Behind the rhetoric of "reunifying" Spoletos

Even since Gian Carlo Menotti severed ties in the early 1990s between The Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, and its American counterpart, Spoleto Festival USA, based in Charleston, S.C., there has been speculation about how to get the two back together.

After Menotti's death at the age of 95 on Feb. 1, 2007, speculation has grown. Last Monday, it swelled to its highest pitch yet.

That's when the mayor of Spoleto, Italy, and the new director of The Festival of Two Worlds Foundation (it recently changed names) arrived in the Lowcountry to meet Mayor Joe Riley and tourism officials at the Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss ways of boosting commerce between the two cities.

The meeting was also seen as the latest step in "reunifying" the two festivals. The next day's Post and Courier announced that "Spoleto may rejoin with Italian roots" and "Officials with Umbrian festival visit Charleston, discuss reunion."

Strange thing, though. No one from Spoleto Festival USA was there.

And even if someone from the American organization had been present, what does "reunification" really mean? Beyond the obvious and so far largely symbolic, sentimental, and romantic appeal of re-establishing cultural ties with the Old World, that remains unclear.

[. . . ]

In an interview Thursday, Nigel Redden [executive director of Spoleto Festival USA] said the whole notion of reunification is something of a misnomer. The festivals have always been separate organizations, with different administrators, boards, fund-raising strategies, and so on. In the past, they did indeed share artists -- chamber musicians, the Westminster Choir, and even some operas. That may recommence, but a merging of the two organizations has never been a part of their history.

"They have always been quite different organizations," he said.

Read the rest of this article at Charleston City Paper.

April 10, 2008 9:21 AM |

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