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Knoxville Opera features blockbuster new season

Madame Butterfly, Romeo & Juliet, and the
Tennessee premiere of Harriet Tubman

In addition to 100 education/community programs, Knoxville Opera’s 42nd Season promises to be a spectacular one with mainstage productions of the ever-popular and beloved Madame Butterfly by Puccini and Romeo & Juliet by Gounod, followed by the historic regional premiere of Okoye’s riveting Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom. All performances are presented with projected English translations/lyrics on a screen above the stage.

knoxville opera harriet tubman
The season’s high point is the Tennessee Premiere of Harriet Tubman (May 1/3), the cornerstone of the company’s community-wide celebration of the legendary heroine of the 19th century Underground Railroad.; image submitted

After an absence of eight years, Madame Butterfly (October 25/27) returns to the Tennessee Theatre with Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Pastin as the betrayed Butterfly, and tenor Richard Troxell who starred as Lt. Pinkerton in Frédéric Mitterand’s award-winning film version of the opera. The principal cast, including baritone Sean Anderson and mezzosoprano Lisa Chavez, will also perform at the 11th Annual Knoxville Opera Goes to Church concert at New Covenant Baptist Church on October 6 and at the Opera Ball at the Knoxville Museum of Art on October 19. The production will be staged by Brian Deedrick, former Artistic Director of Edmonton Opera, who has directed Mefistofele and seven other memorable productions in Knoxville.

Romeo and Juliet, the perfect Valentine’s weekend opera (February 14/16), is based on the iconic Shakespeare tale of the star-crossed lovers. This unique production is highlighted by dramatic readings from the original play in English throughout the performance. Chinese soprano Yulan Piao makes her debut as Juliet after 1st Place wins at both the Vienna Summer Music Festival and Verismo Opera competitions. Mackenzie Whitney, one of America’s fast-rising young tenors, debuts as Romeo. Metropolitan Opera bass Andrew Wentzel graces the stage as Friar Laurence and Stage Director Candace Evans returns to recreate her beautiful and poignant production at the Tennessee Theatre.

The season’s high point is the Tennessee Premiere of Harriet Tubman (May 1/3), the cornerstone of the company’s community-wide celebration of the legendary heroine of the 19th century Underground Railroad. The captivating music and words by African-American composer Nkeiru Okoye is a magical patchwork of styles including spirituals, juba, ragtime, field hollers, work songs, shouts, gospel, and jazz. Four artists from the 2014 New York City premiere will be recreating their roles, including Janinah Burnett (as Harriet), Metropolitan Opera soprano who is currently starring in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Ms. Okoye and cast members will be featured in school and community events honoring the inspiring, courageous “Moses” of her people including programs at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, the Public Defender’s Office student program, in-school African-American Voices programs, and the 19th Annual Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival International Street Fair (April 18). Beck’s President Reneé Kesler will host the performances at the Bijou Theatre.

Commencing September 9, tickets, starting at $25 for adults and $15 for students, may be purchased online at, or by calling the Box Office at (865) 524-0795 ext. 1 (Monday through Friday, 10 am – 5 pm).

Published September 5, 2019

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