‘Trovatore’ returns triumphantly to TCO repertoire

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

You can see why there’s been so much fun made of Il Trovatore – even the Marx Brothers took a crack at it. Its crazy plot, set in the mountains of Spain, includes a gypsy’s curse, a child tossed into a fire, switched identities, several vows of vengeance, duels, madness, mayhem, poisonings, burnings at the stake, brothers who hate each other (who don’t know they’re brothers —  and that’s just on the personal level. On the larger scale, you’ve got battles and armies and bravado and nationalism and lots of bloodshed.
But if you succeed at suspending your disbelief, and discount the ridiculous plot twists, the  1853 Giuseppe Verdi opera affords you the most memorable few hours you’ll ever spend in a theater (in my case, The Forum in downtown Binghamton). Read the rest of this entry »

‘La Bohème’ still offers lyric lessons of love and loss

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

I attended Wednesday’s final dress rehearsal (Oct. 24) of Giacomo Puccini’s operatic masterpiece La Bohème, and while there were a few kinks yet to iron out, it was beautiful and musically fulfilling. Tri-Cities Opera will present two performances this weekend with an overall strong cast. No dress rehearsal is without its challenges; at times, the orchestra overshadowed the principals, especially in ensemble. The excellent chorus was ahead of the maestro during the festive second act, and lighting cues were continuing to be adjusted. Still, all this should be worked out, and even if it isn’t, the production merits enough positives to please even the most hardcore opera lover. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong principals help make TCO’s ‘Flute’ a winner

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

How can you lose with Mozart? You can’t. I attended the final dress rehearsal Wednesday evening for Tri-Cities Opera’s production of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and was not disappointed. All of the principals were strong with a few standouts. No surprise here that the orchestra also was excellent under the firm hand of Maestro John Mario Di Costanzo. The overture, a signature piece, was worth the price of admission. Read the rest of this entry »

You’d be mad to miss TCO’s stunning ‘Lucia’

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

Mayhem …
Madness …
Melodrama …
Magic …
The Tri-Cities Opera production of Lucia Di Lammermoor is a masterpiece, from the first fate-laden notes of the overture to the last fate-fulfilled note of the finale. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Madame Butterfly’ soars at Tri-Cities Opera

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd

I was delighted to be in the audience Friday night (Oct. 21) for a stunning moment in Binghamton’s cultural history. I knew the Tri-Cities Opera production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly would be good, just not how good. And that was mostly due to Jake and Jill Gardner, who sang the leading roles of Cio-Cio-San and Sharpless. Sorry if this seems like a list of superlatives, but here we go: Read the rest of this entry »

Gardners’ return forms bridge between past and future at TCO

By Barb Van Atta

In 1999, rising Tri-Cities Opera soprano Jill Bowen was slated to sing her first Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Her future husband, longtime TCO favorite Jake Gardner, hoped to reprise the role of Sharpless while making his directorial debut. Suffice it to say, life does not always go according to plan. Although Jill sang all five performances, Jake wasn’t involved in the production. Read the rest of this entry »

TCO’s ‘Hoffmann’ is a tapestry of delights

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

Tri-Cities Opera concludes its season this weekend with a lush and haunting interpretation of Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. When I attended the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday (April 27), there were a few rough spots and some stop-and-go, but, overall, it is another excellent production with a fine cast and a stunning orchestra led by John Mario Di Costanzo. Read the rest of this entry »

Gardners return to TCO to open 2011-2012 season

At a press conference yesterday (April 19), Tri-Cities Opera officially announced its 2011-2012 season: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (Oct. 21 and 23, 2011), Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (Feb. 10 and 12, 2012)  and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (April 27 and 29).  The season opener will feature the TCO  return of Jill and Jake Gardner; she will sing the title role, and he will both stage the production and sing the role of Sharpless. All performances will be at The Forum in Binghamton under the baton of TCO Music and Associate Artistic Director John Mario DiCostanzo. Read the rest of this entry »

Were you art-full this past week?

Season subscriber that I am, I spent Sunday afternoon with Violetta and her crew at TCO’s lovely production of “La Traviata.” (See review below.) I’ve also been savoring all the award-winning  movies that TCM annually broadcasts as a lead-up to the Oscars. And speaking of films on TV, HBO subscribers should try to catch “The Sunset Limited,” based on a  play by Cormac McCarthy. This dialogue-driven two-man show about faith (or lack thereof) is a great addition to Tommy Lee Jones’ canon of top-notch performances and a strong reminder of what a wonderful actor  Samuel L. Jackson can be when he’s not asked to carry a lightsaber or spew a string of curses.
What’s been art-full in your life this past week? Join the conversation.

TCO ‘La Traviata’ is a feast for the ear and eye

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

Attending Tri-Cities Opera’s final dress rehearsal Wednesday (Feb. 9) for Giuseppe Verdi’s perennial favorite, La Traviata, I did not believe this production could surpass the excellence of last fall’s Cosi Fan Tutte. I was wrong. What maestro John Mario Di Costanzo has done is to, literally, transform the opera’s orchestra to such a high level of playing that it’s hard to imagine these already fine musicians could sound even better. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

TCO’s ‘Cosi’ is a must-see

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

 If there were any concerns about the effect of what General Director Reed Smith has described as the “significant changes” made this year by our local opera company, they clearly were dispelled last evening (Oct. 13) as I witnessed the final dress rehearsal for Mozart’s delightful “Cosi Fan Tutte” at The Forum. Tri-Cities Opera’s production officially opens Friday (Oct. 15).

Under John Mario Di Costanzo, the already-fine TCO orchestra never has sounded better. The playing was much tighter, cleaner and brighter than in some of the past productions I have seen. Di Costanzo’s attention to detail in every aspect of the score brought a crisper realization of Mozart’s brilliant writing for instruments and his understanding of the human voice. After a marvelous reading of the opera’s overture (the theme of which is repeated near the end of the opera), Di Costanzo, TCO’s new music and associate artistic director, was consistent throughout in guiding the musicians to realize a nearly perfect ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »

TCO names stage director for fall show

 Nelson Sheeley has been engaged as stage director for Tri-Cities Opera’s production of “Così fan tutte,” which will be presented Oct. 15 and 17 at The Forum in Binghamton.  Sheeley was most recently stage director at Lake George Opera. He also has  directed at the National Opera Compay, Opera Naples, Whitewater and Sorg Operas, Nevada Opera and the Orchestra of St. Lukes. He has worked in professional theater since 1970 as an actor, director and stage manager.

The announcement today (Aug. 27) was described in a TCO press release as an “unusual change in the production staff (that) occurred as a result of the unexpected late withdrawal by (former TCO Artistic Director) Peter Sicilian.”

“We were very sorry that Mr. Sicilian decided not to go forward with us as our stage director as we had planned,” said TCO General Director Reed W. Smith. “We’re delighted that we could retain Mr. Sheeley’s services. His experience is vast and will fit in nicely with our company and our Resident Artist Training Program.”

John Mario Di Costanzo has been engaged as music director for the entire 2010-2011 TCO season, which also includes “La Traviata” (with Guido LeBron) and “The Tales of Hoffman.”