Spoleto fans are getting an early Christmas present this year with an earlier-than-usual announcement of the 2013 season schedule. Though Spoleto usually waits until January to drop the bomb, Festival General Director Nigel Redden says they wanted to allow attendees as much time as possible to plan their schedules, especially considering the fact that the 2013 season is much larger than in recent years.

Besides the size, Spoleto 2013 stands out for a few other reasons. It’s the first season that was organized without former producing director Nunally Kersh, who stepped down from her post last year after 16 years. It’s also the final season for Joseph Flummerfelt, the longtime artistic director for choral activities. And it’s the first year the festival can’t use the Gaillard Auditorium for their larger shows, since it’s undergoing renovations. Instead, they’re using the College of Charleston’s TD Arena. They’ve also added self-guided downtown garden tours to the festival’s offerings.

“One of the aspects of the festival that I find important is the possibility of discovery, when you discover the area in a different way,” Redden says. “I think it’s an important opportunity to make the festival that much richer and the experience in Charleston that much more about Charleston.”

According to Spoleto’s Marketing Director Paula Edwards, this year’s festival boasts 160 performances from 45 ensembles in the categories of opera, theater, physical theater, dance, music, jazz, and visual arts.

Starting with opera, the festival includes three operas with a similar theme: a woman scorned. There’s Toshio Hosokawa’s Matsukaze, a Japanese opera sung in German about two sisters (played by Korean actresses) who fall in love with the same man. It’s being directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, who was also behind Monkey: Journey to the West and Peony Pavilion. The other two operas will actually be paired together into one show: Umberto Giordano’s Mese Mariono and Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi. Stefano Vizioli will direct.

The theater offerings are delightfully quirky this season. We’re excited about a new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream created by Tom Mossis and the Handspring Puppet Company (War Horse). We’re told to expect a sort of “future primitive” setting, with the puppets interacting with the actors. We’ll also see a contemporary adaptation of Oedipus set in the 1970s, directed by and starring Steven Berkoff (Salomè, 1990). Fun fact: Berkoff has also played villainous roles in movies like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Octopussy.

Then there’s Bullet Catch, from writer/performer Rob Drummond, which explores the history of the infamous magic trick in which the magician catches a bullet in their mouth — we hear someone in the audience will be invited to take part in the trick at the end of the show. Mayday Mayday is another one-man show from Tristan Sturrock (Tristan & Yseult, 2006) about his recovery from a traumatic injury. We’re probably most intrigued by The Intergalactic Nemesis, a family-friendly live action graphic novel. “I think there’s something about the lightness or frivolousness of the Intergalactic Nemesis,” Redden says. “It’s a kind of comic book writ large for radio play made into a live performance. It’s mixing metaphors absolutely wildly.”

Physical theater has been hugely popular in recent years, so we’re happy to see the addition of Le Grand C from France’s Compagnie XY. Set to French accordion music, the show is said to be extremely physical.

The dance category offers a veritable trip around the world with Spain’s Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, India’s Shantala Shivalingappa, and choreographer Mourad Merzouki’s Correria and Agwa, inspired by Brazilian street dancers. The dance offerings are rounded out by Lucky Plush Productions The Better Half starring tap dancer Jared Grimes, a dance/theater piece that looks at contemporary relationships.

Geoff Nuttall continues at the helm of the Chamber Music Series, and Flummerfelt will give his farewell appearance conducting the Westminster Choir, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Spoloto Festival USA Orchestra in Verdi’s Messa de Requiem. Conductor Stefan Asbury will lead the SFO in a trio of folksy orchestral works, and John Kennedy’s Music in Time Series returns with a handful of featured musicians. The Wells Fargo Jazz Series continues to branch out from the strictly jazz umbrella with shows from the Punch Brothers, Gregory Porter, Alexandre Ribeiro, Eli Degibri, Andre Mehmari, Iiro Rantala, and the Red Stick Ramblers.

And for visual arts, Spoleto partners with the Halsey for Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art, a collaboration between mixed-media artists who use books as sculpture. They’re also teaming up with the Gibbes for The Spoleto Watercolors of Stephen Mueller and Carl Palazzolo.

“The way in which I will see the festival is very different from the way in which others will see it,” Redden says. “Not only because I happen to be involved, but also because everyone who attends the festival sees different things. Even I who want to see every single thing that we do … even I can’t see everything that we do. It’s just physically impossible. People make their own festival.”

Tickets for the festival go on sale Mon. Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. Find out more at spoletousa.org.

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