CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The Spoleto Festival USA opened its 37th season on Friday remembering those who helped establish the event that has brought Charleston international renown in the world of the arts.
After the ringing of church bells and a brass fanfare, festival board chairman Carlos Evans dedicated this year's Spoleto, the largest in festival history, to the memory of Ted Stern.
Evans credited Stern, the festival's first board chairman, with guiding Spoleto through the early years of financial uncertainty. Spoleto was established in Charleston in 1977 by the late composer Gian Carlo Menotti as a companion to his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
Stern, who was also a president of the College of Charleston, died earlier this year at age 100.
This year also marks the final Spoleto season for Joseph Flummerfelt, who has overseen festival choral activities since its founding. Evans called him "a pillar of the festival" and "the great choral director of his generation."
The June 6 performance of Verdi's "Requiem Mass" will be the final Spoleto performance for Flummerfelt.
"Even though I'm retiring from an active artistic role in the festival, I expect to remain an enthusiastic member of the audience," Flummerfelt said. "I look forward to experiencing the extraordinary festival and spending time with my many Charleston fiends for many, many, years to come."
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. also singled out Ellen Dressler Moryl, who now has retired after helping establish Charleston's companion festival to Spoleto, Piccolo Spoleto, back in 1978. That event has grown to include 700 performances with 3,000 performers during the 17-day run of Spoleto.
This year there are 160 Spoleto Festival USA performances before the June 9 closing concert by the Red Stick Ramblers — a Cajun, honky-tonk and swing ensemble — followed by fireworks at Middleton Place Plantation.
The schedule this season includes a production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Tom Morris and the Handspring Puppet Company as well as a production of "Oedipus" by the Nottingham Theatre.
Rosanne Cash gives a concert and the festival also features "The Intergalactic Nemesis," which the festival describes as a live-action graphic novel in which comic book drawings are projected on a large screen while actors voice parts.
Riley said Friday that Spoleto has forever changed the city.
"We can, in the life of a city, just try to get by — to do OK and feel that medium achievement is acceptable," he said. "But when we are exposed to the beauty and the quest for excellence that this festival surrounds us with, we can't be comfortable with just getting by."
After he declared the festival open and confetti showered over the crowd, the audience saw a short performance by the Compagnie Kafig dance troupe performing this season.