By Katherine Karlson
Are you brave enough to face madness and murder, followed by a spooky séance? Tri-Cities Opera is offering you the chills and thrills of an operatic haunted house when it presents Madness and The Medium at its Opera Center this coming weekend (Oct. 21-23).
The two-part event comprises an immersive “haunted” walk-through of the center’s considerable backstage areas, where audience members will encounter pop-up performances of well-known arias in diverse musical and theatrical styles. After a brief intermission in the lobby for some sweet and savory treats, the audience will be seated for a performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s dark masterpiece, The Medium, directed by Jennifer Williams in her TCO debut. Maestro Christian Capocaccia will conduct.
“I want to find three-dimensional stories for each character, and there’s a wealth of information in the score and text,” Williams said.
“It (The Medium) is about searching for intimacy. It’s theatrically visceral and requires an unflinching performance,” she added.
Unlike many operas, The Medium debuted at Columbia University, moved to Broadway and then went on a two-year international tour as part of cultural diplomacy after World War II.
The opera takes the listener on a journey between the spirit and material worlds, especially for the title character, Madame Flora, who gets more than she bargained for when trying to contact “the beyond.”
Williams said she finds the role of Toby, the mute boy who assists the medium, an appealing challenge.
“He is unable to speak and has to find alternate ways to express himself. It’s a poignant story of finding ways to connect to other people and explores what communication is,” she said.
The haunted opera house segment will have its own set of surprises when audience members get up-close-and-personal during site-specific performances of favorite arias from the standard repertoire. Williams describes the experience as “Sleep No More meets Halloween.”
“My take is to explore emotions that are complex and powerful. ‘Madness’ is a logical reaction to these strong emotions,” she said.
“Opera gives the audience permission to empathize with these characters and their emotions,” she added.
There is a staggered format for the two-hour event: one group will first take the haunted walking tour, while the next attends the seated performance of The Medium. Limited seating is available during the haunted tour for patrons with mobility issues. Due to the subject matter, which includes violence and abuse, the program is recommended for ages 13 and up.
IF YOU GO: Tri-Cities Opera presents Madness and The Medium Oct. 21-23 at the TCO Opera Center, 315 Clinton St., Binghamton. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday performances are at 3 and 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 (including reception) or $40 (not including reception) and can be purchased at email@example.com, or by calling the box office at 607-772-0400 weekdays between noon and 5 p.m.