KNOXVILLE, TN — In celebration of its 40th Anniversary Season, Knoxville Opera presents Puccini’s Turandot at Knoxville Civic Auditorium on Friday, February 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 25 at 2:30 p.m. Forty-five minutes prior to each performance, Maestro Brian Salesky will host an opera preview for an in-depth look at the history, story and music. The opera will be performed in Italian with projected English supertitle translations. Pre-opera dining hosted by Knoxville Opera Guild is available for each performance. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 23, a 3-course dinner at Ruth’s Chris is available for $75 per person (cash bar), and beginning at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 25, a brunch at Crowne Plaza is available for $25 per person (cash bar). Reservations are available at, and proceeds benefit the Knoxville Opera Guild.

Certainly the finest opera never completed, Turandot was bereft of its final scene due to Puccini’s untimely death. While it took a mere mortal to finish what this genius composer had started, Turandot remains among the top of the operatic pantheon to this day. Its ravishing score bursts with brilliant choruses and fiendishly difficult arias, including “Nessun dorma,” which Luciano Pavarotti elevated to iconic status. The opera’s music and majesty will be crowned by an international cast of sensational artists.

It’s been fifteen years since Knoxville last saw the likes of Puccini’s tale of ancient China, a frigidly beautiful princess and the foreign prince who would woo her. But as Knoxville Opera Executive Director and Conductor Brian Salesky put it, “A significant anniversary deserves a significant celebration.” Puccini’s Turandot is the first of two large-scale opera productions in the company’s 40th Anniversary season.

Knoxville Opera is delighted to welcome director John Hoomes, who has been the artistic director of Nashville Opera since 1995. Hoomes directed Turandot for Nashville Opera – featuring the two main principals also to appear in the Knoxville Opera production – two years ago, making this production a homecoming of sorts. Also a freelance stage director, Hoomes has directed over 150 productions of opera and music theatre in the U.S., South America, and Canada.

Tickets for both performances are available from $23, and a discount for students of all ages is available. Tickets may be purchased through or by calling (865) 524-0795, ext. 1.

Based on a 12th-century Persian story, Turandot tells the tale of a coldhearted princess who has vowed never to marry. Any suitor who desires her hand can do so by answering three riddles, but the price of failure is immediate beheading. The exiled prince Calàf is instantly overcome with the princess’s beauty and undertakes the riddle challenge despite the protestations of his father Timur and faithful servant girl Liù. Will Calàf succeed where so many others have failed?

Puccini’s final opera is full of elaborate drama, rich choruses, and breathtaking arias, including the iconic “Nessun dorma,” past sung by musical idols ranging from tenor Luciano Pavarotti to the diva herself, Aretha Franklin. Nashville Opera’s CEO and Artistic Director John Hoomes has

l-r; Othalie Graham and Jonathan Burton
Photos courtesy Reed Hummell, Nashville

taken the trip down I-40 to stage direct, and Maestro Salesky will lead the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and a lauded international cast of singers on the transporting musical journey.

Topping the bill is Canadian-American soprano Othalie Graham, who has received critical acclaim throughout North America for her interpretation of Princess Turandot. Tenor Jonathan Burton – last seen in Knoxville as the painter Cavaradossi in the innovative 2015 production of Tosca – returns to Knoxville Opera as Prince Calàf. Korean soprano Yunnie Park makes her Knoxville Opera debut as the servant girl Liù.

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