By George Basler

Tri-Cities Opera will conclude its 2022-23 season with a work that a 2017 BBC Music Magazine poll named as the greatest opera ever written. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Figaro marks “our full return to big, grand productions” with glorious costumes and sets, TCO General Director John Rozzoni said. It will be performed on Sunday (April 23) at The Forum Theatre in downtown Binghamton.

The comic opera, composed by Mozart in just six weeks, is “the perfect combination” of great music, great depth and great entertainment, said Christian Capocaccia, artistic and music director for Tri-Cities Opera and Syracuse Opera, which are co-producing the production.

“It strikes the balance between entertaining the community and contributing to the cultural development of the community,” Capocaccia added, emphasizing: “At the same time, it’s incredible fun.”

Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, who wrote the libretto, based the opera on a Pierre Beaumarchais 1784 stage comedy that outraged the aristocracy by making fun of the nobility and having servants outwit their masters. To get the emperor’s permission to perform the opera in Vienna, Mozart and Da Ponte had to eliminate some of the play’s more caustic messages about the upper crust.

“The thing about this opera is that Mozart leverages the power of music to tell a convoluted story in a way that becomes accessible,” Capocaccia said. “Music and text are rarely achieved at this level.”

The BBC Music Magazine poll put Figaro at the top of the list after surveying 172 of the world’s greatest opera singers, including tenor Placido Domingo (who,in the early years of his career, performed twice with TCO), sopranos Kiri Te Kanawa and Renee Fleming, and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel. Not only is the opera great, it’s also popular, consistently placing among the 10 most frequently performed operas worldwide.

Featured in the TCO/Syracuse Opera production are five guest artists with national experience, four TCO resident artists in supporting roles, a student from Binghamton University’s Masters in Music Opera Program and a chorus of Binghamton University students and Binghamton and Syracuse community members.

Directing the production is David Radamés Toro, who has worked with companies across the United States and Europe, including Minnesota Opera, the Wexford Opera Festival, Central City Opera, Opera Saratoga and the Pittsburgh Festival Opera.

“We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary in the production,” employing traditional costumes and sets, Toro said. But, while “most productions focus on the opera’s marital comedy, along with that, we’re keeping in mind the class structure” inherent in the work, Toro said.

Figaro features four main characters: Figaro, a valet; Susanna, a maid; Count Almaviva, their lecherous employer, and Almaviva’s wife, Countess Rosina. Figaro wants to marry Susanna while Almaviva wants to seduce her. The plot unfurls with mistaken identities, comic hijinks, twists and turns, and a happy ending in which Figaro and Susanna get hitched and Almaviva learns a lesson in fidelity.

The characters are relatable human beings, Toro said, noting audience members can follow the action like a play and “feel what the characters say, and what they’re feeling.”

Susanna is being sung by Elena Galvan, a graduate of Ithaca College and the San Francisco Conservatory, who has performed across the country, including as a soloist in the Binghamton Downtown Singers’ 2018 performance of Handel’s Messiah.

The production marks the fifth time Galvan has done the role of Susanna. Past kudos include a review in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that noted her “clarion soprano and vivacious acting” in a 2020 performance with Hawaii Opera Theatre.

Robert Mellon is singing Figaro. Opera News has praised “his excellent comic timing” and “domineering baritone, gleaming like polished copper.” This is the eighth time he has sung the role.

“Our challenge is to make the characters relatable because they are the closest to the working class,” Mellon said of Figaro and Susanna.

Mozart’s opera requires singers to know how to pace themselves to maintain stamina and comic timing throughout the performance, Galvan said. But she never gets tired of singing Susanna. “It’s some of the most beautiful music that’s ever been. If I could only do this role for the rest of my life, I would be happy.”

The production, which will be repeated April 30 in Syracuse, runs approximately three hours with one intermission. It will be performed in Italian with English supertitles.

IF YOU GO: The Marriage of Figaro will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday (April 23) in The Forum Theatre, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. Tickets are $89, $69, $49 and $20 depending on location. To order, go to The box office number is 607-772- 0400. Please call the box office for youth/student tickets.