Go! Contemporary Danceworks, Rossini Festival, Downtown Knoxville, April 2022
Through howling winds and driving rainstorms, and now through a pandemic, Knoxville Opera’s Rossini Festival has persisted over the years. It got a well-deserved beautiful day for 2022 in a slightly different footprint than its traditional spot. Rather than lined up the length of Gay Street, the festival occupied the 600 and 700 blocks, the parking lot beside the Bijou Theatre, a strip of Church Avenue, and the length of Market Street back to Market Square, as well as a bit of Union Avenue.
As with so many returning events, the highlight of the day was simply that it is happening. The presence of a few masks among the crowd was the only indication that this is a different era. While Rossini is always joyful, this one had a bit more of a bounce to its step. The great weather, awesome smells, and great music really do make for a fun day.
I’ll be honest, I like this footprint. Walking down Gay Street used to be difficult during the festival and with this set-up, the vendors are more spread out and Gay Street (which was closed to through traffic) felt better than ever. The placement of the stages left room audiences and the music didn’t overlap. It felt a bit like unearthing little sonic surprises along the way.
The range of music presented feels important to me. So many young performers got to make their music in front of large and appreciated crowds, while children at the festival were exposed to music they’d like never encountered before, and that seems like a very good thing. It’s not in the typical course of most of our lives that we encounter high quality opera on the street, or trumpet ensembles, and choral music. Outside of church, you have to really hunt to find choral music.
I was fortunate enough to hear a bit of the ETSU Ascension Choral Ensemble and they were excellent. Their version of “Love Shack” was wickedly good. I hope there is an avenue for them to continue to sing after they graduate from college.
I made a point to listen to the entire performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus, which is special to me for many reasons, one of which is the fact that my brother was a member. I first heard them perform when they were very new, in the spring of 2013. They performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that day and having recently lost my mother, it wiped me out. They performed it again on Saturday to similar effect. Consider picking up tickets to one of their two performances on June 4 at the Bijou.
I had a break between that performance and Go! Contemporary Danceworks, so I took the opportunity to enjoy a beverage from Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens, sitting on the patio watching people roll by. It’s good to through a little support to the businesses surrounding the festivals. While the festivals are great, the other businesses are working it week-in and week-out. I highly recommend the Citrine Cocktail.
I ended my Rossini with the Go! Contemporary Danceworks and they were wonderful, as always. Often ready with a surprise, they danced to music I couldn’t have imagined, like “In the Pines,” and other bluegrass-oriented songs. And, of course, they made it work beautifully. They always do.
It was a great event, and much thanks goes to Knoxville Opera for presenting it and for supporting such a range of music and dance. Knoxville has such a depth of talent, and it is nice to see it celebrated. And we are happy to be able to celebrate together, once more. The complete photos are included below. Click for a full-size image.