[embed-1]The 41st season of Spoleto Festival USA kicked off today at noon at City Hall; visitors and Lowcountry denizens sat alongside Spoleto board and city council members, and even former Mayor Joe Riley, in seats arranged beneath a blazing sun.

Mt. Zion AME Church Reverend Kylon Middleton was the first to speak: he gave the invocation “under the canopy of beautiful blue skies,” and waxed on about how wonderful it is that we can “artistically express the stories of our legacy.”

Mr. Franco Pomponi, the baritone cast to play Onegin in Eugene Onegin, sang the National Anthem with operatic gusto before Edward Sellers, chairman of the Spoleto board, ran through some highlights of this year’s festival. With more than 150 performances, there’s a lot to see, and to say, about “the greatest arts festival in the country.” Sellers made note of Farnace, Quartett, Yo, Carmen, Angel, We Love Arabs, Moses, and the many chamber music performances slated.

[embed-2] Sellers introduced maestro Evan Rogister, conductor of Eugene Onegin, with an anecdote about a 14-year old boy who was absolutely besotted with a four hour Spoleto Festival opera more than 20 years ago. That boy was Rogister, a now world-renowned conductor who is a dual citizen of Germany and America. His grandmother, who was herself a German immigrant, drove Rogister and his siblings from Raleigh to Charleston to take in that Spoleto show years ago. Rogister said his grandmother had very high standards when it came to opera, so they had to travel out of the state to see a show that would hit the mark. Today, Rogister feels the same adoration for Spoleto that his grandmother did: “The festival is unrivaled in quality and the amount of material presented. I hope that a 14-year old boy out there is inspired this year by Eugene Onegin.”
Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke about the Festival’s “ageless, timeless vigor,” and thanked the city and the Spoleto team for their commitment that is “the stuff of legend.” The Mayor gave a special shout out to recently retired City of Charleston Parks Department employee Marion “Mattie” Pyatt who for years tirelessly built stages, set up chairs, and maintained parks for the Festival. Tecklenburg described Pyatt as a “Spoleto man in full,” and the crowd rose for a standing ovation (the only one of the afternoon).

After a cannon blast shot sparkling bits of confetti into the sky, the ceremony closed with a brief performance by Monchichi’s Honji Wang and Sebastian Ramirez. We’re excited to see the full production: in just a few minutes the two created a wildly engaging energy, moving on the stage as if they were the last two people on Earth. Buy your tickets now.

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