Spoleto USA renews ties with Italian fest

Nigel Redden, director of Spoleto Festival USA, announced last week that he was exploring the idea of sharing opera and theater productions in 2009 with the Festival of Two Worlds Foundation in Spoleto, Italy.

The announcement, issued in a press release last Wednesday, appears to be a reversal of previous statements Redden has made about the issue of “reunification” between Gian Carlo Menotti’s two acclaimed international arts festivals.

In an April 3 interview with City Paper, Redden said the whole notion of reunification was something of a misnomer. The festivals had always been separate organizations, he said, with different administrators, boards, fund-raising strategies, and so on.

Prior to 1993, the two festivals shared artists — chamber musicians, the Westminster Choir, and major operas productions — but a merging of the two organizations’ infrastructures had never been a part of their history.

“They have always been quite different organizations,” he said.

However, last Tuesday (April 22), prior to the release of the official announcement, Giorgio Ferrara, head of the Festival of Two Worlds Foundation, called him to address his previous comments, Redden said.

“He wanted me to be less negative.”

The two festivals became estranged in 1993 when Menotti left in a huff over a controversy surrounding his “adopted son,” Francis “Chip” Menotti. Menotti the elder wanted Chip to take over the American festival, but its board of directors refused.

After Menotti’s death in February 2007, Chip took over the Festival of Two Worlds. In November, however, he was pushed out by the Italian Ministry of Culture, which holds the purse strings, and replaced with Ferrara.

P&C hires Pulitzer Prize-winning critic

They said we’d be thrilled by the news and they were right. Tim Page, the venerable and award-winning classical music critic for The Washington Post, will be the Spoleto overview critic for The Post and Courier this year.

Steve Mullins, the P&C‘s managing editor, sent a press release to area media last week about the newspaper’s hiring of the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, journalist, and author. The news was also featured in the newspaper’s Arts & Travel section on April 20.

Page currently teaches journalism at the University of Southern California. He was the Post‘s chief critic from 1995 to 2008 and is the author of a dozen books, including The Glenn Gould Reader and Dawn Powell: A Biography. He has been a contributor to NPR and the BBC. He succeeds Josh Rosenblum, the musician, writer, and creator of Bush Is Bad: The Musical, after two years on the job.

After City Paper reported the P&C decided not to use Rosenblum in the April 16 edition, Mullins contacted City Paper. He said we’d be delighted by news of the new critic. “[W]hen readers find out who’s doing the daily Spoleto reviews for us this year, I believe they will be thrilled,” Mullins wrote.

And, of course, he was right.

Kulture Klash inspires competition

More than 1,300 people attended Kulture Klash 2 on April 19, according to Olivia Pool, editor of ART Magazine and co-organizer of the event. A number of works were sold, too. Already Kulture Klash 3 is being planned.

“People are really hungry for new things,” Pool says. “Younger people are bringing new things whether the conventional part of Charleston likes it or not.”

Kulture Klash was at first a small arts party that quickly grew beyond expectations. The first one in November drew about 800 people. Organizers anticipated about twice that many for the second one.

The success of Kulture Klash’s model — bringing together a motley crew of artists, performers, and those attracted to a bohemian vibe — has already inspired other savvy art impresarios to emulate it.

Chucktown Heads presented A Homegrown Art Gathering on March 21. It was a psychedelic version of Kulture Klash, featuring live music, graffiti artists, break-dancing, and hula-hoop dancers.

Blume is another arts party. The first one was March 27. About 300-400 people went, I’m told. Expect more in the future.

It’s too early to say, but a rivalry between competing art parties could have lasting ramifications for the local arts scene. “It’d make Charleston so interesting,” Pool says.

Power House to Be cultural Center?

The city of North Charleston will embark on the first phase of a plan to renovate the old Power House building. Located at The Navy Yard, the building will accomodate “cultural and civic functions,” said Marty Besancon, director of the city’s Cultural Arts Department. Another way of saying a cultural center? It’s way too early to say, she says.

That first phase will take a year. It involves cleaning and removing old equipment from the interior. The exterior will be tackled later. The next stage involves plans for restoration and remodeling. Besancon did not provide information about the cost of the project or a timetable for its completion. —John Stoehr