7188/1243083965-charleswadsworth_william_struhs__resize.jpgGlory, hallelujah! It’s the time of year I live for: the seemingly bottomless cornucopia of performing arts that we call Spoleto USA is back — along with Piccolo Spoleto — to amaze and inspire (and exhaust) us all!

The main festival is a somewhat more compact version of its usual self this year; only one opera production, plus cutbacks in two major series. Also, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra is a bit smaller this time. The arts always suffer in hard economic times. Even so, there’s still a bewildering array of quality music in store — and NOBODY can even begin to catch it all. But I sure have fun trying.

Despite the downsizing, don’t think that Spoleto’s vaunted quality or eclectic variety will suffer in the slightest. This will still be a festival to remember. And it’s a very special festival edition in yet another way: it’ll be the final Spoleto outing for Dr. Charles Wadsworth, beloved festival chamber music guru and series host for lo these past 50 years. And with his departure, an era is passing.

So, I bid you hearty welcome to Spoletobuzz’s “Classical Corner” — your one-stop online destination for all things relating to classical music during this year’s festival run. You name it: opera, chamber, choral, orchestral, or modern music — you can read about all of it right here.

So, who the heck am I, to claim the authority to digest some of Spoleto’s most arcane fare for you? Well, for starters, I’m the City Paper‘s classical music writer and a regular contributor of big-name classical CD reviews to American Record Guide. I’m also a European-trained, semi-professional classical singer and pianist. Some of you may recall my former “day job” at the late, great Millennium Music store, where I served as resident classical geek and ran a Sunday concert series. Great music is my life and passion — and nothing pleases me more than to be able to share that passion with others … like YOU.

You may recall “Eargasms,” my stand-alone festival blog from previous festivals. Well, we’re trying something new this year, so bear with us. But my mission — which I joyfully accept — remains the same as ever: to cover every single classical music event the main festival has to offer, plus as much of Piccolo as I can manage (with the happy help of our “Piccolo Prowler,” Robert Bondurant). Some of my major-event reviews will run separately online, but I’ll link you to them here daily.

So, between us, Robert and I should be able to cover more overall territory than ever before. With no full-time job competing for my attention this year, I’m free — for the first time — to do absolutely NOTHING but go to concerts — many, many concerts — and write about them. Like the absolutely awesome Chamber series opener I just went to. More about that one in my next blog post.

Suffice it to say that Doc Wadsworth, bless him, is still up to his old tricks. BTW, he turned 80 yesterday — you should’ve seen him “conduct” his crowd’s heartfelt rendition of the birthday song.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a daily online chronicle of all things classical during the festival, you’ll do no better than right here. So kindly join us for a wild and headlong ride through two weeks of Spoleto’s intense, yet ever-fresh and thrilling musical overload. I dare you to keep up with me.