April 26, 2010

ABOUT 20,000 PEOPLE (INCLUDING THE INSTA-DAUGHTER) ATTENDED Knoxville’s Rossini Festival, while Jack Neely notes that country music may have started out as a backlash to Knoxville’s enthusiasm for opera: “By the early 1880s, Knoxville was hosting extravagant ‘Music Festivals,’ held every spring. Touting itself as ‘the little Paris of the United States,’ Knoxville emphasized European opera above all else, concentrated around Staub’s Opera House, which was on the southeast corner of Gay Street and Cumberland. Significant stars of opera and classical music from New York, Philadelphia, and Boston would take the train to Knoxville for a pleasant weekend of music, some of it outdoors at Chilhowee Park. . . . Back then, opera was believed to inflame the passions of hot-blooded youth, and they weren’t crazy about their youngsters putting on European airs. In May, 1883, some older folks staged a sort of anti-opera counter festival, featuring some down-home fiddle music on an afternoon at Staub’s when there were no sopranos scheduled. It’s the earliest example of country music being played on a public stage I’ve been able to find.”

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