Chattanooga Symphony and Opera

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The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, also known as CSO, is a combined symphony orchestra and opera company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the time of the merger in 1985, it was the only such combined organization in the United States.[1]


Chattanooga Symphony[edit]

The Chattanooga Symphony was established when students from Chattanooga High School, led by Melvin Margolin, gave a concert on November 5, 1933, with a few adult musicians from around town.

Borden Jones assisted Margolin in leading the group for its first four years. In 1938, Dr. Arthur Plettner from the Juilliard School became the conductor and would hold that post for the next 11 years.

Julius Hegyi was conductor from 1956 to 1965, when Charles Gabor took over on a temporary basis. He was succeeded by Richard Cormier, who was musical director through the 1983 season.[2]

Chattanooga Opera Company[edit]

The Chattanooga Opera Company was established in 1942, becoming the first opera company in Tennessee.[1] The company gave its first performance in February 1943, a production of Il Trovatore. Founders were Dr. Werner Wolff and his wife Emmy Land Wolff, veterans of German opera who had escaped from Nazi Germany, and Dorothy Hackett Ward of the University of Chattanooga. The cast consisted primarily of local singers, but the Wolffs were well-connected in the opera world and attracted a number of renowned performers to Chattanooga as guest artists. Guest artists included Beverly Sills, Jon Vickers, Norman Treigle, Phyllis Curtin, and Norman Scott.[3][4]

Merged organization[edit]

The Symphony and Opera merged in 1985, becoming the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association. World-class Soviet director Vakhtang Jordania was recruited to become the conductor and artistic director. He was succeeded in 1992 by Robert Bernhardt.[2] Bernhardt left the CSO directorship in April 2011.[5] His successor is Kayoko Dan, who made her debut with the CSO in September 2011.[6] Bernhardt has remained at the CSO as music director emeritus and continues to reside in Chattanooga.[5]


  1. ^ a b Carroll Van West, Opera, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, December 25, 2009; last updated February 23, 2011; accessed June 28, 2011
  2. ^ a b Roy C. Brewer, Symphony Orchestras, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, December 25, 2009; last updated February 28, 2011; accessed June 28, 2011
  3. ^ History, Chattanooga Symphony and Opera website, accessed June 28, 2011
  4. ^ Mildred Perry Miller, Don Giovanni, A Truly Majestic Opera,, January 17, 2006
  5. ^ a b Courter, Barry (April 1, 2011). "Bernhardt exits with 2 concerts 'Bob's Favorite Things,' Mahler's Symphony No. 2". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  6. ^ Wilhoit, Mel R. (September 25, 2011). "New Chattanooga Symphony conductor Kayoko Dan scores triumph in debut at Tivoli". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 3 July 2012.

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