If Charleston doesn't make your list of top American party cities, then you've never visited during the Spoleto Festival USA. For decades, the historic South Carolina port has staged a 17-day celebration of international music, dance, and theater, effectively transforming itself into an early summer cultural hub. A spin-off of the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, the U.S. version has presented 100 international premieres and nearly as many American ones, including plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.
Past attendees have caught early career performances by Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joshua Bell; Book of Longing, Philip Glass's concert work based on Leonard Cohen's poetry collection of the same name; Swan Lake, courtesy of Nina Ananiashvili's State Ballet of Georgia (that's the one in Eurasia); and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1930s satirical opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. In addition, jazz fans are typically treated to a lineup that reads like a who's who of the genre, as well as modern performance perfection such as Blessing the Boats, poet and playwright Sekou Sundiata's blend of video projection, storytelling, and blues, jazz, and Afro-Caribbean percussion.