Spoleto 2005 off and running
off Lowcountry's 17-day showcase of the arts
BY DOTTIE ASHLEY
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Lavender hydrangeas bloomed in window boxes of
nearby shops, and street vendors were selling Italian ices to visitors and
residents as the 29th Spoleto Festival USA opened Friday in front of the Old Exchange
Building on East Bay Street.
"Spoleto is like a great painting, technically perfect and
elegantly framed by Charleston,"
said Jay Cohn of St. Louis, who came for the third consecutive year
with his wife, Marilyn.
The opening ceremonies mark the start of a 17-day festival with 130
performances that will have the city overflowing with opera, classical music,
theater, dance, jazz and visual arts.
Piccolo Spoleto, which occurs at the same time, also began its run
of more than 700 performances.
It seemed to be a day for reflection as the Charleston Symphony
Brass Ensemble played a fanfare dedicated to the memory of arts critic Robert
Jones, who covered the festival for The Post and Courier for more than a quarter
of a century. Jones died in November. In a commanding tenor voice, opera singer
Eduardo Valdes sang the national anthem, and the Rev. Randolph Miller of Emanuel
AME Church delivered the invocation.South Carolina first
lady Jenny Sanford was introduced by Spoleto board Chairman Eric Friberg, who
told the crowd of 1,000 that Gov. Mark Sanford couldn't make it because of state
Jenny Sanford told the crowd that, on behalf of her husband, she
wanted to thank the festival for attracting tourism to Charleston. She
praised the festival for generating $61 million a year in state revenues and
attracting at least 45,000 people annually in recent years to the festival.
Julius Rudel, conductor of the American premiere of Walter
Braunfels' opera "Die Voegel" and who fled from Hitler's Germany to America 67
years ago, told the crowd, "I was intrigued that this opera was banned by the
Nazis, but also that its creative history goes back 2,500 years to Aristophanes,
who used his plays to criticize the folly and hubris of political leaders who
lead people into wars and then fail to win them."
Also speaking was Sandra Gibson, president and CEO of the
Association of Performing Arts Presenters in Washington, D.C.
She said that of the 1,700 members of the association, Spoleto was at the top in
showing the economic power of the arts.
Before opening the festival with his usual salute in Italian to the
Festival of Two Worlds, which, like Spoleto, was founded by Gian Carlo Menotti,
Mayor Joe Riley said it was appropriate the festival opening be held in front of
Exchange Building while City Hall is being renovated.
"Welcome to the first City Hall of
Charleston," the mayor said. "Prior to 1818, city government operated on the
second floor of this building, and so we have returned to our ancestral roots."
As the bells of St. Michael's chimed, balloons floated down from
the top of the building as two members of the Italian modern dance troupe Emio
Greco/PC bounded onto the stage, leaping, turning and moving like the wind.
Another Spoleto Festival USA had begun.