CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - From comic book art to Shakespeare and Japanese opera, the new season of the Spoleto Festival USA will be the largest ever, offering 160 performances during the 17 days the festival lights up stages across this seaside city.
The internationally known arts festival, founded by the composer Gian Carlo Menotti, will open its 37th season Friday with the traditional speeches, brass fanfare and shower of confetti on the steps of Charleston City Hall.
The festival continues through June 9, when the Red Stick Ramblers - a Cajun, honky-tonk and swing ensemble - perform outdoors before a fireworks display at Middleton Place Plantation outside Charleston.
In all there will be 160 performances by 45 artists and ensembles, compared with 140 performances last season. The city's companion festival, Piccolo Spoleto, is staging an additional 700 performances.
The festival was founded in 1977 by Menotti as a companion to his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
He left the Charleston festival in 1993 in a dispute over his successor and died in 2007 at age 95.
Spoleto events this year vary from a performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Tom Morris and the Handspring Puppet Company to a production of "Oedipus" by the Nottingham Theatre. Rosanne Cash also gives a concert.
Then there is "The Intergalactic Nemesis," which the festival describes as a live-action graphic novel.
Original comic book drawings are projected on a two-story screen while actors voice parts to accompany sound effects.
And one opera reinforces the concept that the festival is international.
"Matsukaze" is the story of the spirits of two sisters condemned to wander the earth. The composer is Japanese, the director is Chinese, the lead singers are Korean and perform in German, and an America conducts the orchestra.
In addition to new performances, Spoleto has a new venue this year.
The aging Gaillard Municipal Auditorium - where the festival staged opera, dance and other performances for more than three decades - is no more.
It's being replaced with a new $142 million world-class performing arts center now under construction.
For at least two years, Spoleto is holding some performances in the College of Charleston's TD Arena, the school's basketball venue.
Spoleto Festival USA at spoletousa.org