Charles Wadsworth, the director of Spoleto Festival USA’s chamber music series for more than 30 years, announced yesterday that he will retire after the conclusion of the 2009 festival.

The year will mark Wadsworth’s 80th birthday and the 50th consecutive season in which he has curated chamber music, beginning with Gian Carlo Menotti’s Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

“We will miss Charles and look forward to celebrating his birthday and his tremendous artistic contributions,” said Paula Edwards, a spokesperson for the American festival, who contacted City Paper this morning.

Dottie Ashley wrote about it for this morning’s issue of the daily paper.

The announcement comes amid an array of signals during this festival that suggested that Wadsworth was preparing to step down.

The first was the appointment of Geoff Nuttall, violinist for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Spoleto’s ensemble in residence for many years, as associate artistic director of the chamber series. Wadsworth had never required an associate director in all his years of programming the series.

Then came a quote in The Post and Courier in which Wadsworth said that Nuttall was a suitable candidate to continue the mission of the chamber music series. In noting this, Wadsworth suggested that he’d been considering retirement.

An email to a Spoleto spokesperson asking if Nuttall will be appointed the new director of the chamber music series has not been returned yet. If that’s the case, then Nuttall will have some big and very fashionable shoes to fill. More importantly, he will face the challenge of Wadsworth’s cult of personality.

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