Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Spoleto Preview: Opera

Posted 5/21/2011 3:19:00 PM

Since its beginnings, the Spoleto Festival has been creating opera lovers with its innovative stagings of classical operas and imaginative productions of new operas, and this year promises to be no exception.

Part of the reason that the operas are such an anticipated part of the festival is that Spoleto’s founder, Gian Carol Menotti, was one of the most powerful forces in modern opera. Over the course of his career he composed more than 20 operas, two of which won the Pultizer Prize.

Menotti passed away four years ago, but had he lived he would have turned 100 this year. So, this spring, Charleston's Spoleto Festival is honoring Menotti’s centennial with a performance of his opera The Medium. The opera follows the story of a fraudulent psychic who is ultimately driven mad by the voices that she conjures. This opera has all of the thrills of a ghost story and with high emotion built into its dramatic score, it’s an opera newcomer’s perfect first opera. With a running time of just about one hour, it’s short enough to hold the attention of young and budding opera fans as well.

The festival also offers a chance to see an opera classic: Mozart’s Magic Flute. This opera was Mozart’s last and is considered by many to be his masterpiece. The world of The Magic Flute is a fairytale complete with handsome princes, spirits, spells and of course, an enchanted flute that gives its player the power to change men’s hearts.

The final opera on the schedule this year is the American premiere of Émilie, an opera by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and librettist Amin Maalouf, about the fascinating true story of Émilie du Châtelet. This remarkable woman was born in France in 1706 and became a respected mathematician and physicist. In her short life she defined kinetic energy, translated Newton’s Principia Mathematica, made numerous discoveries about the nature of light, invented the idea of financial derivatives in order to pay off her own gambling debts and advocated education for women all before dying in childbirth at the age of 42. This opera tells of Châtelet’s final days, and has internationally renowned soprano Elizabeth Futral in the leading role.

Click here for more information on opera at this year’s Spoleto Festival or to buy tickets to any of the productions.