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Marble City Opera's Season of American Opera Premieres

Marble City Opera will produce 3 American operas for our 2021-2022 season. Each opera is written by an American composer, will be sung in English, and explores the experiences of a different marginalized community.

Lily created by: Audrey Babcock

***Regional Premiere***

Celebrated mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock returns to Knoxville (she previously sung the title role in Knoxville Opera’s 2015 production of Carmen) to perform the one-woman opera she created. “Lily” is a bold new theatrical multimedia production featuring the music of Kurt Weill. It follows the fictional cabaret singer Lily Weiss as she claws her way through the cabarets of Berlin, to the brothels of Paris, and finally on a ship bound for America. Marble City Opera’s production will be the first, outside of the New York City premiere.

I Can’t Breathe

by: Leslie Savoy Burrs & Brandon J. Gibson ***World Premiere***

"I Can't Breathe" was inspired by and written in the wake of repeated instances of fatal police brutality perpetrated against African Americans. It tells the stories of six individuals from different walks of life. Lives that are forever changed by innocent interactions with law enforcement gone wrong. It highlights how manners, appearance, education, and not even compliance are enough to protect people of color from a system that too often treats them as inherently dangerous. Six vignettes portray a striking and multi-faceted reflection of the African American experience before coalescing to ask the question, "How many more"?

The Knoxville world premiere is being produced in partnership with the Carpetbag Theatre and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. It features an all-African American creative team featuring Carpetbag Theatre's Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan Clark as stage director; bassoonist, and host of the "Trilloquy" podcast, Garrett McQueen as conductor, in addition to the composer and librettist.

A consortium of four opera companies including Marble City Opera commissioned the work, and it will be produced separately by each company after the world premiere in Knoxville with Marble City Opera.

Partner links:

The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. (

Beck Cultural Exchange Center (

Consortium Companies:

Marble City Opera (

Cleveland Opera Theater (

Opera Columbus (

Pacific Opera Project (

The Copper Queen

by: Clint Borzoni & John de los Santos

***Stage Premiere***

"The Copper Queen" is the dramatic story of Julia Lowell, a resident of The Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1910, who was forced to live in captivity in service to the town's men. A century later, Addison Moore—a stranger to Bisbee—visits Room 315, the site of Julia's tragic suicide, where her ghost now famously roams. This riveting tale—told across the generations—is one of human bondage, furtive romance, secret connections, and ultimately—redemption. The opera won the top prize for Arizona Opera's commission program, Arizona SPARK. It will be presented there as an operatic film in October 2021. Marble City Opera's production will be the first staged live performance of the opera.

Season and individual ticket information will be made available, as well as information on venues by late Summer. For the latest updates visit:

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