Spoleto Opera and Art
THE FIRST DAYS of Spoleto have, for me, been preoccupied with my eldest daughter’s graduation from the school she has attended for the last eight years. This departure before a new beginning has overshadowed my usual feeling of the festival’s whirlwind kickoff. Nevertheless, I have gotten to a few events.
As an opera amateur, I was invited to a dress rehearsal of Flora at the brilliantly renovated Dock Street Theatre which almost 300 hundred years ago housed a version of the first opera to come to the American colonies—in 1735.
This current production proves an exceptional experience with a collection of beautiful sets (a constantly morphing garden wall), costumes (could any more shades of green be conceived), and singers (all very easy on the eyes) who all sing in English (cutting out any guesswork as the rather archaic story unfolds).
Adriana Chuchman sings the love starved and somewhat wish washy Flora who longs to flee the avuncular ties of the evil Mr. Testy (yes, it’s true) into the virulent arms of the deadly attractive Mr. Friendly (again, true).
The lovely music, though not significant, accompanies the richly expressive voices of the cast. And the most delightful aspect is the comedy that ensues when a simple peasant named Hob (Eric Johnston) becomes ensnared in love’s folly. It is a delightful romp into the world of opera which does not take itself too seriously and is delightfully accentuated by great performances.
Another highlight in Spoleto’s 2010 repertoire is Call and Response: Africa to America featuring the art of Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (at the new Cato Center for the Arts at the College of Charleston).
Nick Cave, a former Alvin Ailey dancer, has created fantastical extensions to the human form with wearable art that covers each of the 12 nine-foot figures, which are adorned in a large collection from the natural and man-made worlds—be it buttons and beads, sticks and hair, or glass and tin toy tops.
The photography accompanying these forms is by Phyllis Galembo. It shows masquerade figures from West Africa, giving an added dimension of how these coverings extend the human self.
Be sure to take a short time to visit this delightful exhibit. Words can’t truly describe its effect.
(Acknowledgments: illustrations for Flora costumes by John Pascoe)