Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston announces 40th season

Well today’s announcement of Spoleto’s 2016 season didn’t hold many surprises for some of us — I got the catalogue in the mail almost a week ago and have had ample time to peruse it.
Click here to see the schedule online.

Clearly the biggest news is a new production of Porgy and Bess — the opera is set in Charleston — at the newly renovated Galliard. A few details:

Porgy and Bess in Charleston—what could be more perfect? DuBose Heyward’s inspiration for Catfish Row is brought to life on the new Martha and John M. Rivers Performance Hall stage, just blocks from the historical Cabbage Row. David Herskovits, whose 1998 production of Mamba’s Daughters by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward won an OBIE award and sold out at Spoleto Festival USA in 1999, returns to the Festival to direct this landmark production. Visual Designer Jonathan Green takes us on a journey from the streets of the Charleston we know to a Charleston that reveals the roots, strength, and character of the Gullah community.

Yes, painter Jonathan Green (whose career got an early boost through the late Savannah curator Carroll Greene, btw) has done the visual design. I expect something stunning out of that collaboration.

The schedule also features Spoleto’s usual rich mix of music (jazz, classical, and more), dance, drama, and opera. I typically buy tickets for a couple of shows and make a full day of it for at least one Saturday during the festival, but I might try to see more this year.

I would normally be super excited about Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s Play and Play: An Evening of Movement and Music, but that work was performed at the Savannah Music Festival in 2013. Also, interestingly there is no ballet on the program.

And, man, I was hoping that Laurie Anderson would come back to make up for last year’s cancellation, but no such luck.

But on the whole my first impression is that the 2016 season is a bit stronger than 2015. If anyone would like to trade comments about shows, please say something in the thread about this post on my Savannah Unplugged Facebook page.

Tickets don’t go on sale till January 14, but Spoleto does have a tiered early-purchase system for donors. I didn’t find that system an impediment to getting great seats (first row but not center) for a couple of shows last year, but I find the system off-putting. The previous year, I attended a performance at the Memminger Auditorium where ushers ended up sitting front row center in seats that had been blocked out when I made my purchase. That experience, plus a couple of others that I’ve written about over the years, have made me wary of trusting the festival’s seating charts, which shouldn’t be a typical fan reaction for a festival of such high, high quality.

Still, I’m sure I’ll be headed that way again, and I’ll be making restaurant reservation months in advance too.