The 44-year-old Michael Torano, director of marketing for Knoxville Opera, is one of 22 bachelors being auctioned to benefit Friends of Literacy on March 14. Donors can also cast votes for their favorite as Knoxville's Most Eligible Bachelor by donating online at friendsofliteracy.org before the event.
What's your idea of the perfect person to win your auction?
The one with the highest bid! No, hopefully someone who would like to spend an afternoon/evening with me, is willing to laugh and enjoy each other's company.
How much do you think a date with you is worth on the auction block?
Well, the package I'm working on so far is worth over $1,000, and hopefully my company makes it worth at least that much—should I juggle flaming chainsaws as well?
Does working for the opera make you extra-romantic?
I'd say yes. I'm actually a bit—a bit, not much—of a romantic already, and having seen 14 live opera productions and a handful of opera concerts the past four years has taught me a few things about romance and love. I also learned some about the overly dramatic side—stabbing your husband to death on your wedding night, saving your lover from a hanging while on horseback, and so forth. The dramatic is something I aspire to distance myself from, of course—save the horseback scene, that was pretty cool—but one thing is absolutely true: Love is love. There is no differentiation from the love experienced 400 years ago or what occurred last week. It is timeless. It can be breathtaking, dramatic, and completely overwhelming. It can start with a casual glance, it can end with gunfire or sharing sunsets on a porch. I'm aiming for the porch, however.
How did you come to work with Knoxville Opera?
My family moved here six years ago from Phoenix by way of Corpus Christi, by way of Dallas. I've been in the marketing and advertising industry for 26 years and sold one of my businesses two years after moving to Knoxville. I suddenly found myself here without knowing hardly anyone. A friend of a friend, was involved with Knoxville Opera as a Board member of the Guild and suggested that I get to know people in Knoxville by helping the opera with its marketing efforts. The Maestro and I had a brief phone conversation followed by a series of interviews with several members of the Board and the Executive Director. I remember very clearly, them asking me "So what do you know about opera?" My response: "Nothing." Awkward pause in the room. Then, "Have you ever been to an opera?" "No." More awkward pause before I responded, "It appears to me, however that opera is a bit lacking in the young professional demographic. Your audience is dwindling (actually, I think I said ‘dying'), and I believe you need to recruit the next generation of opera lovers. This is a product like anything else and you need to bring it to the masses and I believe I can help with that." For some damn reason, they hired me and I've grown to love opera.
Did they have to work hard to get you to be a bachelor?
Not too hard. You know how these things work. The right person asks you for help with a project and you're willing to maim an astronaut to help them. I've learned that one in 12 Knox County adults cannot read or write above a sixth-grade level and that one in eight adults do not have a GED or high-school education. This affects our economy, labor force, and the quality of life in our beautiful community. Shouldn't everyone be able to complete a job application, read medical instructions, or help their children with their homework? This is why I agreed to hit the stage and hopefully raise a few bucks for Friends of Literacy. The package I'm working on will include wine tours, limo service, a great meal, cocktails, and probably a bit of outdoor adventure. I will likely also include tickets to the opera and VIP passes to Rossini Festival as an extra bonus. Any takers?
What's your favorite date music?
I heard once before that you will always listen to the same music you did when you were in high school. I love classic and album rock, old school rap, country, and even pop and top 40 music, especially from the '80s. Some exceptions to the rule of high school would be my admiration for swing, orchestra, and big band music from the 30's and rock from the '60s-'70s. I certainly wasn't attending high school back then but "Long Cool Woman" (the Hollies), and "Black Betty" (Ram Jam) are two of my all-time favorites. I listen to opera in the car sometimes as it's beautiful and extremely soothing. I can't road-trip more than 10 hours without listening to the entire soundtrack from "Evita". Okay, that's not opera, but who's keeping score?
Your bachelor bio says to ask, so what about this degree in "barbecology"?
Okay, I've been saying that for many years and absolutely no one has ever asked me what it really means. I'm a Texan. I'm a male. Boys aren't even allowed to enter the 10th grade without knowing how to grill and smoke meat. Under no circumstances can you attend a post-high school education program without a test of your grilling abilities. At least not in Texas.
Do you expect your bidders to be into opera?
I expect nothing from my date other than to be willing to laugh, complete a sentence, and maybe rub my feet after. Really, I don't have any expectations but I'm hoping someone will bid on me. This way, I'll have a date. Single isn't my friend.
To preview the bachelors, vote with donations, and buy event tickets: friendsofliteracy.org or call 865-549-7007.