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The stand-out thus far, and the one show that’s sure to make the cover of City Paper, is a “punk cabaret operetta” called Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre’s 20th Century.

It’s a collaboration between director Jay Scheib and the World/Inferno Friendship Society, whose New Yorker frontman Jack Terricloth leads a nine-piece band in front of an array of videos.

The other opera (there’s usually two) is Gustave Charpentier’s Louise. I have no idea what this is about, except that it sounds French and florid, and that I’m told it’s enormous, so big that it’s rarely staged in the U.S.

The Kneehigh Theatre of Cornwall (in the UK) return to perform a new production of an American premiere: Called Don John, it puts a new spin on Mozart’s great opera. They are the workhorse of the 2009 Spoleto. Nineteen performances are scheduled.

Meanwhile, Basil Twist, the extraordinary American puppeteer, comes back after a four-year absence to produce Dogugaeshi, a stage story inspired by Japanese stagecraft by the same name. A Dutch troupe called Kassys puts on a show called Good Cop Bad Cop while Welsh artist Hugh Hughes offers a fringe, one-man-show performance of a Story of a Rabbit.

In dance, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns. Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet make its festival debut. Experimental choreographer Hiroaki Umeda mixes movement with sound and video technology. And the incomparable Soledad Barrio stomps her heels with the Spanish troupe Noche Flamenca.

Other highlights: Charles Wadsworth concludes his 30-plus-year run as Spoleto’s director of chamber music. Beverly “Guitar” Watkins plays her unique brand of the blues. Mandolinist Chris Thile, formerly of Nickel Creek, brings his new folk and string band, the Punch Brothers. Jazz vocalists Tierney Sutton and Rene Marie perform in the Wachovia Jazz Series, as do Hawaiian ukulele-player Jake Shimabukuro and gypsy violinist Florin Niculescu.

The 33rd annual festival is May 22-June 7. Tickets are $10-$130.

For more information, call (843) 579-3100. —John Stoehr


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