• The Opera Lively Coverage of Spoleto Festival USA - May 2015

    The 2015 season of Spoleto Festival USA (May 22 to June 7) includes the world premiere of the opera Paradise Interrupted composed by Huang Ruo and designed and directed by visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma (who did the 2008 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in Beijing), and the American premiere and first performances in over 350 years of Francesco Cavalli’s baroque opera Veremonda, l’amazzone di Aragona, featuring the outstanding Opera Lively interviewee Vivica Genaux (read her Opera Lively interview [here]).

    Opera Lively has been credentialed as one of the official media organizations covering the festival, and will be attending both operas, and also two other pieces of vocal classical music: David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Little Match Girl Passion, and Giacomo Carissimi's Jephte.


    We are starting our advance coverage now. Stay tuned for reviews, interviews, and other announcements. Let's begin by talking about these four pieces.

    Paradise Interrupted is an arresting new opera marrying Chinese tradition dating from the Ming Dynasty with contemporary Western idioms (sung in Mandarin, with English supertitles). In a dream, a woman meets her lover and searches for an unattainable ideal as a vast garden grows from an empty stage, only to disappear as her dream ends. Revered visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma, known to global audiences for her work on the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, directs and designs this exquisite opera. She also co-wrote the libretto with Ji Chao. The dreamer is Chinese soprano Qian Yi, who was seen at the Lincoln Center Festival’s The Peony Pavilion and was heralded by the New York times as "China’s reigning opera princess." Conductor John Kennedy leads a chamber orchestra mixing Western and Chinese instruments in a score that is at once a continuation of tradition and entirely new. Composer Huang Ruo was considered by The New Yorker magazine as one of the world's leading young composers. This is being called an "Installation Opera" due to Ms. Wen Ma's beautiful visual art. See this picture, with soprano Qian Yi next to one of Wen Ma's pieces:

    The opera will be given at the Memminger Auditorium, with a duration of 75 minutes. Dates are May 22, 24, 27, 29, and 31. Tickets are on sale now.

    Veremonda, L'Amazzone di Aragona is a Baroque opera composed by Francesco Cavalli with a libretto by Giulio Strozzi. This American premiere production (with a new critical edition commissioned by the Spoleto Festival USA) features The New York Baroque Incorporated, a HIP orchestra conducted by Aaron Carpenè. It is directed by Stefano Vizioli, and designed by Ugo Nespolo. It will be given in the beautiful historic Dock Street Theatre. The Spanish King and Queen’s siege of the Moorish fort on the Rock of Gibraltar is tangled with passionate love stories and comical mistaken identities.

    The enthralling American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux makes her Festival debut in the fiery title role, and Italian soprano Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli will sing the role of Zelemina, the Queen of Gibraltar. Veremonda explores gender equality, problems of international diplomacy and religious-based conflicts, and the use of one’s sexuality in pursuit of power. Adored Italian artist Ugo Nespolo captures the vivid Mediterranean culture with his signature audacious style, bringing this captivating work to life more than 350 years after its last performance. Sung in Italian with English supertitles; duration 2 h 30'. Dates are May 23, 26, 30, and June 2 and 5. Tickets are on sale now.

    The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang recasts Hans Christian Andersen’s poignant tale in the format of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. In his choreography for two dancers, Pontus Lidberg reimagines the little match girl, not as a starving child, but as an every woman longing for human contact. The Westminster Choir will be conducted by Joe Miller. Dates are May 30 and 31, at the College of Charleston Sottile Theater.

    Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte tells the Old Testament story of Jephte, who prays for victory in battle, promising to sacrifice the first person he sees upon arriving home if God will grant his enemy’s defeat. Having heard word of her father’s triumph, Jephte’s daughter runs out of the house to greet him as he returns. This is also with Joe Miller conducting The Westminster Choir. Dates are May 30 and 31, at the College of Charleston Sottile Theater.


    Opera Lively is of course focusing on the operatic and vocal music pieces, but the Spoleto Festival USA offers a lot more to lovers of the arts. It includes the first US performances of a new production of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare’s Globe directed by the company’s Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole and Tim Hoare.

    Other highlights of the 2015 Festival include:

    - Scottish Ballet’s acclaimed production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire

    - Performances of influential works by the Trisha Brown Dance Company and Shen Wei
    Dance Arts

    - Family-friendly productions by Italy’s Carlos Colla and Sons Marionette Company (Sleeping Beauty) and Vietnam’s Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

    - Spoleto Festival USA debuts by Australia’s Casus Circus with its acrobatic show Knee Deep and Canada’s 2b theatre company with the award-winning play When It Rains

    - Concerts by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Dianne Reeves and Madeleine

    - The acclaimed Bank of America Chamber Music series in the historic Dock Street Theatre

    - The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra performing film scores on stage for screenings of
    Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Bill Morrison’s Decasia

    - Seven-piece soul band St. Paul & The Broken Bones headlining the Wells Fargo Festival
    Finale at Middleton Place on June 7

    A full schedule of events and links to ticket sales can be found by clicking [here].


    For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with over 150 performances by world-renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera, theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music. For more information on Spoleto Festival USA 2015, May 22–June 7, please visit spoletousa.org or call 843.579.3100.

    You can also download the digital brochure to the festival, by clicking [


    I personally recommend Charleston, SC, as one of the most interesting US cities. It is one of my very favorite destinations (I've spent a number of vacations there with my family), with charming beaches, a beautiful historic district with great architecture, nice gardens and quaint Bed and Breakfast inns, outstanding gourmet restaurants, and very sophisticated cultural venues. Charleston was named for the forth time the number one travel destination in the US by the readers of Condé Nast Magazine.

    So, dear Opera Lively members and readers, do consider a trip to beautiful Charleston to enjoy this phenomenal festival.


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    You might consider the purchase of ours books "Opera Lively - The Interviews" volumes 1 and 2 - full announcement and links to sales points [here] for volume 1 and [here] for volume 2, just released. Also don't miss the very funny book by famed Met tenor Jay Hunter Morris, "Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger" published by Opera Lively Press; click [here]. Also on sale, our guidebook to Berlioz's Les Troyens: click [here], and the very recently published guidebook to George Benjamin's Written on Skin: click [here].

    Bookmark our site and come back for more - several new and exciting interviews are always coming to Opera Lively.


    We are transcribing and editing our exclusive interviews with Roberto Alagna, Elina Garanca, Ailyn Pérez, Nadja Michael, and Peter Mattei. Coming soon.

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