One year ago I was asked what Knoxville Opera could do to top the forthcoming “blowout” 40th Anniversary Season, which included Turandot and Aida. The answer was simple: continue to fill each season with great operatic masterpieces presented in visually stimulating productions performed and directed by fabulous artists. In addition to our usual plethora of Education/Outreach programs, the 18th Annual Rossini Festival, and the 10th Annual Knoxville Opera Goes to Church concert, I believe the exciting 2018-2019 opera season meets those criteria!
It is not often, if ever, that one gets to attend a comedy doubleheader by Mozart and Puccini, but our October production is just that. For over a century it has been an operatic tradition to take The Impresario (Der Schauspieldirektor), Mozart’s mockery of opera directors and singers, and update the play to a contemporary setting. Our fictional adaptation presents an egomaniacal Impresario (played by Sean Anderson, KO’s favorite comedian) who engages a “know-it-all” Italian opera fanatic to deal with the trials and tribulations of casting his upcoming production of Gianni Schicchi. After an intermission, you’ll see how the casting works out in Puccini’s ingenious homage to Dante about Florence, Italy’s most notorious reprobate (played by KO’s popular baritone, Scott Bearden). Schicchi’s hilarious plot and ravishing music includes opera’s most beloved soprano aria, “Oh! mio babbino caro” (sung by the delightful Brandie Sutton in her KO debut).
In February, after an absence of eight years, Donizetti’s Gothic masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the Tennessee Theatre stage with a vibrant, young cast in their local debuts, led by Santa Fe Opera soprano Meryl Dominguez. Lucia is just one of several Donizetti works based on historical English/Scottish stories, including Mary Queen of Scots which we presented in 2017. Musically we are treated to one great scene after the next, filled with thrilling vocal fireworks, including the glorious Sextet and opera’s greatest Mad Scene. As a follow up to our presentation of Lucia in schools in January, students of all ages are invited to take photos with the cast on stage following the performances at the Tennessee Theatre. All opera fans have their favorite legendary soprano who excelled in the fiendishly difficult title role. Mine was and always will be Joan Sutherland, for whom I had the privilege of accompanying in Lucia when I was the rehearsal pianist for Miami Opera in 1974. Of course I wish I had seen Maria Callas in the part as well!
The apex of this season will be a unique experience in May at the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. We invite you to take an imaginary Easter Sunday trip to Sicily for a concert of Sacred Music Gems and the gut-wrenching drama of Cavalleria Rusticana. First, inside the magnificent cathedral, you’ll enjoy musical treasures by Verdi, Rossini, Franck, and Mascagni. Then, become part of the thrilling opera as a Sicilian villager seated outside the majestic church. You’ll be in the middle of the action and witness how passionate rustic chivalry exacts revenge on those who betray others. The opera that lit up the Godfather III finale will unfold before your eyes! The blockbuster cast includes Catherine Daniel (returning after her sensational portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Mary Queen of Scots), and Jonathan Burton and Scott Bearden who triumphed in KO’s spectacular 2016 production of Tosca.
We look forward to having you with us for another unforgettable season!