Joint fundraiser to benefit TCO and The Forum

Barbara Fiala and Friends of the Forum

r-l Barbara Fiala, TCO Director Reed Smith, Forum Friends Ron Sall and Sue Kirkland, TCO Board Member Dr. Michael Bogdasarian

Tri-Cities Opera and the Friends of the Forum are teaming up Saturday, Feb. 5, for what is being billed as a “gala cocktail party fundraiser” to benefit the Friends’ efforts to finance improvements to the downtown Binghamton theater. Invitations already have been sent to TCO subscribers, but the event, built around an “operalogue” preview of TCO’s upcoming production of La Traviata, was announced to the general public today (Jan. 13) at a press conference on the Forum stage, hosted by Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala.

“I love this theater,” Fiala said of the onetime vaudeville house and movie theater now managed by the county as a performing arts center. “We want to preserve it and even make it better.”

The Friends of the Forum, comprised of government, business and cultural leaders, began in 2009. A previous fund-raising event, tied to the Broadway Theatre League’s presentation of Mamma Mia!, brought in $50,000, Fiala said. The opera collaboration is on a smaller scale; however, TCO General Director Reed Smith expressed hope that it would call attention to the “distinctive cultural experience” of attending a performance in The Forum.

“It is truly integral to the community,” Smith said of the theater, which has served as home to TCO since 1975.

Ron Sall, chairman of the Arena and Forum Board of Directors, praised the unique nature of both The Forum and the opera company. However, as he pointed out, “a theater this age needs some TLC.”

Working with the Friends of the Forum, Sall encouraged participation in a campaign to replace The Forum’s seating. Persons who donate $250 to “Take Your Seat” will be honored with a name plate on the arm of a chair. TCO, Broadway Theatre League and Binghamton Philharmonic subscribers have, on a first-come/first-serve basis, the option to buy the seats that correspond with their season subscriptions.

Running from 6 to 10 p.m., the fundraiser will feature cocktails and “an elegant and expansive menu” of hors d’oeuvres combined with a “behind the scenes” look at La Traviata, including backstage and on-set tours. The “operalogue” at 8 p.m., hosted by TCO Music and Associate Artistic Director John Mario Di Costanzo, will introduce stage director Laura Alley and showcase such cast members as Guido LeBrón, Kirk Dougherty and Victoria Cannizzo. The evening will conclude with a dessert buffet.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $95, and all attendees will receive a $45 voucher good toward the purchase of tickets to La Traviata (Feb. 11 and 13) or The Tales of Hoffmann (April 29 and May 1). Some price adjustment can be made for subscribers who do not want a voucher, but Smith and the TCO staff are encouraging paying the full amount and using the voucher as a gift, thus helping to introduce opera, TCO and The Forum to new audience members. He pointed out that Traviata is the romantic tragedy that brought Julia Roberts to tears in Pretty Woman, and it is being performed by TCO right before Valentine’s Day.

For tickets, call the Broome County Executive Office: (607) 778-2109 by Jan. 28.

The fundraiser ticket is substantially more than the usual Operalogue admission, but Smith stressed that this event is a one-time occurrence. For “Tales of Hoffmann,” the Operalogue will return to its usual cost and location (the Opera Center at 315 Clinton St., Binghamton). And, as always, it will be broadcast on WSKG prior to the opera performances; tune in at 9 p.m.  Tuesday, Feb. 8.

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