Knoxville, TN - Knoxville Opera’s 40th Anniversary Season celebration commences in grand style with a Gala Concert, sponsored by Dr. Sharon Lord, honoring eight new members of the Knoxville Opera Hall of Fame.  The event will take place at the Bijou Theatre, location of the company’s first performance on November 3, 1978 (La Traviata starring Mary Costa).  The concert will feature opera stars Rochelle Bard, Catherine Daniel, Aaron Short, and Scott Bearden along with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Brian Salesky.  Program highlights include Wagner’s exciting Ride of the Valkyries, the extraordinary Confrontation Scene from Mary Queen of Scots, and twelve additional selections including works by Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, Bizet, Lehar, Offenbach and others.


“Our 40th Anniversary Gala Concert will offer the “greatest hits” of the opera world – selections from operas so tremendous that we may never see them produced locally,” said Bryan Salesky, Executive Director and Conductor of Knoxville Opera. “It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience in person locally these outstanding selections from some of the most famous and followed operas of all time.”


“Opera is one of the most culturally rich art forms but also is incredibly accessible across our community, from Knoxville Opera’s free offerings to ticketed events,” continued Salesky. “Our 40th Anniversary Gala Concert tickets start at $23, making it one of the most affordable live entertainment offerings of the year in Knoxville.”


The Knoxville Opera Hall of Fame recognizes exceptional service and financial support to the company.  The eight new Hall of Fame inductees are The Aslan Foundation, Betsey Richards Bush, Dr. Michelle Lanter Brewer, Pilot Flying J, Peggy J. Sood, Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout, Andrew Wentzel, and Jackie Wilson. Brief profiles of the honorees appear below. They join 32 existing members of the Hall of Fame, begun in 1993.


Tickets to the concert and reception may be purchased through Knoxville Opera at (865) 524-0795, ext. 1.

Tickets start at $23

About Knoxville Opera - Knoxville Opera’s mission is to provide the residents of East Tennessee with high quality, locally produced opera and related educational and community programs.  The company, founded in 1978, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose activities are made possible, in part, by generous major funding from the Aslan Foundation, Knoxville Opera Guild, Tennessee Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, The Fifth Commandment Fund, Pilot Flying J, Regal Cinemas, Knox County, Dr. Sharon Lord, The Sood Family, City of Knoxville, Robert H. & Monica M. Cole Foundation, YMCA Knoxville, and Home Federal Bank.




To schedule interviews with Maestro Salesky, the artists, and Hall of Fame members, please contact Michael Torano.


Attachments:    Profiles of 8 new KO Hall of Fame inductees

List of previous 32 KO Hall of Fame members





Hall of Fame Class of 2017


In 2014, THE ASLAN FOUNDATION of Knoxville gave Knoxville Opera the largest grant in the company’s history: $750,000 over a five year period.  Prior to bestowing this grant, The Aslan Foundation had already contributed $75,000 to the company since 2001. This extraordinary investment has resulted in a dramatic increase in the company’s Operating Reserve and the quality of Knoxville Opera’s productions, artists, and education/outreach presentations. During the current and past two seasons, The Aslan Foundation will have provided 1,600 free tickets for students to attend Knoxville Opera staged performances. 


DR. MICHELLE LANTER BREWER served on the Knoxville Opera Board of Directors from 2010 through 2017, serving as Chair 2013 – 2015. During her tenure Michelle worked diligently on many Board committees, assisted the Knoxville Opera Guild in its activities, was a hands-on volunteer at the Rossini Festival, and created the unique fundraising event Boots and Bustiers. Michelle’s contributions have included sponsorships of many Guild events including the Opera Ball. She has also been an exemplary ambassador for the company in many areas including her supportive relationships with visiting artists, enrolling new Board members, and audience recruitment.


BETSEY RICHARDS BUSH served on the Knoxville Opera Board of Directors, participating in a variety of committees from 2009 through 2015. Betsey was a significant financial supporter of the company having contributed over $110,000. In acknowledgement of her inspiring spirit and significant philanthropy to the arts in Knoxville, Betsey was elected as an Honorary Director in 2015 and will remain so in perpetuity.


PILOT FLYING J has been a cornerstone business sponsor of Knoxville Opera during the past two decades having contributed over $500,000.  For more than 30 years, under the leadership of its founder James Haslam II, Pilot Flying J has been responsible for millions of dollars of support to the arts in Knoxville, for which everyone in East Tennessee has benefitted. Pilot Flying J, head-quartered in Knoxville, is the largest purveyor of over-the-road diesel fuel in the United States and the largest Travel Center chain in the country.


PEGGY J. SOOD began her relationship with Knoxville Opera more than 30 years ago as a chorister. Since that time, Peggy has hosted and underwritten many Opera activities, sponsored Guild events including the Opera Ball, and served on the Knoxville Opera Board of Directors from 2005 through 2011.  After retiring from the Board, her son Maharaj and daughter-in-law Margaret have served on the Board. Peggy has been an enthusiastic ambassador and supporter of Knoxville Opera for decades including over $135,000 of donations.


DR. MONROE AND SANDRA TROUT began their distinguished relationship with Knoxville Opera with $50,000 as the Founding Sponsors of the Rossini Festival in 2001. In celebration of Knoxville Opera’s largest Education/Outreach event, the Trouts annually hosted a party in their home for the combined casts of the KO and UT Opera Theatre spring productions. Between 2002 and 2015 Sandra served on the Knoxville Opera and Knoxville Opera Guild Boards of Directors. Over the years the Trouts have contributed generously to many arts organizations in Knoxville including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Knoxville Opera.


ANDREW WENTZEL has made an indelible imprint on Knoxville Opera since his tenure as Professor of Voice at the University of Tennessee began in 1996.  At UT as a voice teacher and Director of their Knoxville Opera Studio program, Andrew has nurtured hundreds of students including their participation in over 1,000 Knoxville Opera Education/Outreach presentations and opera productions.  Bringing the prestige of his professional career including performances at The Metropolitan Opera, Andrew has made memorable appearances in principal roles in Knoxville Opera productions of La Cenerentola, Don Giovanni, Mozart Opera Gala, La Bohème, Three Tenors Gala, La Forza del Destino, Lucia di Lammermoor, Manon, Roméo et Juliette, H.M.S. Pinafore, and The Pirates of Penzance.  During his two six-year terms on the Board of Directors in addition to his personal financial contributions he has served as a crucial champion of Knoxville Opera endeavors at UT and as Chair of the Board’s Artistic Committee.


JACKIE WILSON has the distinction of having served the Knoxville Opera and Knoxville Opera Guild Boards of Directors without pause from 2003 through 2016.  She is one of only two who has served as the leader of both organizations. Jackie has been a tireless volunteer and substantial contributor. During her time on the Boards, there was hardly any Knoxville Opera or Knoxville Opera Guild event that did not benefit from her passionate involvement. Jackie was critical in the survival of the company in 2005, and in the engagement of Brian Salesky as the company’s fourth Executive Director and Conductor.