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Coffee shop chats with the Spoleto festival

Jenny Ouellette treats us to the full scope of the Holy City’s art event.

CHStoday Cistern Spoleto

There is nothing like an evening listening to music in the Cistern Yard.

Photo by Julia Lynn provided by Spoleto Festival.

We had the privilege of chatting with Jenny Ouellette this past week and getting to know more about the Spoleto Festival. Jenny serves as the Media Relations and Communications Specialist for the festival and has all of the tips to prepare you for this art extravaganza.

How would you describe the festival in three words?

Innovative: This experience is producing and presenting works of the highest caliber. Artist are able to create breakthroughs in their field and first experiences. It is an amazing highlight at artistry, sometimes even before they win a Pulitzer Prize.

Magical: With 17 dates and over 100 events, things are happening on stage and off stage all over the City of Charleston. Artists are among us in hotel lobbies, coffee shops, and walking on King Street. It brings a distinctive presence to the air and energy.

Welcoming: The festival experience focuses on inviting everyone to partake in the beauty of art. With shows for every range of interest, it challenges a viewer to step outside of their comfort zone and indulge in the wonder of the arts.

CHStoday Spoleto

If this look doesn’t say starstruck than I don’t know what does.

Photo by Leigh Weber, provided by Spoleto Festival

What is your best memory from the festival?

That has to be opening night of “Omar” last year on May 22. The show was long awaited after being postponed for a few years. It was a dream come true to sit in the audience and be able to take in the first performance as a festival-goer.

What events are you most looking forward to this year?

The opera “Vanessa” is at the top of my list. It is an American opera that focuses on deep character work. The story takes viewers through a love triangle that delves into the psyches of each lover. The show is accessible for newer opera fans, as it is sung in English and has an easy story to follow.

How has Covid changed the festival?

The coronavirus was the first time the festival had to be canceled and that was incredibly difficult. The festival was founded in 1977 and has withstood its number of hurricanes but the virus was the most tough situation yet.

The festival scaled back in 2021 and focused on featuring national artists. After regaining the international aspect last year there has been a new presence of energy. Artists and festival-goers are now taking advantage of the opportunity and the benefit to gather in person.

CHStoday Chamber of Music

The initimate setting at Chamber of Music at Dock Street Theatre.

Photo by William Struhs provided by Spoleto Festival.

What insider tips do you have for visitors?

Make sure to arrive early to performances to get settled in and comfortable. Ideally arriving 15 minutes before curtain time should give you time to relax.

Clear bags are going to be required, therefore it is wise to prepare ahead. We will also have clear bags for purchase on site as everyone forgets sometimes.

Never underestimate the ticket inventory. It is common for visitors to think that shows are sold out but we try our best to provide everyone a chance to partake in the festival. Give the office a call, stop by the visitors center, or sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date on promotions and tickets.

What is the perfect lineup or time to check out Spoleto?

An event everyone should experience is the finale on Sunday, June 11 at 5 p.m. The finale will be held at Firefly Distillery and will have live music and fireworks. This is by far the most locally attended event and has a great community presence with lawn chairs and picnic blankets spread out all over.

Chamber music is one of the keystones of the festival and not one to miss. We like to say it is “not your grandmother’s chamber music.” Artists are top of the line and it is performed in an intimate setting offering an interactive experience. This event is fun and jovial as it embodies the spirit of the festival with 33 concerts overall, happening daily at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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