The good life is well lived in Charleston, South Carolina during the Spoleto Festival USA
, which brings the world's highest caliber opera, theater, music, and dance to one of America's most elegant, historic and beautiful downtowns, bursting with culinary and shopping gems. Become a high level supporter, and you'll also get treated to some Southern hospitality at private soirees to meet the artists. And for the culture vulture who likes to break a sweat kitesurfing, it's all just a 10-minute ride from the beach.
Highlights of this year's festival, which runs from May 28 to June 13:
* The Dock Street Theater, one of America's first (pictured at right), reopens after a three-year renovation with a work selected to re-create and celebrate history: the English ballad opera "Flora," which, in 1835, in Charleston, was the first opera performed in the American colonies. Neely Bruce conducts.
* The Milan-based Colla Marionette Company works its small-scale, big-impact magic with "Philemon and Baucis", a marionette opera composed by Franz Joseph Haydn for Prince Esterházy on the occasion of a 1773 royal visit by Empress Maria Theresa.
* The young New York-based Gallim Dance, with Juilliard-trained dancers, performs "I Can See Myself in Your Pupil." This dance troupe won raves last summer at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
* Under the stars and a canopy of oak trees, Lizz Wright and Fabiana Cozza will be among the sultry performers in an outdoor jazz series.
* Sample a range of string ensembles, from the post-classical quartet Brooklyn Rider, associated with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, to the banjo- and fiddle- players the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
With 45 productions total, the festival will have you either in the audience or discussing a performance morning, afternoon, and evening. Don't forget to make time for a stroll down the cobblestone streets, and taking in historic sites. Fort Sumter, where the first engagement of the Civil War took place, still guards the harbor. Tickets available at http://www.spoletousa.org/