jamal

A scene from ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany.’
CHARLESTON, S.C. — For 17 days and nights each spring historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces are filled with over 120 performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in disciplines ranging from opera; theater; musical theater; dance; and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music; as well as the visual arts.

Beginning May 25 and continuing through June 10, the 2007 Spoleto Festival will boast an impressive array of American premieres and debuts, including a rarely performed opera by the Baroque composer Christoph Willibald Gluck, a new concert work by Philip Glass and the first American performances of Nina AnaniashvilI’s State Ballet of Georgia.

Among the major highlights of the 2007 season is “The Rise and Fall of the City Mahagony,” Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s sharply satirical 1930s opera. Both Weill and Brecht were pioneers in addressing same-sex issues in early 20th century literature. Their gift for subtle political commentary is obvious in “Mahogany.”

After its Leipzig, Germany, premiere in 1930, “Mahagony” was subsequently banned by the Nazis, not to be seen again until the 1950s. Though never achieving the widespread popularity of Weill and Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera,” “Mahagony” is considered a work of remarkable stature with a beautifully haunting score and strong operatic structure.

Also of special note are the American premieres of two French operas from opposite ends of the spectrum — Gluck’s comic Baroque opera “L’ile de Merlin” and contemporary composer Pascal Dusapin’s “Faustus, the Last Night,” the performances of which will mark the first time a Dusapin opera has been produced in the U.S.

A festival favorite, jazz legend Ahmad Jamal will return to play the ebony and ivory.
As well, look for the return of the beloved Gate Theatre of Dublin in W. Somerset Maugham’s comedy of manners “The Constant Wife,” the festival debut of Batsheva Dance Company and the first U.S. performances of “Book of Longing,” a new 12-part music cycle by Philip Glass based on Leonard Cohen’s recently released poetry collection of the same name.

Artists making Spoleto Festival debuts include Rubberbandance Group with “Elastic Perspective,” a suite of dances combining the energy of urban hip-hop with ballet technique; Dood Paard, a contemporary Dutch theater company making its American debut with “medEia,” a postmodern version of the Medea myth; African-American griot/storyteller Sekou Sundiata in his poignant solo work “Blessing the Boats” and performer Aurélia Thierrée in the imaginative circus theater spectacle “Aurélia’s Oratorio.”

Among the returning festival favorites this year is legendary American jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.
Jamal was one of Miles Davis’ favorite pianists and a key influence on the trumpeter’s “First Great Quintet.”

Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock all cite Jamal as a major influence in use of rhythm and space, as well as his innovative use of multi-tonal melodic lines.

Other highlights include New York-based contemporary dance company Shen Wei Dance Arts in “Connect Transfer;” virtuoso pianist Andrew von Oeyen leading members of the Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1; the Westminster Choir in their traditional a cappella concerts, along with two other concerts featuring the women of the choir; and the Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra led by Music Director for Opera & Orchestra Emmanuel Villaume in performances of Mahler’s and Brahms’ Fourth Symphonies. Rounding out the festival are the popular Intermezzi and Music in Times series; the twice daily Bank of America Chamber performances led by Charles Wadsworth, Artistic Director for Chamber Music and conductor and Artistic Director for Choral Activities, Joseph Flummerfelt, leading the Westminster Choir, Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the Ginn Resorts Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem.

Tickets range from $10 to $130. To purchase tickets, call 843-579-3100 or visit Spoleto’s official website at www.spoletousa.org. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Spoleto Box Office in the Gaillard Auditorium at 77 Calhoun St. in Charleston.

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