It’s easy to think that there’s something small-town about Knoxville’s performing arts community, but that reputation should be quickly receding. Local opera productions may never rival New York and European performances, but the quality of opera performers who come to Knoxville has been on the rise for the last few years. Knoxville Opera managed to get rising soprano star Rachele Gilmore back for a second performance during this spring’s production of I Puritani, and one of the stars of last year’s KO production of The Barber of Seville, Knoxville native and University of Tennessee grad Kevin Burdette, has just earned a rave in The New York Times for his performance in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress at the Princeton Festival in Princeton, N.J.
“The pace and energy of the performance picked up when the bass Kevin Burdette arrived as the devilish Nick Shadow,” wrote Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini on June 27. Tommasini went on to describe Burdette as “slyly demoniacal,” and wrote that he sang “with earthy power and flair.”
Metro Pulse critic Alan Sherrod noted Burdette’s ability in April 2010 in his review of The Barber of Seville: “Frankly, Burdette possesses a theatrical ability rarely found on the opera stage,” Sherrod wrote. “When coupled with his incredibly solid, rich bass, it sets him apart as a performer with an exciting future.”