Spoleto Update: 2012 Festival launches with salt and Glass, Phoenix and Fever

Monday May 28, 2012 04:42 pm EDT


  • Nan Melville
  • REVELATIONS: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre helped launch opening weekend of Spoleto 2012 in Charleston.

It's only the opening weekend of Spoleto 2012, and already two new operas have had their American premieres, a Japanese artist has moved viewers with simple table salt, a Dublin theatre troupe has delighted audiences, and a classic New York dance company has dazzled the city. The annual arts festival is officially underway in Charleston, South Carolina, having opened on Friday, May 25, and is slated to run for two more weeks.

Philip Glass' Kepler has been produced in Europe before and has been performed in concert versions in the US, but on Saturday, May 25, the work was given its first full-scale US production at Charleston's Sottile Theatre, where it continues through June 2. The repeating arpeggios of Glass' music can test even the most fastidious orchestra's accuracy, but the orchestra, especially during the second act, was able to develop the piece's subtlety and power on opening night. Kepler is an abstract work in which the central drama is a shift in consciousness, as it is in many of Glass' operas: the German astronomer Kepler, who believed that God had hidden himself in the mathematical principles of the universe, fundamentally changed how human beings perceived the cosmos. The chorus ending Act I is especially dramatic as the members of the church sing out an accusational "Vanitas vanitatum" (Vanity of vanities). The church took his work as a challenge to a theistic view of the universe, even though it was not his intention.

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