What: Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
Venue website: www.chattanoogaonstage.com.
Paul O'Neill is nothing if not passionate about his projects, seeing them not just as a source of income but as vehicles for ideas he believes the world desperately needs.
As the creator and producer of the internationally renowned prog-rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra, O'Neill has delivered these messages to more than 7 million people in the last 17 years via a series of over-the-top rock operas.
The underlying message of the group's production "Beethoven's Last Night," which recounts a battle of wills between the titular composer and the devil, is one of indomitable faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
That kind of uplifting idea is something O'Neill said he believes the world could use more of lately.
"People need hope right now, and 'Beethoven's Last Night' has that, along with great stories and great music," he said. "You look at your life, and your house has lost 30 percent of its value, but it beats ... being a deaf piano player whose doctor is giving him mercury. What Beethoven triumphed over blows my mind."
After three years of touring "Beethoven's Last Night," TSO is performing the show's final run of dates, which will include a stop Wednesday at Memorial Auditorium.
In 1995, O'Neill conceived the idea for a touring company combining the scale of a Broadway production with the energy and verve of a stadium rock opera in the vein of a production by Pink Floyd or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. TSO was built on that concept, and its productions have become well-known for their elaborate special effects, a bullpen of more than 20 lead vocalists and high-energy rock interpretations of classic melodies.
The battle for audiences' attention and income has become increasingly uphill, as other forms of entertainment compete for their free time, but even though building a new group like TSO is no longer feasible, O'Neill said failure is not an option.
The key to the success for a show on TSO's scale is continuing to innovate, even if it means retiring a popular production like "Beethoven's Last Night" in favor of a new project, a hybrid theater/concert format O'Neill said will begin touring next year.
"Not touring 'Beethoven' will sadden me a little bit," O'Neill admitted. "We just keep moving ahead. No guts, no glory. We know it's going to be difficult, but as my grandmother used to say, 'Paul, if it were easy, everyone would do it.' "