Spoleto’s Streak Ends

Blame it on medEia — or Faustus, The Last Night, or any of the other nontraditional, convention-tweaking fare Spoleto Festival USA laid on audiences with its most recent 17-day shindig — a 31st season that was more stuffed than usual with programming that didn’t necessarily guarantee butts in seats. The final box numbers are in for the 2007 festival, and although the budget minders have nothing to complain about, it looks like Spoleto’s four-years-running record-busting streak has finally come to an end. Final sales for this year’s festival were $2,945,452 — roughly $29,000 less than last year’s record tally, but still $413,000 above where the 2005 festival’s sales ended up.

Even if they didn’t do much for the festival’s coffers, though, and even if critics were of mixed opinions about them, shows like the Dutch group Dood Paard’s take on the Medea tale and modern French composer Pascal Dusapin’s ear-shredding go at the Faustus legend did exactly what they were supposed to for Spoleto: burnish the largest performing arts festival in North America’s credibility, making it noteworthy not just for its size but for being a genuinely progressive, cutting-edge arts event. As festival director Nigel Redden told The New York Times in mid-fest: “The past few years have been very successful at the festival in terms of audience, box office, and fund-raising. The point about being reasonably successful — well, you don’t want to push it too far, but success allows you to take artistic risks.” —Patrick Sharbaugh

CSO donning dress blacks

Charleston’s second biggest indigenous arts org, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, is also finding lots of reasons to cheer this month. Fresh off a festival season that had them hitting the Gaillard for five gigs as the pit orchestra for State Ballet of Georgia’s Swan Lake for Spoleto, they’re expecting to end their fiscal year, at last, in the black on June 30. Board prez Leo Fishman credits Mayor Riley and, for the first time, the local business community, who’s stepped up for them in spades. This, after ending last June almost $200K in the hole and losing its executive director. They’re still short an executive director, but Washington, D.C.-based recruiters the Catherine French Group are on the hunt, and the CSO’s line of credit is likely to remain untouched as they enter their 77th season. Here’s hoping that the good financial news means not just a renewal of their musicians’ contracts at 2003 rates but raising them up to where they’d be today had they not taken an 18-percent pay cut that year to save their employer’s neck. —PS

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