120-Year Old Tabasco Opera Comes To Tennessee

Conductor Paul Mauffray Revives Original Opera With CSO

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Orleans conductor Paul Mauffray will revive excerpts from the “Tabasco” opera with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera on Sunday, Sept. 27. The lighthearted comedic operetta was originally performed in Chattanooga during a nationwide tour in 1894. In homage to that tour, Mr. Mauffray returns to the city with newly reconstructed scenes that have not been performed in more than 120 years. 

The “Tabasco” opera was originally produced as a fundraiser for the First Corps of Cadets, a volunteer militia in Boston. The opera was so well received that producer Thomas Q. Seabrooke took the musical on a nationwide tour in 1894. When the composer George Whitefield Chadwick discovered that Seabrooke had been making unauthorized changes to the content of the opera (even attempting to leave out the Tabasco sauce) and that Seabrooke was not sending the composer his royalties, he forced performances to stop, and the music was locked away and never heard again. 

On a mission to understand the history of opera in New Orleans, Louisiana, native Mr. Mauffray uncovered a vocal score of “Tabasco,” which eventually led him to track down the full, hand-written autograph score.  Mr. Mauffray conducted the operetta for the first time last year in partnership with McIlhenny Company as “A Taste of Tabasco,” following several years of working tirelessly to reconstruct the opera. The “Tabasco” opera will have a second performance, featuring newly reconstructed music, on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m. with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. 

The full “Tabasco” opera – set in Tangiers – follows a shipwrecked Irish sailor as he searches for an acceptable spicy ingredient for an Ottoman ruler’s lunch. The original opera was composed by George Whitefield Chadwick and follows the style of Gilbert & Sullivan, Johann Strauss, John Phillip Sousa and Stephen Foster. 

“At McIlhenny Company, we embrace and take pride in our 145-year history, in which the Tabasco opera has a special role,” said Tony Simmons, McIlhenny president and CEO and fifth-generation family member. “We are pleased to support Paul Mauffray as he continues to bring to life one of the more musical moments in our history.” 

A native of Louisiana, Mr. Mauffray studied classical music and jazz at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He began conducting while studying at Louisiana State University and abroad in Germany and the Czech Republic. After 15 years of professional conducting in Europe with orchestras  and in opera houses primarily in Prague, Bratislava, Lyon, Salzburg, and Vienna, he earned his graduate degree in conducting from Indiana University and has since conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and frequently performs with a violin-soloist from the Vienna Philharmonic. 

For this performance, Mr. Mauffray will conduct vocalists Caitlin Hammon, Jake Thomason, Steven Scheschareg, Nora Graham Smith and Brandon Gibson, and musicians from the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. 

The concert will be held at the Volkswagen Conference Center, 7351 Volkswagen Dr. 

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