This is a big year for Charleston’s internationally renowned Spoleto Festival USA, a showpiece for the performing arts that revs up in late spring. It’s a cultural extravaganza that will have your head spinning with exciting things to take in!

The Festival marks its 40th anniversary with a new staging of George Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess, starring baritone Lester Lynch and soprano Alyson Cambridge. Sets have been designed by internationally acclaimed visual artist Jonathan Green, who is from the Gullah community that inspired Gershwin’s opera. Charleston’s beautiful new Gaillard Center, which reopened last fall after a multi-million-dollar three-year renovation, will be the venue. Six performances of this iconic folk opera will take place from May 27 to June 12.

Complementing the festival will be Porgy and Bess-related events such as museum shows, artist talks and walking tours. For example, the Charleston History Museum will display black-and-white images of Charleston taken during the 1920s and ’30s, along with clothing from the period. Even the Cunningham upright piano that Gershwin played while he was writing the opera will be on view.

The three-week festival features more than 150 performances, including dance, theater, opera, pop and jazz music. Highlights include Dublin’s Gate Theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest; shows by dance troupes such as Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company, the L.A. Dance Project; and a Cuban-themed dance production, Havana Rakatan, which features the work of Cuban choreographer Nilda Guerra. Of course, there will be plenty of music from which to choose— from chamber music to classical and contemporary vocalists., 843-579-3100.

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