The Future of Spoleto

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The Future of Spoleto

Post by Ralph » Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:06 pm

The New Media Department of The Post and Courier

Could Spoleto's 2 worlds reunite?
Founder's death sparks speculation on Italian, U.S. events teaming up

The Post and Courier

When composer Gian Carlo Menotti left Spoleto Festival USA nearly 14 years ago in a raging dispute with the board, his action split the American event from its Italian counterpart, the Festival of Two Worlds.

With the death of Menotti on Feb. 1 at age 95, the question arises: Will the two festivals he founded possibly reunite and share some of the same performing artists as they did in the past?

Some board members have privately speculated on the state of the finances of the Italian festival. Menotti had done little recent fundraising for the festival. However, most Spoleto USA officials and some former officials think the linking of the arts festivals from two continents would benefit both groups.

"I have no idea that (a reconciliation) could in any way be in the works this soon, as I'm sure that Menotti's son Francis is very busy arranging for his father's funeral and, at the same time, preparing for the opening of his father's opera 'The Medium' this week as part of the Monte Carlo Opera Festival," Spoleto Festival USA General Director Nigel Redden said from his Lincoln Center office in New York.

Redden said a funeral for Menotti would be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in a cathedral in Monte Carlo, Monaco, with a musical tribute to be held at 6 p.m. at an auditorium. Menotti's body will be flown to Scotland to be buried near his home there.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said that despite the bitterness that had erupted between Menotti and the festival board, there is definitely a chance for the two festivals to be reunited.

"The benefits to both are obvious and are great, and I hope this will happen sooner than later," he said.

Riley specifically mentioned the Spoleto Festival Orchestra as benefiting from such an arrangement. "The orchestra would play at our festival here and then go to Italy, and it's just a wonderful opportunity for talented, young musicians to perform together for a length of time," Riley said.

Redden, who was unceremoniously fired from his position of festival general manager by Menotti in 1991, said, "Certainly, it is in the best interest of our festival to remain friends with people in Spoleto, Italy; but the good relations that we at the festival have now are with the Spoleto Mayor Massimo Brunini and the town of Spoleto, not with the Festival of Two Worlds."

Eric Friberg, chairman of the Spoleto Festival board, said of the idea, "Some people, those who remember when the two festivals worked together, might think it's a good idea to go back to that arrangement if, and I emphasize if, it would make sense. As for now, it is premature to speculate on such a move."

Marcus Overton, who was Spoleto Festival USA executive director and later producing director from 1992-94, said he kept up his friendship with Menotti through the years and spoke with him not long before he died.

Overton, who now serves as artistic administrator of the La Jolla (Calif.) Music Society, has returned to Charleston during the past decade to host "Spoleto Today" on South Carolina Educational Radio.

"The USA festival enjoys a sterling international reputation," Overton said. "It wouldn't seem necessary to link up with the Italian festival to enhance such a reputation. Nigel Redden is a superb manager of Spoleto USA, and whatever he decides will be, for certain, the very best thing for the festival."

Homer Burrous, chairman of the Spoleto board when Menotti departed in 1993, noted that in a visit he, Riley and Redden made to Spoleto, Italy, about eight years ago, the major local backers of the Festival of Two Worlds appeared interested in receiving input from the American festival.

"I think it's a great idea for this partnership to be reinstated, as it would help both festivals," Burrous said. The board member emeritus said that for such a reconnection to be made, "we will have to walk a very careful path."

The first Spoleto board chairman, Theodore Stern, former president of the College of Charleston, agreed, saying, "I think it's an economically and artistically wise thing to do to have the festivals joined once more, but I feel it is up to whoever takes over as director of the festival in Italy."

Internationally known flutist Paula Robison, who played with the chamber series for many years before choosing to go with the Italian Festival in 1993, said from her home in Boston, "I am just an observer now and no longer with either festival, but I hope something beautiful will come out of this and they can work together."

Redden said he has invited Brunini to speak at the opening of the 2007 festival. He also said that when Spoleto board member Charles Volpe and his wife, Andrea, vacationed in Italy in October, he arranged for the couple to visit Brunini.

"The mayor had assured me, and then told the Volpes he would definitely be coming to Charleston to speak in May," Redden said. "As for what else will happen, only time will tell."

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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