Dear Friends,

I am delighted to welcome you to Knoxville Opera’s exciting 39th season featuring the return of two operatic favorites and the Tennessee premiere of a bel canto spectacular.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance

Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic farce, The Pirates of Penzance, kicks off the season on October 21st and 23rd with a stellar group of G&S veterans who will have you reveling in the antics of those sentimental pirates. Leading them will be legendary baritone Robert Orth, as “the very model of a modern Major-General,” brilliant operatic comedian Sean Anderson (previously in KO’s Fledermaus, Elixir of Love, and Pinafore) as the Pirate King, and former Metropolitan Opera bass Andrew Wentzel as the bungling Police Sergeant. Coloratura Claire Coolen (as the lovely Mabel) and mezzosoprano Jenni Bank (as the manipulating Ruth) will make their KO debuts. Tenor Joshua Kohl, who previously starred in KO’s Elixir and Pinafore, will portray Frederic, the duped “Slave of Duty.” This is the perfect production for the entire family. I encourage children to wear their pirate garb and come onto the set after the performance to take photos with the cast.

Puccini’s La Bohème

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, Puccini’s beloved La Bohème about 1830 Parisian Bohemians returns on February 10th and 12th after an absence of 11 years. I’m sure you’ll be humming the gorgeous melodies like Musetta’s captivating waltz. We are eagerly looking forward to the debut of soprano Jessica Rose Cambio whose portrayal of Mimì has already been heard at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Dresden, and all over Italy. Her Rodolfo will be Richard Troxell, most famous for his portrayal of Pinkerton in Martin Scorsese’s film production of Madame Butterfly. Rounding out the principal cast are sonorous baritone Craig Verm, in his local debut as the painter Marcello, and Julia Lima (KO’s superb Margherita in Mefistofele) as his lover Musetta. Students of all ages are invited to take photos with the cast on the set following the performances.

Donizetti’s Mary Queen of Scots

The season then hits its spectacular high note on April 28th and 30th with the Tennessee premiere of Donizetti’s stunning masterpiece Mary Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda). The explosive confrontation between Mary Stuart (portrayed by Rochelle Bard, KO’s recent Norma) and Queen Elizabeth I (Canadian mezzosoprano Catherine Daniel in her debut) ultimately results in Mary’s march to the scaffold. While Mary and Elizabeth never actually met in reality, the riveting battle of the two queens reaches its climax after a series of vicious insults and electrifying vocalism. Trying unsuccessfully to overturn the death sentence will be Colombian tenor David Guzmán in his KO debut as Leicester, and bass Patrick Blackwell (KO’s recent Ferrando in Il Trovatore) as Talbot. Cecil, Elizabeth’s advisor, will be portrayed by Scott Bearden, who triumphed as Scarpia last season in KO’s once-in-a-lifetime production of Tosca.

This season we will again present more than 85 education and community programs serving over 80,000 people in the East Tennessee community and beyond. A few of the exciting highlights include:

  • In schools, we will present our popular Opera 101 and African-American Voices programs, along with an abbreviated opera production, Puccini’s La Bohème.
  • The 8th annual Knoxville Opera Goes to Church…A Celebration of Talent! concert will rock Overcoming Believers Church on October 1st, featuring gospel music, spirituals, and opera performed by the Knoxville Opera Gospel Choir, local soloists, and the cast of The Pirates of Penzance.
  • The 16th annual Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival International Street Fair on April 22, 2017 in Downtown Knoxville will feature over 500 performers on 5 stages 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!