When the Spoleto Festival USA was launched in Charleston four decades ago, it was offered almost as an act of faith. Although the festival’s founders had put together a world-class schedule, no one could be certain that arts lovers would flock to Charleston to attend, and if they did, whether they would return year after year.
With the wisdom of hindsight, we know that they have. The festival has become an important part of the annual global arts calendar, with a reputation for innovative and varied music, dance and theater productions as well as groundbreaking art and multi-media projects. It has also contributed importantly toward the revival and transformation of Charleston itself, which this year celebrates not only the 40th installment of the festival but the opening of the new world-class Gaillard Center, which will be home to the festival’s opera productions and dance presentations, as well some of its pop and classical concerts.
Spoleto 40 — written by classical music critic, journalist and author Allan Kozinn — illuminates the history of this extraordinary festival, from its inaugural offerings in 1977 to this year’s wide-ranging celebration. That history has not always been a smooth path. There have been battles over the festival’s artistic shape and direction, as well as times when global economic pressures and even the forces of nature took their toll. But the festival has consistently met these challenges and emerged triumphant, with its artistic mission intact and capacity to grow undiminished.
Mostly, though, the story of the Spoleto Festival USA is the story of the artists who have come to Charleston to perform. Some have come to the festival with programs that show what they do best. Some have brought tryouts of works in progress, giving the festival’s audiences an advance view of a production. And some have come to the festival to present new works commissioned by the festival itself.
This book is a must-read for anyone who has an appreciation of the festival itself, its performers, and producers as well as what it means to the remarkable city that has been its host for 40 years.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allan Kozinn covered the Spoleto Festival USA for the Charleston News and Courier as its guest Overview critic in 1981 and 1982 and has returned several times since then to cover the festival for the New York Times, where he was a music critic and culture reporter from 1977 to 2014. He currently lives in Portland, Maine, where he is the classical music critic for the Portland Press Herald, and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Opera News and other publications. He has twice been awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Prize for excellence in musical coverage, and is the author of several books about music, including The Guitar: The History, The Players, The Music, Mischa Elman and the Romantic Style, The Beatles, The New York Times Essential Guide to Classical Music, and Got That Something: How the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” Changed Everything.