Updated at: 12/09/2012 9:06 PM
By BRUCE SMITH
(AP) CHARLESTON, S.C. - The new season of the Spoleto Festival USA will feature one of its largest and most varied program lineups in recent years, with performances ranging from Greek tragedy to Shakespearean comedy to modern graphic novels.
There is also a chorus singing Verdi, two original operas, Flamenco dancers and contemporary bluegrass.
The festival on Sunday unveiled the schedule for its 37th season.
For 17 days each spring, the festival created by the late composer Gian Carlo Menotti lights up stages across Charleston.
Next year’s festival runs from May 24 through June 9 and features 160 performances by 45 artistic ensembles. Last season, Spoleto staged 140 performances.
The highlights include a new 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.
In a more modern vein is "The Intergalactic Nemesis," which the festival describes as a live-action graphic novel inspired by pulp novels; "Star Wars"; and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
The opera offerings include "Matsukaze," about spirits of two sisters condemned to wander the earth, and a double bill of Italian operas: "Marian Month," about a mother who wants to be reunited with her abandoned child, and "Le Villi," about a woman scorned and her unfaithful lover.
The dance offerings range from Spain’s Ballet Flamenco de Andalucia to tap dancer Jared Grimes.
It will be the final Spoleto season for Joseph Flummerfelt who, for more than three decades, has been the artistic director for choral activities at the festival. He will be leading festival choirs and choruses as well as the festival symphony in Verdi’s "Requiem Mass."
Other musicians performing include Bela Fleck, while the jazz program features Gregory Porter and a festival finale performance of Cajun honky-tonk by the Red Stick Ramblers.
New next season is "Behind the Garden Gate" in which the festival, working with local gardening societies, is offering tours of more than a half-dozen private gardens, a number of which have never been open to the public.
However, the festival is without one of its major venues for the new season.
Renovations began last August on the aging Gaillard Municipal Auditorium to create a new $142 million world-class performing arts center. The renovated Gaillard, scheduled to be completed at the end of 2014, will include a new performance hall, convention ballroom, banquet space, outdoor gardens and space for city offices.
In the meantime, the festival is moving its ticket office to the Charleston Visitor Center and will transform the College of Charleston’s TD Arena basketball facility into a performance space for music and dance with a stage and theatrical lighting.
The Spoleto Festival USA was founded in 1977 by Menotti as a companion to his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. He left the Charleston festival in 1993 in a dispute over his successor and died five years ago at age 95.
The festival opens May 24 with the traditional brass fanfare, chiming church bells and speeches in front of City Hall. It concludes June 9 with the Red Stick Rambler performance followed by fireworks at Middletown Place plantation on the Ashley River outside Charleston.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)