Knoxville Opera delivers culture to downtown Knoxville for citizens and visitors of East Tennessee. As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Knoxville Opera’s Rossini Festival and Italian Street Fair, we gratefully look back on our beginnings with founding underwriters Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout. Their gifts and insights have contributed to culture and community for opera lovers and the beautiful city of Knoxville. The centerpiece is the Italian Street Fair from 11:00 – 9:00 on Saturday, April 9th covering 12 blocks of downtown Gay Street and the Market Square District. The Street Fair features mouthwatering Italian foods and beverages, an upscale artisan’s market and four outdoor stages of live music and dance. The Rossini Festival is an idea with soul and a gift of love for the people of East Tennessee – love of arts, of culture and character. The awakening of Spring each year is heralded by the return of Rossini and civic festivities and joyous celebration on the streets of downtown Knoxville. Knoxville is blessed with a vibrant arts community as well as a top three school in the U.S. for operatic study in theUniversity of Tennessee. We have Maestro Brian Salesky for Knoxville Opera, Maestro Lucas Richmond for Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director Calvin MacLean for Clarence Brown Theatre and Executive Director David Butler for Knoxville Museum of Art.
“Events such as the Rossini Festival play a significant role in the revitalization of downtown Knoxville…” – Mike Ragsdale, former Knox County Mayor
What is Rossini?
You could say it’s an opera festival…in fact it IS an opera festival. It couldn’t be one without opera and this year heralds two outstanding productions with six performances. Knoxville Opera will produce the Southeast U.S. Premiere of Bellini’s I Puritani with performances on Friday, April 8th at 8:00 pm andSunday, April 10th at 2:30 pm at the historic Tennessee Theatre. UT Opera Theatre will produce Britten’s Albert Herring with performances on Saturday, April 9th at 2:30 and 8:00pm, Sunday, April 10th at 7:30pm and Monday, April 11th at 7:30pm at Bijou Theatre.
You could say it’s an arts showcase focusing primarily on the love of opera which encompasses various art forms and draws all types of artists. It’s the only Rossini Festival in the U.S. and one of only two in the world, the other of which takes place in Rossini’s birthplace of Pesaro, Italy. Knoxville’s event is a celebration of the performing, visual and culinary arts with an emphasis on opera and Italian culture featuring a full day of live entertainment on four outdoor stages, an upscale artisan’s market with over 100 booths showcasing superior traditions of the Southeast’s finest craftsmanship and a family-friendly KidsZone of engaging activities on Market Square. Culinary delights include Mediterranean-style wraps and gyros, Italian ice, Italian sausage, grilled meats, Italian pastries and pasta dishes from local and regional vendors.
“The Rossini Festival’s culture is extraordinary and serves as a wonderful model for other arts groups throughout the nation to emulate…” – Wayne Brown, Head of Music and Opera, National Endowment for the Arts
The Rossini Festival is one of the region’s largest and most beloved special events and born from the need for downtown attractions that center on the arts and desire to drive cultural tourism to the community. It serves as an introduction to the color and excitement of opera to attendees, many of whom are experiencing it for the first time. The Street Fair comes from humble beginnings drawing 6,000 its first year and has grown to attract attendance of over 75,000 under pristine weather conditions. It’s a taste of Europe in East Tennessee and celebrates the color, fun and excitement of opera and Italian culture. This type of cultural experience was once available only in America’s largest cities. Events such as this are part of the vibrant cultural fabric of a city and a critical element in Knoxville’s ability to retain and recruit the Nation’s top talent to this region.
So who is Rossini?
• Gioacchino Rossini was a famous composer born in Pesaro, Italy, 1792
• In 1812, when his first opera premiered in Italy, the 20-year old Rossini was already considered by most to be the leading composer in Italy
• Rossini and Beethoven were contemporaries. When the two met in 1822, the 29-year old Rossini had composed 32 operas while 51-year old Beethoven had composed just one.
• Rossini helped create and shape an entirely new form of opera called bel canto, which is a blend of “comedy, sentimentalism and drama” and composed over 40 operas.
• Rossini retired at age 37 and lived another 40 years virtually idle as a composer.
• He spent large amounts of time with his gardens in France, which were shaped like musical instruments
“The University of Tennessee enhances quality of life in communities throughout the state, and the partnership between Knoxville Opera and the School of Music at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is one that both enhances life in this community and the University’s ability to recruit top talent.” –University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro
What about this year?
I’m pleased to announce that once again, Knoxville Opera is partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee and functions as a drop point for donations to help address the nutritional needs of all people at risk of hunger. Each month Second Harvest feeds an average of 158,000 people in an 18-county service area. Donations are rewarded with discounted tickets to Knoxville Opera’s production of I Puritani. KO further enhances its commitment to keeping East Tennessee beautiful by supporting a green initiative. Each year, Knoxville Opera encourages food vendors to increase the use of recyclable or post-consumer waste containers and food ware when serving attendees of the Festival.
• Over 100 artisan booths
• Over 45 food and beverage booths (including meat on a stick)
• 4 outdoor stages with live entertainment by over 30 local/regional arts groups and over 800 entertainers
• Family-Friendly KidsZone of engaging, artful and fun activities for children and the young-at-heart
• 2 opera productions with 6 performances
• Did I mention “meat on a stick”? (there’s just not enough of that these days)
In conclusion, the Rossini Festival is our gift to the people of East Tennessee complete with the weekend full of opera, Italian food and wine, 40 hours of live entertainment on 4 stages, cultural arts including music, dance and song, handmade craftsmanship from highly skilled artisans, all wrapped up in a green, white and red ribbon of Italian Flair. It’s Italian….Knoxville Style!