From the Executive Director/Conductor

July 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to welcome you to Knoxville Opera’s exciting 38th Season, boasting the local debuts of terrific young artists in a Knoxville premiere, a family favorite, and a once-in-a-lifetime production experience.

Three brass bands in the audience will be the first of several special effects that you will enjoy during performances of Boito’s stunning 1875 masterpiece Mefistofele. The action will take place in front of an on stage orchestra and on the orchestra pit which will rise and fall from scene to scene. You’ll be riveted by the inspiring music and high drama performed by 116 choristers, 71 instrumentalists, 8 dancers, and the Metropolitan Opera’s magnificent Donovan Singletary in the devilish title role. Beware of boiling cauldrons in the Witches’ Sabbath scene!

Humperdinck’s larger-than-life version of Hansel and Gretel has been a favorite of young and old alike since its 1893 premiere conducted by none other than the distinguished composer Richard Strauss! The lush score is highlighted by many musical favorites including Hansel and Gretel’s Evening Prayer and the Witch’s Scene. Young, vibrant artists Chrystal E. Williams and Lindsay Russell debut in the title roles and are joined by veteran Jennifer Roderer as the Witch. Children’s choruses are featured in all three operas this season, and the transformation of these young artists from gingerbread into real live children is certainly their most poignant moment. As a special treat, all children are invited on stage after the final curtain to take photos with the cast in costume on the set!

Knoxville Opera is breaking all the rules of conventional opera production with the April 30, 2016 performance of Puccini’s beloved Tosca. For the first time in history, the artists, orchestra, and audience will travel among three venues on one amazing day in order to simulate the characters’ journeys. You are invited to be one of only 1,400 people to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Kerri Marcinko debuts as Tosca and I know we are all anticipating her final leap! Jonathan Burton returns as Cavaradossi after his triumph last season in Il Trovatore. Scott Bearden, who has given Knoxville audiences brilliant performances in Pagliacci, Otello, and The Girl of the Golden West, brings us his malevolent Scarpia. Details may be found at knoxvilleopera.com/schedule/tosca.

Having just completed my tenth year with the company, please permit me to reflect about the company’s past decade. This has been a period of growth on every front. For me personally, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to produce, conduct, and appear in 60 performances of 31 operas and concerts, the 2006 Mostly Mozart Festival, 10 Rossini Festivals, 6 Knoxville Opera Goes to Church concerts, an ongoing African-American Voices Series, and 750 Education/Outreach programs. Artistically, our audience has been treated to many memorable performances by extraordinary artists. Joyce El-Khoury, Rachele Gilmore, Zulimar López-Hernández, Noah Stewart, Daniel Sumegi, Manrico Tedeschi, and Talise Trevigne are just a few of those who have appeared in the world’s major opera houses and concert halls since their Knoxville Opera debuts and “you heard them here first.” During this time, KO has expanded its repertoire with the company premieres of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West, Massenet’s Manon, and Bellini’s Norma and I Puritani. Our robust Education/Outreach Program has served hundreds of thousands of students and adults with 100 annual events, including in-school opera productions. Financially, we have honored the trust of our individual, corporate, foundation, and government agency investors with ten consecutive years of debt-free, in-the-black operations while simultaneously building a significant operating reserve to secure future operations. Efforts to raise funds never cease as we must raise our entire $1,350,000 annual budget from scratch every season. Your continued support both in annual gifts and in your estate planning are deeply appreciated. A special note of thanks goes to The Aslan Foundation, whose annual $150,000 grant forms the cornerstone of each year’s Annual Fund campaign.

This season we will again present more than 75 education/outreach programs serving nearly 100,000 people in the East Tennessee community and beyond. Let me mention just three highlights:

  • For the fifth year we will present an in-school opera production – Hansel and Gretel – along with our cornerstone Opera 101 program.
  • The 7th annual Knoxville Opera Goes to Church…A Celebration of Talent! concert will rock Greater Warner Tabernacle A.M.E. Zion Church on September 26, 2015.
  • The 15th annual Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival International Street Fair on April 23, 2016 in Downtown Knoxville will feature 800 performers and more than 100 food and artisan vendors. We are most grateful to Mayor Madeline Rogero who bestowed “Legacy Event” status upon this unique celebration of the performing arts, assuring its presence on Gay Street well into the future.

Thank you for your support and participation! I look forward to having you in our audience for another unforgettable season!





Brian Salesky
Executive Director and Conductor

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