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News from our friends at Tennesseans for the Arts

Tennessee General Assembly Adjourns Until 2016 Omnibus License Plate Bill Passed

The first session of the two year 109th General Assembly closed on Wednesday, April 22nd.

Lawmakers finished their business and headed home after only expending 28 legislative days of the total 90 legislative days allowed in any two-year General Assembly. Remember, a legislative day is counted as a day when the members are working in either the House or Senate Chamber. Days when only Committees are meeting and no Floor Session is held are not counted as an official Legislative Day.

The formula for New Specialty License Plates was again protected by our many champions and the Omnibus bill which contains all newly proposed plates and extensions for reaching the necessary threshold of 1,000 pre-sold plates required to go into production.
Thanks to TFTA’s ongoing advocacy efforts and the continued support of the General Assembly’s Arts Caucus, the Omnibus License Plate bill passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one dissenting vote in the House.

In other Legislative action our friends at the Tennessee State Museum were awarded a nod towards the building of a new State Museum after the Governor included a one-time $120 million in his supplemental budget amendment.

Now is the time to thank our supporters in the General Assembly and continue our efforts to build and strengthen our relationships. Don’t forget to include your elected officials in activities throughout the summer months and into next fall!

The National Endowment For The Arts Awards $1,072,700 For Art Projects In Tennessee

By: Suzanne Lynch, Director of Marketing and Development

In the second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will make awards to 15 nonprofit art and design organizations in Tennessee totaling $1,072,700. This includes $767,700 awarded through a state partnership agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission for programs that move communities forward through the arts.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States, including in Tennessee. Funding these new projects represents a significant investment in local communities and the creative vitality of Tennessee.”

“These grant dollars will help the arts to invest in communities across the state. Arts and culture in Tennessee contributes to a vibrant place to live, work and raise a family by enhancing community cohesion and pride, increasing public health and safety, and celebrating essential values that make us who we are as Tennesseans,” says Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The following received funding for FY16: Tennessee Arts Commission, Statewide: $767,700

  • ArtsBuild, Chattanooga, TN: $10,000
  • Gateway Chamber Orchestra, Clarksville, TN: $10,000
  • Cumberland County Playhouse, Inc., Crossville, TN: $10,000
  • Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN: $10,000
  • Knox County, Tennessee, Knoxville, TN: $10,000
  • Country Music Foundation, Inc., Nashville, TN: $35,000
  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts Inc., Nashville, TN: $30,000
  • Humanities Tennessee, Nashville, TN: $30,000
  • Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Nashville, TN: $100,000
  • Nashville Academy Theatre & Nashville Children’s Theatre Assoc., Nashville, TN: $10,000
  • Nashville Ballet, Nashville, TN: $15,000
  • Nashville Repertory Theatre, Inc., Nashville, TN: $10,000
  • Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville, TN: $15,000
  • Salama Urban Ministries, Inc., Nashville, TN: $10,000


Gift a tag image

Need something for an upcoming birthday or holiday gift?

The Specialty License Plate Gift Voucher always comes in the perfect size.  Get yours today!


Join or renew your membership!
Tennesseans for the Arts presents a strong, unified voice in support of artists, arts educators, arts organizations and friends and supporters of the arts throughout Tennessee and helps protect funding for the arts by working with local and state lawmakers – and as our membership grows, so does our influence with policymakers.

Your membership strengthens the voice for the arts in Tennessee and is vital to our continued success.

YMCA Healthy Kids Day!

YMCA at Rossini Festival Knoxville 2015

YMCA at Rossini Festival
YMCA Healthy Kids Day is Saturday, April 25, 2015

Visit with the YMCA at Rossini Festival Knoxville 2015 – a popular event held each spring on Gay Street, in the heart of downtown Knoxville. In conjunction with Knoxville Opera’s Rossini Festival, the YMCA is proud to bring you the Kids’ Fun Zone!
Stop by the Fun Zone near the stage at Market Square and enjoy inflatables and games.
Wrist Bands will be sold for $5, and gets you access to all you can play, games and more!
• Spider Jump
• Moonwalk & Slide
• Obstacle Course
• Merry-Go-Round
• Jump Rope
• Huge Building Blocks
• Corn Hole
• Hula Hoops
• Hop Scotch
• Face painting provided by American Cancer Support

Summer is almost here; a time when kids are not exposed to as much physical activity as they are during the school year through PE classes. YMCA Healthy Kids Day was created to help you think about staying active during the summer months.  The YMCA FunZone will be hoppin’ with activity for kids between 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

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Championing the Arts in Tennessee

Some wonderful news from our friends at Tennesseans For The Arts!


Thanks to You, Arts Advocacy Day 2015 was a Wonderful Success!

TFTA’s annual Arts Advocacy Day was held on March 4, 2015 at the Tennessee State Museum. The day’s events began with the Dobyns-Bennett a Capella group warming up while everyone picked up their registration materials. The full DB Chorus got the programming off to a great start. TFTA President Bonnie Macdonald enthusiastically welcomed attendees and honored Melinda Hearn, Arts Advocacy Day Chair before introducing Tennessee Arts Commission Executive Director, Anne Pope. Pope spoke briefly and introduced Treasurer Lillard and his staff who spoke on the new GIFT-A-TAG voucher program. Suzanne Lynch, Arts Commission Director of Marketing gave the audience how-to tips on the voucher and directed them to the voucher brochure. TFTA Educational Consultant Molly Pratt followed up with tips for legislative visits and information on the press conference that would be held that afternoon. Despite the weather forecast, it was a fantastic turnout with over 250 attendees! TFTA thanks everyone who braved the weather and came out to support the arts in Tennessee and would like to recognize the 70+ first time attendees! TFTA would also like to thank its partners for AA Day 2015: Tennessee Arts Commission, Premier Parking, Tennessee State Museum, Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, Birthplace of Country Music, and Eastman! We’re already looking forward to next year!

From left to right: Representative Curtis Halford, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Senator Rusty Crowe, Speaker Beth Harwell, TN Arts Commission Executive Director Anne B. Pope,Tennesseans for the Arts President Bonnie Macdonald, TN Arts Commission Chair Patsy Camp, Senator Doug Overbey, Senator Becky Massey, Senator Jeff Yarbro and Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr.

From left to right: Representative Curtis Halford, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Senator Rusty Crowe, Speaker Beth Harwell, TN Arts Commission Executive Director Anne B. Pope,Tennesseans for the Arts President Bonnie Macdonald, TN Arts Commission Chair Patsy Camp, Senator Doug Overbey, Senator Becky Massey, Senator Jeff Yarbro and Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr.

GIFT-A-TAG Program Launched

Following Arts Advocacy Day events at the Tennessee State Museum, the GIFT-A-TAG program was officially announced by Treasurer David Lillard at a press conference held at the Legislative Plaza. As of March 4, 2015, you can now gift Tennessee Specialty License Plates through a new Tennessee Gift Center website hosted by the State Department Treasury office, The GIFT-A-TAG Gift Voucher Program is the first offering on the website and it can be accessed directly by going to Each GIFT-A-TAG is good for the purchase of a Specialty Plate or the personalization of any license plate. GIFT-A-TAG vouchers are $35 and you can buy as many as you want for your family, friends, board members and patrons! Great gifts for upcoming birthdays and holidays!

February dilemma?

February presents two potential dilemmas:
1. The winter blues are in full force.
2. What should I/we do for Valentine’s Day?

Knoxville Opera has a great solution for both, with two performances of Bizet’s Carmen on Friday, February 13 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 15 at 2:30 p.m. at the city’s hallmark Tennessee Theatre. For the singleton, this is a wonderful alternative to staying in for a date with Ben & Jerry on cupid weekend. For couples, it solves the annual pressure of creating the perfect, romantic date. And for everyone, it offers cozy, passion-fired entertainment that will stave off the wintery blues.

Maestro Brian Salesky hosts a special opera preview session 45 minutes prior to each performance to unpack the plot and set the stage for an enjoyable experience. The preview is open to the public.

Carmen, famous for its Spanish-inspired, fiery plot, features familiar melodies like “La Habanera.” Set in Seville, Spain, Carmen opens in a town square with a peasant girl’s innocent inquiry as to the whereabouts of her beau, Jose. It is not long before Carmen, a captivating gypsy, steals the spotlight. Through a series of events, Carmen employs her flirtatious skills to disrupt the lives of those around her. She is an empowered woman who refuses to be tamed, with an inward fear of settling down. Carmen’s manipulative beauty and misuse of it draw only superficial, temporary attention; yet her inability to open her heart becomes a wakeup call for those she has hurt. The opera’s final scene is one of redemptive irony.

The lovely Audrey Babcock plays the role of Carmen, accompanied by an all-star cast. A synopsis of Carmen, along with the cast bios, can be viewed here. Ticket prices begin at $18 and can be purchased here or by visiting Call 865-524-0795 x28 for more information.

Your Valentine’s Day weekend will be one to remember, as you chase winter’s blues away and heat things up with Carmen!

A Vocal Trio on the High Seas: Knoxville Opera’s H.M.S. Pinafore will Showcase 3 Unforgettable Voices

H.M.S. Pinafore Cast Members

Knoxville Opera’s H.M.S. Pinafore will feature highly acclaimed vocalists Steven Condy, Donata Cucinotta, and Sean Anderson.

Condy is known for his performances across the nation with many notable companies such as San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, Boston Opera and more.

Cucinotta has graced the stages of many opera festivals and performed with companies including Opera New Jersey and New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. She has also been honored as a Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Finalist. Knoxville fell in love with her voice when she appeared with Knoxville Opera as Adele in Die Fledermaus where she was hailed for her “bright and lively comedy” (Knoxville MetroPulse). In fact, the publication went on praise Cucinotta with the headline, “Knoxville’s Most Memorable Classical Music Performance of 2012: A marvelous Donata Cucinotta revealed the flexibility of her character of Adele by doing onstage cartwheels and a split.”

Anderson has performed with New York City Opera, Baz Luhrman’s Bohème on Broadway and was most recently in Knoxville as the narcissistic Sgt. Belcore, demonstrating “…tremendous comic swagger” (Knoxville MetroPulse).

Performances will be held on Friday, November 21 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 23 at 2:30 p.m. at the city’s hallmark Tennessee Theatre. Maestro Brian Salesky will host a special opera preview session 45 minutes prior to each performance. A full plot summary, along with cast bios, can be read here. Ticket prices begin at $18 and can be purchased here or by visiting To speak with a Knoxville Opera representative for more information, call 865-524-0795 x28.

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Get Ready to Set Sail with Knoxville Opera’s H.M.S. Pinafore


Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore will set sail on Friday, November 21 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 23 at 2:30 p.m. at Knoxville’s hallmark Tennessee Theatre. Maestro Brian Salesky will host a special opera preview session 45 minutes prior to each performance. The musical comedy is perfect for a family outing or special date.


The classic comedy contains familiar melodies (“I’m Called Little Buttercup”, “The Monarch of the Sea”, “When I Was a Lad”, and “I am the Captain of the Pinafore.”) and clever wordplay that pokes fun at politics and authoritative figures, in a delightfully provocative way. People of all ages will be entertained by the music, characters, elaborate stage setting, and costumes.


H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s first blockbuster hit. The comic operetta opened in London in 1898 and ran for 571 performances. The plot plays out aboard a naval ship and centers on the conflicts of love between people from different social classes. Taking jabs at the British class system, party politics, the Royal Navy, and the ironic rise of unqualified people into authority, even the title injects humor by using the name of the female pinafore garment in reference to the masculine naval warship.


The musical structure and style of H.M.S. Pinafore have been echoed by many composers and contributed significantly to music history and the development of modern musical theatre. A full plot summary and cast bios can be read here.


Ticket prices begin at $18 and can be purchased here or by visiting To speak with a Knoxville Opera representative, call 865-524-0795 x28.

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The Incredible Lightness of Die Fledermaus

Fluffy, frivolous and fun, this classic is the very definition of what operetta should be.

Knoxville Opera’s production of Strauss’s intoxicating operetta stars Russian soprano, Julia Lima. Die Fledermaus, or The Bat, is a classic operetta. Which raises the perennial question: How does operetta differ from opera? Some would say the difference is that in operetta, you stand on the furniture, which is guaranteed to occur in this production. Operetta could also be described as something like a halfway house between opera and musical theater. Unlike most opera, Fledermaus has spoken dialogue. This ads a general lightness to the theatrical approach. The Strauss operetta is a tuneful high-society comedy which premiered in 1874. The bat of the title is a reference to a costume once worn to a party by Eisenstein, one of many turns in the hilarious storyline.

Fledermaus is known for its effervescent music, not its dramatic logic but rest assured that you’ll have a great time laughing in between the catchy tunes and zany plot. This operetta is fun, the cast and crew are fun.

Donata Cucinotta and Sean Anderson

They work long hours in rehearsals and cut up a bit in their off-time and have even more fun. Just check our Facebook “behind-the-scenes” photos for a peek of this motley crew of professionals enjoying their craft. You’ll see masks, funny faces and a few more masks. In fact, we encourage the audience to wear their favorite mask to the performances to feel more in tune with the storyline. There are still some good seats for this weekend’s performances and if you call our box office today through Wednesday and say “MASK”, I’ll give you 15% off of sections P, A, B. You can also click here 24/7 Don’t wait, do it now. We’ll see you at the Opera!

Subscription Renewal Extended!

Renew Your Subscription!
We’ve had an overwhelming amount of requests for an extension from subscribers who are either traveling or finalizing their travel schedules for this season. If you’re a subscriber from last season, and haven’t yet renewed your subscription, we’ve extended the deadline through this Friday (13th). Why should you renew your season tickets?

Best Seats: Access to claim your best seats long before anyone else. Subscribers receive first-choice seating and save 10% off individual performance prices.
Renewals: Subscribers can renew their same seats for the following year and are the first in line to move to better seats.
Flexibility: ONLY subscribers can exchange their tickets to different performances if the need arises. Lost tickets are never a problem. Replacements can be provided in advance or at the door.
Privileges: Share your email address and we’ll make sure you are the first to learn of our special events and the latest news including a subscription to Bravo!, your insider’s guide to the world of Knoxville Opera and Knoxville Opera Guild, synopses, biographies, articles, news and more.
Service: Knoxville Opera has some of the best employees around who know that YOU are our first priority!

An amazing transformation is taking place at Knoxville Opera and YOU are a part of that transformation. As the 2012/13 season begins, it gives me great pleasure to thank you for your past support and welcome you to a new year of extraordinary music and theater on our stage. With your support, the performing arts are alive with Knoxville Opera!

Join us in celebrating our 35th anniversary. We want you to take part of this exciting season of unparalleled artistic excellence. The partnership between community and opera is just as important as the one between maestro and musicians. Be a part of the moment. Help us fulfill the promise of great music that lies ahead by renewing and/or upgrading your subscription and enhancing your support with a tax-deductible gift for our current and future education programs. Bring the power of music to young people, while ensuring our future. The result is magical music making that gets better and better.

Did you know we produced an arts education initiative this season with a robust program known as The Shakespeare Project? This innovative program was performed for free this past January in 14 Knox County middle schools for over 12,500 students and faculty as a 45 minute version of Romeo and Juliette (in English) for 4th – 8th grade students. The program was so successful that Knoxville Opera will produce a similar series called The Cinderella Project for 2nd – 8th grade students next season. We are deeply committed to cultivating young people’s relationship with the performing arts, enriching their lives and enhancing their education. Your contribution will ensure the continuation and expansion of this commitment and our goal to reach thousands of people with the magnificent power and excitement of opera.

I look forward to welcoming you back and we’ll see you at the opera!

P.S. If you are a contributor, your membership expired on 6-30-12. Please renew soon so that you won’t miss out on any of the benefits of membership as the new season unfolds. If you have any questions regarding membership or subscriptions, please contact Joey DiMenno at 865-524-0795 x25 or Michael Torano x28

Rossini is now International!

Saturday, April 28th 11:00am – 9:00pm Downtown Knoxville

The Rossini Festival is one of the region’s largest and most beloved special event. It serves as a celebration of the performing arts.

“The performing arts are much too diverse to promote as one culture. The Italian flair we’ve enjoyed for the first 10 years is being enhanced by German, Hispanic, Asian, French and American foods and beverages as we expand the event”, says Knoxville Opera Marketing and Public Relations Director Michael Torano. “We welcome Cellular Sales as a new sponsor for this 11th Annual Rossini Festival. They will be exhibiting at Market Street and Union Avenue.”

For 10 years, the Rossini Festival was primarily modeled as an Italian Street Fair. The Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival International Street Fair introduces the color and excitement of opera to attendees, many of who are experiencing opera for the first time. This is 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 International culture featuring a full day of live entertainment with over 800 entertainers, and a multitude of artisans showcasing superior traditions of the Southeast’s finest craftsmanship and a family-friendly KidsZone of engaging activities on Market Square.

“We have a surprise for Knoxville this year. Through a strategic partnership, Chez Liberty and Constellation Brands present The Wine Experience at Knoxville Opera’s Rossini Festival and International Street Fair. All along Gay Street, attendees will enjoy offerings from Knoxville’s most extensive wine list at Chez Liberty”, continues Torano. “In the Chez Liberty/Constellation Brands Wine Experience tent in the Krutch Park Extension across from the main stage, patrons will be able to choose from an extensive array of timed wine tastings throughout the day including appearances by Michael Leidel of Riedel Stemware, Napa Cabs, Oregon Pinot Noirs, Bloody Marys, Varietals, French Champagnes, Bracket rums and gins among others.”
For details go to or call 865.524.0795 x28.

Arts in Education?

By Michael Torano, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

Where are the arts in our schools?

“When I was a student, I remember music, dance, drawing, singing classes”.  I hear this quite consistently in my discussions with patrons, corporate sponsors, and fellow parents.  As a father of two boys, ages 15 and 8, I have to say, I share this sentiment.  There just doesn’t seem to be much these days in the classrooms regarding artistic education much less, the performing arts.  I’m sure this has much to do with changes in curriculum and budgets and what schools boards deem “necessary” or “frivolous” in educating our youth.  I don’t pretend to be an expert in this field but it doesn’t take an expert to notice that the arts are a virtual ghost in public schools.  Where will tomorrow’s adults gain exposure to the beauty of dance, the majesty of music in orchestra or the magnificence of the human voice?  Will we leave this entirely to top 40 radio or Dancing With The Stars?

We’ve always strived to fill this void in public schools through our education and outreach programs.  Many don’t realize that Knoxville Opera is much more than fully-staged opera productions at the Tennessee Theatre.  Each year, we produce and perform well over 100 community and education outreach events primarily for K-12 students in public schools.  These are concerts, Opera 101 interactive engagements and even staged performances such as this season’s Shakespeare Project in cooperation with Dr. Jim McIntryre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools.

Today, we kick off our performances of Romeo & Juliette in the first of 14 Knox County middle schools.  This series will focus on public middle schools and has been a collaborative effort between Knoxville Opera and Knox County Schools.  This entire series of staged, costumed performances is a gift for the students of Knox County and specifically designed to fit into auditoriums and gymnasiums.  Lead by Maestro Brian Salesky who’s no stranger to the education scene, KO delights in presenting an abbreviated version of Gounod’s opera Romeo & Juliette in English for 4th-8th grade students….completely free of charge.  The whole series is presented at zero cost to Knox County Schools, the parents, kids, teachers, PTA’s or the schools themselves.  Knoxville Opera has successfully solicited private, foundation and corporate support of this endeavor to deliver opera performances directly to the students on their turf.  33 elementary schools are sending 4th-5th grade students to these middle school performances with bus transportation provided by Knoxville Opera, also free of charge.

Click to view a sample of The Shakespeare Project!

In addition to our many continuing programs we are particularly excited about our season-long Shakespeare Project.

Huge endeavor? Yes it is, but we feel it is an incredibly important aspect of education and we strive to continue to deliver this to our students.  In all, there will be over 12,500 students attending these performances January 10th – the 19th.  Tenor Stefan Barner and soprano Anna Eschbach, recent graduates of the University of Tennessee Opera Theatre program, will be singing Romeo and Juliette.  Bringing this presentation into the schools is a key element of our season-long Shakespeare Project cornerstoned by our productions of Romeo & Juliette (February 10, 12) and Verdi’s Otello (April 27, 29) at the Tennessee Theatre.  Knoxville Opera would like to humbly thank Walter Mencer, Instrumental Music Specialist of Knox County Schools, for working tirelessly for over six months to facilitate these in-school performances.  We’re in his debt for bringing this unique opportunity to our students.  Special thanks also to the Tennessee Arts Commission, Knox County, City of Knoxville, Arts & Heritage Fund, Pilot Flying J, Regal Entertainment Group, Comcast, Robert H. and Monica M. Cole Foundation, First Tennessee Foundation, Swann Endowment Fund, Rotary Club of Knoxville and National Endowment for the Arts for supporting this production.

For further information about the in-school performances or our other education/outreach initiatives or to support these goals, visit KnoxvilleOpera Education or contact Michael Torano at 865-524-0795 x28 or

I’ll see you…at the opera!