Knoxville, TN: A former NFL player will be on stage singing one of the lead roles when the Knoxville Opera Company presents Norma next week.  The only two opera companies staging Bellini's rarely performed gem this year are Knoxville Opera and The Metropolitan Opera in NYC.
"The overwhelming passions of three intense characters inspired Vincenzo Bellini's tragic masterpiece, featuring some of the most ravishing and dramatic music ever composed." said Knoxville Opera Executive Director Brian Salesky.
The opera features Norma's glorious "Casta diva", the Druids' dramatic War Chorus, and the gorgeous Norma - Adalgisa duets.  Performing the beautiful, yet incredibly difficult roles in the production are Rochelle Bard (Norma), Ta'u Pupu'a (Pollione), and J'nai Bridges (Adalgisa).  Ta'u is no stranger to the spotlight or crowds as he's a former defensive end for the NFL's Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens whose career-ending injury led him to his true passion of music.
"I'm very blessed to have two talents and was encouraged by friends and others from my church to pursue my gift of voice.  After the NFL, I packed one suitcase and went on faith (courage came later) to New York where I was fortunate enough to get into Julliard." said Pupu'a.
The opera's story is a triangle of forbidden love against the backdrop of war between the Gauls and the Romans in 50 B.C.E.  Norma, the Druid Priestess, has betrayed her vows of chastity in liaison with the conquering Roman governor, who is now entangled in an affair with a younger priestess.  Unable to protect her people against the Romans and humiliated by her own actions, Norma throws herself into the flames of the sacrificial pyre.
Tickets are still available as Knoxville Opera presents The Fifth Commandment Fund production of Bellini's Norma on Friday, April 11th at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 13th at 2:30 pm at the magnificent Tennessee Theatre with seats starting at only $10.  This production is presented in Italian with projected English translations.  An opera preview hosted by Maestro Salesky begins 45 minutes prior to performances.  For ticket information, visit or call 865-524-0795.