For the last 64 years, during the weeks of the Festival, Spoleto has met the world, and the world has met in Spoleto. The city is a spectacle in itself: the contours of its history can be read in the exceptional fabric of the city’s monuments, churches, palaces, cloisters, squares and streets, an extraordinary patchwork to be seen and enjoyed. But Spoleto also lives in the present, a place that dialogues with the contemporary world.
This was founder Gian Carlo Menotti’s vision for the Festival dei Due Mondi, who wanted the event to be a synthesis of the city’s riches, a place where cultural heritage and new languages of the stage are woven together, a chance for dialogue between tradition and the avant-garde, a crossroads of diverse cultures. For 64 years the Spoleto Festival has enriched artists and audiences with an extraordinary range of auditory and visual experiences. This year, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Festival once again offers a rich programme which mirrors the variety of the national and international creative worlds. Our aim is to stimulate the interests and curiosity of the entire community of Spoleto and Umbria, while also introducing this territory to an increasingly international audience.
Music takes pride of place this year, much as in Gian Carlo Menotti’s first editions. This year Spoleto begins a five-year residency with two musical institutions, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conducted by Antonio Pappano, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer. Music at Spoleto64 traverses the boundaries between high culture and popular experimentation, spanning genres including classical, baroque, ancient, pop, techno and jazz.
The theatre and dance programmes feature big international names as well as young artists with a variety of backgrounds and training. While they offer a vast range of styles and languages, the Festival’s artists are united by a common aim: to express the sense of disorientation we experience in our complex contemporary reality, and to harness this blend of cultures to create joyous madness. Dante takes pride of place in the 2021 programme. A pillar of Italian and international culture, we celebrate him here with a series of theatrical, musical and cinematic events, as well as moments of reflection provided by the scientific community and its scholars.
The Spoleto Festival has always been a meeting point and place of exchange which allows for a special relationship between spectators and artists. As well as attending performances, music and theatre lovers, students and citizens of Spoleto can participate, via streaming, to a series of talks with Festival’s most important artists.
One defining feature of the Spoleto Festival is its series of cultural events led by prestigious guests including directors of public and private cultural institutions. With debates, tales and discussions, they will explore the challenges that lie ahead. These include events promoted by the Fondazione Carla Fendi, a historical partner of the Festival. RAI, Main Media Partner of Spoleto64, has created the “Festival Rai per il Sociale”, which will take place as part of the Festival dei Due Mondi. Spoleto64 confirms its national and international outlook by widening its pool of artistic partnerships.
In addition to those already mentioned, I am glad to say that programmes involve partners from seven countries in the fields of jazz and theatre, including new collaborations with two important cultural institutions from our region: Umbria Jazz and the Teatro Stabile dell’Umbria.
The 2021 edition of the Festival takes on the challenges of the pandemic and aims to transform them into an opportunity. As we finalise the programme and write these lines, it is not clear what the distancing and travel requirements will be in June and July. This uncertainty concerns both artists and spectators. Accordingly, Spoleto64 has favoured outdoor spaces with seven concerts in Piazza del Duomo. We are studying ways of making performances available to all, including through online channels, in the event of a reduction in the maximum number of audience members. Another response to the challenges of the virus was the decision to present film, video and documentary versions of the performances by African, English and Australian artists who will not be able to travel to Spoleto. It is not difficult to imagine how challenging it was to create this programme in a historical moment defined worldwide by the pandemic, and by uncertainty about what our social worlds will look like in the immediate future, as well as in the longer term. This uncertainty has particularly affected, and continues to affect, the world of culture and our ability to enjoy live performance. The arts are important because the emotions and themes which artists perceive and give form to, and which the public perceive and explore, tell us something about the world in which we live and its problems, including those triggered by the pandemic. They can help us imagine a future world and understand how to build it without derailing society and taking it towards something worse, not least regarding the environment. The Festival is more important today than ever because it can plant the seeds of a new awareness, starting with stimuli that appeal to emotions and the intellect.
Those who have worked on the 2021 edition of the Spoleto Festival have been surrounded by the unwavering and warm support of the entire city, as well as from public institutions and the Festival’s Italian and foreign partners and stakeholders. The media has been equally constant in devoting attention to the Festival and disseminating its contents. All of this support has been invaluable. The contributions of the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Spoleto and the Region of Umbria, and their recognition of the cultural value of the Festival’s initiatives, has also been crucial. Despite the difficult, sometimes unpredictable and unprecedented current conditions, the staff of the Festival dei Due Mondi Foundation have worked with great commitment and professionalism, and I offer them my sincerest thanks.
Monique Veaute ©Magliocchetti