Spoleto's New Era: The Spoleto Festival U.S.A. opens a scaled-down 18th season today--without Gian Carlo Menotti, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who established the prestigious Charleston, S.C., festival in 1977 as a companion to a similar Italian festival. Menotti, 82, left last fall in a dispute over festival finances and who would head the annual event after he retired. This year's festival--with a reduced budget of $4.2 million--will run only 12 days instead of the traditional 17. While opera, dance and chamber music remain the festival's mainstays, new General Manager Milton Rhodes has also booked more mainstream fare this year, including country star Roseanne Cash and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, as well as music composed by the late Frank Zappa. "We're beginning a new era built on a foundation of 17 years," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.
* On Tap at South Coast: The world premiere of "Green Icebergs," a comedy of modern manners by Newport Beach playwright Cecilia Fannon, will be produced on South Coast Repertory's Mainstage Oct. 14-Nov. 20. The script took top honors in last year's California Playwrights Competition. Also announced Tuesday for SCR's 31st season are Mainstage productions of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" (April 7-May 14) and Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" (May 26-July 2, 1995), and Second Stage productions of A.R. Gurney's "Later Life" (Sept. 20-Oct. 23) and the West Coast premiere of Nicky Silver's black comedy "Pterodactyls" (Jan. 24-Feb. 26).
Soap Bubbles: NBC's "Days of Our Lives" will honor the memory of original cast member Macdonald Carey with a funeral for his character, Dr. Tom Horton, beginning on June 20. Carey, who died in March at the age of 81, created the role of the Horton family patriarch when "Days" debuted in 1965. Several former "Days" stars will return for the funeral, including Marie Cheatham (who played Marie Horton), Bill Hayes (Doug Williams) and Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie Williams), Patsy Pease (Kimberly Brady Donovan), Christopher Stone (Bill Horton) and Lisa Trusel (Melissa Anderson). Meanwhile, "Days' " executive producer Ken Corday received a special Lifetime Achievement Award from NBC affiliates on Tuesday at their annual convention. . . . Spanish singing star Julio Iglesias makes a cameo appearance on ABC's "General Hospital" on June 9 and 10.
Riddle Solved: Comedian Jim Carrey, one of Hollywood's most sought-after actors since the unexpected box-office success of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," has landed the role of the Riddler for Warner Bros.' next Caped Crusader sequel, "Batman Forever." Producers passed over Robin Williams, who had long coveted the role of the villain, reportedly causing a rift between Williams, his agency--Creative Artists Agency--and the studio. Already committed to the project is Tommy Lee Jones, who will portray the other villain in the movie, Two Face. Michael Keaton, who has played Batman in prior films, will likely star but nothing has been finalized, sources said.
* An American Takeover?: The victory at Cannes of controversial American director Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" has sparked fears that the world's top film festival has turned its back on traditional foreign "arty" fare and sold out to Hollywood. American actor-director Clint Eastwood, himself a controversial choice as president of the festival's 10-member jury, brushed aside these suggestions, but French newspapers on Tuesday put the blame squarely on Eastwood's shoulders, saying that he had done his utmost to defend U.S. colors. Eastwood called the voting a "democratic decision" but said he was bound by festival rules not to discuss the prizes. Festival director Gilles Jacob also dismissed the suggestions, saying the festival had no tradition to stick to. "We've always had some juries which go for more popular films or for more art films. There's no law," he said.
Virgin Inks Body Count: Rapper Ice-T's hard-rock band Body Count--which left Warner Bros. Records in early 1993 after protests over its song "Cop Killer"--has signed with Virgin Records, confirming earlier reports in The Times that the label was pursuing a deal with the band. An album is due in September. After "Cop Killer" was released in 1992, several police associations and public figures, including Charlton Heston and Oliver North, launched boycotts of Warner Bros.' parent company, Time Warner. A Virgin executive says that the new album is "no retreat" from Ice-T's harsh stances, but that the company does not expect any similar controversy to arise.
Pop star Bobby Brown performs at West Hollywood's House of Blues tonight at midnight. . . . "Entertainment Tonight" will devote its entire program today to TV's No. 1-rated show, ABC's "Home Improvement."