2012 Spoleto Festival USA expected to wow crowds

ABC News 4 got a sneak peek at the first dress rehearsal of a Chinese opera showcased during Spoleto 2012. (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- It may not be what you'd automatically think of when you hear the word "opera," but Feng Yi Ting, a Chinese opera is playing at this year's Spoleto Festival USA and is expected to wow the crowd.

From the protagonist beauty to the mirroring images and special effects, organizers call it a fascinating combination of Western music and Chinese music.

"It's Chinese singing and it's a Chinese story but it's in the Western opera tradition," said Spoleto's general director Nigel Redden.

ABC News 4 got a sneak peek at the first dress rehearsal Thursday. It was a unique experience.

"This is the American premiere and the first stage production anywhere," Redden said.

"It's very powerful, and it tells a story of a woman who was a legendary beauty of China. There were four legendary beauties, and she's the one that saved the Han dynasty by seducing two men and making them fight each other. They were warlords and threatening the emperor. She made them fight each other, and out of love for her, they killed each other."

The Chinese opera is only one of 150 performances Spoleto USA has to offer, ranging from country music to jazz to chamber music and dance.

In 1977 Spoleto's founder wanted to counterpart Spoleto, Italy's Festival of Two Worlds. It was at that time Spoleto, Italy and Charleston, S.C. became sister cities hosting the festival in conjunction every year.

Since then, the small Italian town's mayors have met with Mayor Joe Riley, who welcomed the town's newest mayor to the Lowcountry on Thursday for his visit.

"It's a great pleasure and honor to be in Charleston those three days," Spoleto Mayor Daniele Benedetti said Thursday as he met with Mayor Riley.

"It's the world's best and most comprehensive arts festival," Mayor Riley said. "Take advantage of it. Go to whatever event you want to go to. Spoleto, Piccolo Spoleto."

Spoleto Festival USA runs May 25 through June 9. Piccolo Spoleto runs May 25 through June 10.

Spoleto Festival USA tickets can be purchased by phone at (843) 579-3100 or in person at the box office located in the lobby of the Gaillard Auditorium, 77 Calhoun Street, Charleston. For information on how to purchase tickets for Piccolo Spoleto, click here.

>>For a glance at upcoming Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto events, click here