Spoleto Festival USA officially unveiled the 2012 season lineup today. Scheduled for May 25-June 10, the 36th annual festival is slightly smaller than last season, but no less exciting, with a distinctly contemporary bent. Here’s what you can expect to see.

The opera program includes two American premieres. Philip Glass’ celestial-themed Kepler has previously only been presented in concert form; Spoleto Marketing Director Paula Edwards compares it to past productions like Proserpina and Emilie. (Glass will also make an appearance at the Music in Time Series.) And Guo Wenjing’s contemporary Chinese opera Feng Ye Ting boasts an impressive artistic team including Tony Award-winning set designer Derek McLane, costume designer Han Feng, and acclaimed film director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Chloe).

For theater, expect a few familiar faces. Dublin’s Gate Theatre revisits Noel Coward with comedy of manners Hay Fever. And Britain’s 1927, who you may remember from 2009’s hit Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, has the dark comic fairytale The Animals and the Children Took to the Streets, which blends live performance, music, and stylized animation. Journalist Jack Hitt, of This American Life fame, will talk about contemporary brain science in Making up the Truth. Hitt actually lived in Charleston in the 1960s, and you may hear some tales of his time spent here. Storyteller Mike Daisey will discuss both technology and international business in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and Teaching in India.

Following the roaring success of acrobatic acts like Oyster and Circa in recent years, this year’s lineup includes two choices in the physical theater category. Leo, performed by Circle of Eleven’s Tobias Wegner, is one man’s exploration of a world turned sideways (think anti-gravity stunts). Montreal-based circus troupe 7 Doigts (7 Fingers) presents Traces, a blend of urban dance and acrobatics with a distinct storyline.

The dance program is quite modern, with an appearance from Spoleto vets the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. You’ll also see works from up-and-coming companies like the avant garde Abraham.In.Motion and Seattle’s Zoe|Juniper.

In the music department, Geoff Nuttall once again leads the Chamber Music Series, and Anne Manson makes her Spoleto debut guest conducting the Spoleto Festival Orchestra during the last public performance at the Gaillard before it closes for renovations. Resident Conductor John Kennedy will also present a contemporary program with pieces from John Cage and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The Westminster Choir will return under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt.

On the more rootsy end of things, k.d. lang makes her festival debut along with Boston-based string band Joy Kills Sorrow. Austin’s Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole will bring a down-home vibe to the Festival Finale. You’ll also find a beer garden at the plantation this year.

The Wells Fargo Jazz Series features Brazil’s Virginia Rodrigues, who blends African and Portugese traditions; double-bass player Renaud Garcia-Fons; and ukulele-player Jake Shimabakuro, who drew record crowds to the Cistern in 2009. French-American jazz prodigy Cecile McLorin Salvant, winner of the Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition, makes her festival debut along with gospel legend Mavis Staples. David Pena Dorantes blends classical, jazz, Celtic, and Brazilian styles, and New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Jazz Band will undoubtedly give us some Trombone Shorty-style deja vu.

And lastly for visual arts, we’ve already announced Motoi Yamamoto‘s planned residency at the Halsey, which will result in an intense installation created from salt.

See spoletousa.org for more info.

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