Hageman home is stage for opera intro

When Blount Countain Melissa Nance, marketing and public relations director of the Knoxville Opera Company, wanted to raise awareness of the opera in Blount County’s neighboring Knoxville, Linda and John Hageman volunteered their Louisville home for a preview party more out of friendship than operatic experience.

As their home filled with the powerful and beautiful voices of Daniel Webb and Joey Dememo and their guests stood mesmerized by the two’s performance, Linda whispered to a guest, "This is amazing."

Linda and John plan to be at the opening of "Carmen" on May 4 at the Tennessee Theater, along with Tab and Kristi Burkhalter, who are not strangers to the art, Kristi having been musically trained from childhood.

Brian Salesky, director of the Knoxville Opera Company, accompanied the two singers on a keyboard. He is interested, he said, in expanding the reach of the Knoxville Opera Company, hoping music lovers in neighboring counties will understand that the opera company is a regional professional company and is theirs, too, he said.

And Salesky is keeping things fresh for the more seasoned opera lovers as well. First, this production of "Carmen" is part of the Rossini Festival that spans the weekend in Knoxville with performances, a street fair and other activities. And, Salesky has added special treat to the "Carmen" performance. Flamingo dancers and guitarist are part of the performance.

The crowd at the Hageman home was a mix of opera-lovers and novices. All received a special treat with the performances of Webb and Dememo. The two are graduate students at the University of Tennessee, with Webb finishing this semester and Dememo finishing her first year. They are members of the Knoxville Opera Studio Artists, and they not only performed but stayed to answer a barrage of questions about opera, their future plans and opportunities available to music students at UT and in Knoxville.

The evening was capped off with a dinner fit for the holidays - thick and rare roast beef, a golden turkey, all the trimmings and desserts too rich to mention.

Kristi Burkhalter assisted Linda with the preparations, food, and fun.

Tickets to the Knoxville Opera’s performances of "Carmen" are still available for both Friday evening and Sunday performances. To check availability, go to www.knoxvilleopera.com or call 865-524-0795.

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