This afternoon, Spoleto Today blogger Geoff Marshall and I were conversating via e-mail (naturally) about the fact that in recent years, outside major media coverage of Spoleto has gone through the floor – tracking pretty closely with the downward spiral of arts coverage in newspapers and magazines in general all over the country. Even a couple of years ago, the Spoleto press room was buzzing with arts reporters and journalists from national outfits like The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and regionals like the Charlotte Observer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This year, the Times filed a single report on Faustus – a phoner, reported from New York, which ran with a pic taken by local Bill Struhs.

But a Google News search still turns up a fair amount of coverage, even if it a lot of it is wire reports on the opening from local AP stringer Bruce Smith. One interesting report comes from conservative columnist and political analyst James Pinkerton, writing for – of all things – The Huffington Post, in which he compares the ironic utopianism of Spoleto’s comic opera L’ile de Merlin to the delusional Middle Eastern democratic paradise envisioned by George W. Bush. Apparently the opera is Christopher Alden’s 1984, but with a libretto from 1758.

“If art and politics run counter to each other, it’s little wonder that a hip new production at Spoleto Festival USA is so anti-utopian. Why? Because the leading utopian in the world today is our own 43rd president, who preaches, and practices, a kind of coercive do-gooderism that has caused a far-reaching backlash, from the streets of Baghdad to the capitals of Eurasia – and now even to the theatrical stages of Charleston, SC. And while George W. Bush might be totally oblivious to trends in art, it’s fair to predict that the artists of the future will not be oblivious to Bush.”

He continues:

“Artists, flashing their fancies and passions, might not commonly be seen as anchors of common sense and prudence. Yet when politicians lose themselves in the pyrotechnics of their own romantic ecstasies, even artists will feel compelled to step in and provide the needed dousing. And that counter-active cooling will likely continue as long as George W. Bush and his white-hot ideology burn in the White House.”

And there are those who think L’ile de Merlin is nothing but a frothy comic confection.

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