Since the first Spoleto Festival in 1978, excitement builds in the city each spring as world class artists fill Charleston with inspiring, uplifting performances. For 17 days and nights, Spoleto Festival USA draws people from around the world to experience the light and beauty of the arts, with renowned artists and emerging performers in disciplines ranging from opera, theatre, music theatre, dance and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music, as well as the visual arts. Attendance each year runs between 70,000 and 80,000.

On May 25, 26 and 27, at Emmett Robinson Theatre at College of Charleston, Italy’s Carlo Colla and Sons Marionette Company returns to Spoleto Festival USA (Sleeping Beauty, 2015) with its old-world style of puppetry and enchanting rendition of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Witness the town’s grape harvest and feast, general mirth, and the appearance of a mysterious visitor and his flute. This well-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm weaves its story around the beautifully painted scenes of Saxony, featuring 11 puppeteers manipulating 410 meticulously crafted marionettes—including 300 pesky rats!

Before playing a concert, pianist Craig Taborn has been said to listen to his 45,000-song iPod on shuffle. “I like the experience, the change in moods, the feeling of going from a 20-minute composed track to a 30-second blast of metal,” he told The New York Times in 2017. That exciting incongruity is a good indication of what one might experience as an audience member–it is nearly impossible to guess where the experimental jazz artist’s ingenious improvisations will lead. One thing, however, is for sure: Taborn impresses at each creative musical turn. For his Festival debut, Taborn performs solo for two nights, then calls on friends Gerald Cleaver on drums and bassist Chris Lightcap to form a trio. Experience Craig Taborn at the Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston on June 6, 7, 8 & 9.

An annual favorite, the Westminster Choir will perform two concerts on May 26 and June 1 at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul. Attendees will hear the pristine voices of the Festival’s acclaimed choir-in-residence soar in purity and bliss. Conducted by Joe Miller, the Festival’s director for choral activities, this esteemed ensemble offers selections from its rich and widely varied repertoire.

Always highly anticipated, the Spoleto Festival USA Finale will be held at Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Park and feature The Lone Bellow, whose part Americana roots, part soul, and a whole lotta rock ‘n’ roll frames the Nashville-based group’s passionate vocals and emotional songwriting. Bring the family to enjoy the celebration, with the band taking the stage at 8:30pm. The gates open at 5:30pm, with live music beginning at 6pm.

To purchase tickets or see a complete list of performances and venues, visit www.spoletousa.org, or call 843-579-3100.