Philip Glass's 'Kepler' to Premiere at Spoleto

Sunday, January 01, 2012 - 08:49 PM

Philip Glass Philip Glass ({Giorgio Constantine}/flickr)

The American premiere of the Philip Glass opera "Kepler," a concert by vocalist k.d. lang, and the return of Dublin's Gate Theatre highlight the 36th season of the Spoleto Festival USA this spring.

Chamber music, acrobatic performances and orchestral concerts are also on the schedule for the festival that will light up 13 venues including theaters, churches and open-air sites from May 25 through June 10.

The festival, which released the lineup this weekend, features more than 140 shows by 60 groups and performers.

To commemorate Glass' 75th birthday and his long relationship with Spoleto, the festival is staging a full production of "Kepler," which in this country has only been presented in concert form. The opera is about astronomer Johannes Kepler.

A second Spoleto opera is the American premiere of "The Phoenix Pavilion" by contemporary Chinese composer Guo Wenjing. It features an orchestra of four traditional Chinese instruments playing with musicians playing 11 traditional Western instruments.

This year's festival includes concerts by Grammy Award-winning lang and well-known gospel singer Mavis Staples as well as the Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans, and "Doghouse" by Jonny Greenwood of the rock band Radiohead.

Dublin's Gate Theatre will make its eighth appearance at Spoleto with a production of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever." The British theater collaborative known as 1927, which appeared at Spoleto in 2008, is back with "The Animals and Children Took to the Streets." The production is a dark fairy tale told with acting, music and animation.

The theater offerings also include Jack Hitt, who performs on public radio, and Mike Daisey in one-man shows.

The dance lineup includes performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

In the visual arts, the festival offers "Return to the Sea: Saltworks," works crafted entirely of salt by Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto. The works are the artist's effort to keep alive the memory of his sister who died of brain cancer at 24.

The Spoleto Festival also features jazz, choral performances, the popular chamber music series and the festival orchestra in a contemporary music program. The orchestra features 83 musicians selected in nationwide auditions.

The internationally known arts festival was started in Charleston in 1977 by composer Gian Carlo Menotti as a companion to his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

He left the Charleston festival almost two decades ago in a dispute over his successor and died in 2007 at age 95, still estranged from the America festival. --Bruce Smith

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