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may 20

This weekend: Get a little culture at the Spoleto Festival

"Addicted to Bad Ideas," a punk-rock operetta, will be performed at the 33rd annual Spoleto Festival (Konstantin Sergeyer)
The Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is making its festival debut (Carina Musk Anderson)

The Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C., does not involve cow chips or crawfish like other festivals we've written about. Quite the opposite. It's a 17-day feast of cultural events, ranging from rock opera to chamber music.

The 33rd season kicks off Friday, and more than 120 performances will take place through June 7. The festival is known for focusing on emerging and edgy artists. Since 1977, there have been more than 100 world premieres and 93 American premieres at the festival, with visionaries like Twyla Tharp and Yo-Yo Ma performing early in their careers.

Notable productions this year include the debut of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a tribute to the Spoleto Festival's longtime chamber music artistic director Charles Wadsworth, and the cabaret-style, punk-rock operetta Addicted to Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century, which explores alienation in the 20th century. Also interesting is Gustave Charpentier's opera Louise, sometimes called "the French La Boheme," rarely performed because of its complicated plot—there are more than 30 characters. Plus the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs this weekend and celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Tickets range between $10 and $180. Also going on is the Piccolo Spoleto festival. It's the same idea—cutting edge fine arts performances—but many of the activities are free.

So why the funny name? The event originated in the Italian town of Spoleto before a version was launched in the states. The Festival of the Two Worlds is in its 52nd season.

The Spoleto Festival USA runs until June 7. You can buy tickets online. Hotel packages available through Charleston's CVB.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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