Milestone Spoleto Festival season announced

Which is to say: It’s back!

A woman and man, splattered in bright paint, stand close to perform a theatre production.

Physical theater company Machine de Cirque performs the US premiere of La Galerie at Festival Hall. Photo by Emmanuel Burriel.


Promotional photo of two-member The War and Treaty.

The War and Treaty (shown) performs with Francesco Turrisi at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard as part of the First Citizens Bank Front Row series. Photo courtesy The War and Treaty.

International performers return to Charleston for a program exploring themes of faith, migration, intertwining histories, and reclamations of the past in Charleston from May 27-June 12, 2022 at the storied Spoleto Festival USA.

General Director Mena Mark Hanna announced the first season programmed under his leadership (Hub story), a robust 46th season of America’s premier performing arts festival. This 17-day celebration of arts and culture features more than 120 events in venues throughout the city. Tickets are available to the public beginning Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. ET at or by calling 843.579.3100.

All told, patrons can expect 124 performances and events by upwards of 70 international artists. Included are 10 world premieres. Spoleto Festival USA is a general operating support grantee of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

For the first time since 2019, international artists will once again convene in Charleston, reaffirming Spoleto’s prominence in the broader arts landscape. In this way, the 2022 festival season serves as a bridge that spans Charleston and the global community with unifying threads and intertwining themes. It is also, as mentioned, a milestone: the first with Hanna as general director. Hanna, who began leadership last fall, sees Spoleto on the precipice of a new beginning.

“Charleston has seen tremendous growth and rapid change, with nearly 60,000 people relocating to the area in the last decade,” he said. “I see Spoleto at a unique point to not only grow with the city, but to continue to be a steward of its cultural life, just as the festival did in its early years.”

Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and Chorus in concert with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Photo by William Struhs.

At the centerpiece of the season is Omar, Spoleto’s world premiere opera with music by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, directed by Kaneza Schaal (May 27, 30, June 2, 5, 8, 12), and conducted by John Kennedy. Expanding the traditional opera canon and providing a platform for marginalized voices, this work is part of a watershed moment that challenges the standard practice and repertoire of opera, questioning how it has been performed and what it can mean today. With a libretto by Giddens, Omar follows the life and autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, an African Muslim scholar who, in 1807, was captured in West Africa and brought to Charleston—a main harbor of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In sharing Omar Ibn Said’s memoir, the opera underscores a largely undiscussed truth: as many as 30 percent of enslaved Africans who arrived in the colonies and the United States were Muslim.

“Within and beyond Omar, Spoleto’s program explores migration—be it forced, exiled, or voluntary. Enslavement is a forced migration, for example. And in looking at our country’s origin points, it’s crucial to include Africa as a key genesis of the United States. That can no longer be ignored,” Hanna said.

These themes distill throughout the program, from jazz and Americana concerts in the College of Charleston Cistern Yard to classical music, dance, and theater performances. Read all about them in the season announcement here or go here to find specific performances to snap up when ticket sales begin next week.

Black female actor performs, alone, on stage of a dimly-lit theatrical set.

Dael Orlandersmith performs Until the Flood at Festival Hall during Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Nicholas Hussong.