Outspoken Music Scholar to Lead Spoleto Festival

A scholar who has spoken forcefully in regards to the legacy of colonialism in classical music will function the following normal director of Spoleto Festival USA, the famend arts group in Charleston, S.C., introduced on Tuesday.

Mena Mark Hanna, 37, the son of Egyptian immigrants, would be the first individual of colour to lead the competition, which was based in 1977.

The appointment of Hanna comes because the competition tries to get well financially from the coronavirus pandemic, which pressured the cancellation of its 2020 season and led to a 70 % decline in ticket gross sales this 12 months. The competition’s leaders are additionally grappling with questions on growing range in employees and programming amid a broader reckoning over racial justice within the United States.

Hanna, who will take workplace in October, mentioned he would make it a precedence to use tradition to confront the legacy of slavery within the United States and construct an inclusive setting.

“Art has a very unique role to play in this conversation by really harnessing its transformative power to bridge differences,” Hanna mentioned in an interview. More wants to be finished by way of ensuring that we have now various views at each single level of the life cycle of a murals.”

Hanna will change Nigel Redden, the longtime chief of the competition, who final fall introduced plans to retire after 35 years, citing the pandemic and the affect of the Black Lives Matter motion, amongst different elements. Redden, who’s white, mentioned on the time that the motion had made him understand the significance of stepping apart to make approach for a brand new technology of leaders.

Hanna is a protégé of Daniel Barenboim, the celebrated conductor who based the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with the Palestinian American mental Edward Said. Hanna is a professor of musicology and composition at Barenboim-Said Akademie, a music conservatory in Berlin named for each males. He beforehand served as assistant creative director at Houston Grand Opera.

Members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performing on the Barenboim-Said Akademie in November 2019.Credit…Peter Adamik

As a scholar, Hanna investigated tough questions on cultural imperialism in artwork. He has referred to as classical music a “thoroughly colonized medium” rooted in 19th-century norms, and he has criticized the persistence of orientalism in operas similar to “Aida.”

At Spoleto, Hanna will inherit one of many nation’s most outstanding music festivals, with an endowment of about $20 million and an annual price range of about $eight million. In June, the competition completed its 45th season, staging some 77 opera, theater, dance and music performances over 17 days.

The competition is understood for bringing artists collectively throughout disciplines and commissioning and staging progressive works, similar to “Omar,” an opera by Rhiannon Giddens that’s primarily based on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim man from West Africa who was enslaved and transported to Charleston in 1807. It will premiere on the competition subsequent 12 months.

Hanna mentioned he was keen to discover ways in which artwork would possibly give you the chance to assist deliver consideration to social challenges.

“We have a unique opportunity to define how our history can inform our present and how we can be stronger for it,” he mentioned. “We can use art to give us a glimpse of a future that can only be imagined right now.”