By Barb Van Atta
Why is Tri-Cities Opera celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber this weekend instead of Verdi or Puccini? Aren’t opera aficionados always chiding folks for claiming they’ve been to an opera just because they saw Phantom?
Well, as TCO’s John Rozzoni pointed out recently, Lloyd Webber’s music is “opera adjacent.” Opera is all about magnificence of the human voice, he explained, and many of Webber’s works require the same technique and talent as operatic arias.
Opera-adjacent music, Rozzoni said, can be “gateway” music, bringing in new audience members who, later, will turn to opera as they seek more opportunities to appreciate the human voice.
“We are expanding to the community for the survival of the art form,” he said.
TCO will open its 2023-34 season Friday (Sept. 22) with “Celebrating 75: An Andrew Lloyd Webber Revue.” The program, in honor of the composer’s 75th birthday, will be repeated Saturday in Syracuse. TCO and Syracuse Opera are sister companies, pooling their resources and sharing expenses, but not revenue, said Rozzoni, who serves as general director of both companies.
In these uncertain financial times, he explained, the cooperative effort keeps both opera companies viable and able to continue their mission of bringing beautiful music to their respective communities.
“Celebrating 75” will feature selections from Lloyd Webber’s most iconic musicals, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera and Cats. The same performers will appear both in Binghamton, at United Presbyterian Church, and in Syracuse.
Special guests will be Alex Bronchetti, Toni Carrington and TCO/Syracuse Opera Media and Artistic Liaison Alexandra Deshorties (who is coming out of performance retirement to sing “Memory” from Cats). Soloists also singing in ensembles include the four 2023-24 Resident Artists — Janine Dworin, Kyrie Laybourn, James Siarris and Felix Aguilar Tomlinson — as well as Kevin Bryant, Matthew Merolla and Christina Taylor. Danel Vaglica also is an ensemble performer.
Besides the Lloyd Webber concert, the TCO 2023-24 season includes four fully-staged productions and the annual “Opera and Beer” event, another opera-adjacent program that features musical theater as well as operatic selections in a casual atmospher. The four staged shows are I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, Oct. 13 and 15; All Is Calm, Dec. 17, and The Fantasticks, Feb. 9 and 11, 2024, all at the Opera Center, 315 Clinton St., Binghamton, and The Barber of Seville, April 21 at The Forum 236 Washington St., Binghamton.
Two tiers of subscriptions are available, one including only the four staged shows and the other including the staged shows, the Lloyd Webber concert and “Opera and Beer” on May 23, 2024, at Factory at Beer Tree Brew in Johnson City. Individual tickets also are available.
IF YOU GO: “Celebrating 75: An Andrew Lloyd Webber Revue” is at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 22) at United Presbyterian Church, 42 Chenango St., Binghamton. Tickets are $25 and $35; visit www.tricitiesopera.com/celebrating75/.