It has been more than 70 years since cowboy entertainer Tom Mix and his horse took center stage at the Tennessee Theatre. After this prolonged absence, horses will be a featured highlight in Knoxville Opera’s upcoming Wells Fargo Advisors production of Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West.
The musical drama exploring the 1849 California Gold Rush presents an opportunity for Knoxville to experience opera and horses. Opera singers will make their entrances and exits on quarter-horses from Strong Stock Farm on Rutledge Pike.
Horses are just one of the production’s many elements designed to depict an authentic recreation of life as it was in a small, mountain mining camp. The action includes gunfights, poker, whiskey and cigars, a sheriff, a Wells-Fargo agent, Native Americans and a blizzard.
The story, about the saloon owner Minnie who saves the life of her bandit lover in a poker scene, is based on David Belasco’s 1905 play which was subsequently made into four movies, including the 1938 Hollywood musical The Girl of the Golden West starring Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. When the opera first premiered at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 1910, the world’s most famous Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, starred as the infamous Ramerrez.
Fans of Phantom of the Opera will recognize a major theme from that musical, which Andrew Lloyd Webber plagiarized from Puccini’s brilliant score.
The opera is a marriage of music and a slice of Americana, combined with an authentic Western storyline. To add to the audience’s experience, the Wells Fargo Stagecoach will be parked in front of the Theatre to welcome patrons and for photo opportunities.
Tickets for performances on Feb. 8 and 10 start at $18 for adults and $13 for students and are available by calling the Knoxville Opera Box Office at 865.524-0795.