Menotti cuts ties to Charleston

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Composer Gian Carlo Menotti, founder of the Spoleto Festival, USA, announced he was pulling the festival out of Charleston, S.C., as a result of differences with what he called ``the huge, bickering and ineffectual board of directors'' that runs the festival.

Mr. Menotti, who has won two Pulitzer prizes and composed many operas, among them ``Amahl and the Night Visitors,'' founded the Spoleto Festival, USA, in 1977 as an American counterpart to his ``Festival of Two Worlds'' in the town of Spoleto, Italy. The 17-day Charleston event held each spring brought some of the world's most noted music, dance, and theater artists to the city.

The dispute between the town and the composer dates to 1990, when board members, many of them prominent Charleston residents, began asking if Menotti had arranged, in the manner of corporate executives, for his own eventual replacement. Menotti said board members were attempting to usurp his artistic control.

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The festival has also run into serious financial problems. In a single year, donations to Spoleto USA dropped by half, from $2.4 million in 1991 to $1.2 million last year. At the same time, the National Endowment for the Arts decreased its support of the festival from $840,000 in 1991 to $483,000 last year. Last spring, organizers said they had raised only $1.7 million of the $2.7 million budgeted for private fund-raising.

Nonetheless, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. said an arts festival would remain in Charleston.

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