By George Basler
Tri-Cities Opera will be breaking new ground when it presents Gioachino Rossini’s Cinderella Sunday (April 10) at the Broome County Forum Theatre.
The performance will be the first ever collaboration between TCO and the Syracuse Opera. “It’s a test. We hope we can share resources and programs together,” said John Rozzoni, TCO’s general director.
The joint effort follows a formal consulting process and months of discussions by the boards of both opera companies. The companies are using the same creative teams, cast, chorus, orchestra, sets and costumes.
Rozzoni sees this sharing as the future and a step forward in the regional opera market. “Collaboration is a new direction for all opera companies that want to be sustainable,” he emphasized.
Sunday’s performance will be the first time TCO has performed Rossini’s classic opera. It also marks the first time TCO has staged an opera at The Forum since October 2019, five months before COVID shut down live performances across the country. “We wanted to come back with a comedy. This is a new production that’s beautiful and fun,” Rozzoni said.
Cinderella (or La Cenerentola in Italian) is considered a staple of the standard opera repertoire. It had its first performance in January 1817 after Rossini composed it at the breakneck pace of 24 days. The librettist Jacopo Ferretti worked even faster, completing his work in 22 days.
TCO and Syracuse Opera are promoting the upcoming production as a “quirky spin” on a timeless story. “We wanted to send the message this is not a Disney type thing,” Rozzoni said. While the opera follows the basic plot of the fairytale, it has no fairy godmother, glass slipper or singing rodents.
What it does have is charm and humor. “We want to get the message out that, while this is a family-friendly opera, it’s made for adults and tells a wonderous story,” Rozzoni said.
The production updates Rossini’s opera to the 1950s and sets the action in Newport, R.I., where some of the wealthiest families in America built opulent mansions during the country’s Gilded Age of the late 1800s. The updating highlights the class distinction between “old money and people who serve old money” and taps into the nostalgia some may feel for the 1950s, Rozzoni said.
The opera will be sung in Italian with projected English translation. Singing the lead role of Angelina (Cinderella) is Camille Sherman, 29, who is coming to Binghamton directly from Pensacola Opera where she starred in The Barber of Seville.
Sherman said she’s “thrilled” because Cinderella is an iconic role for her voice type — lyric mezzo-soprano — but it’s a challenging role as well. The opera dates from the bel canto era of the 1800s and requires performers to sing a lot of notes very quickly as well as making rapid transitions from very high to very low notes, she said.
“It’s very challenging, because it has very high notes,” agreed tenor Aaron Crouch, 23, who is singing the role of Don Ramiro (Prince Charming). Bel canto requires flexibility and agility on the part of singers, he noted. Besides performing here, Crouch is singing with Michigan Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and Portland Opera in the 2021/2022 season.
While Cinderella is challenging for singers, it is not challenging for audience members, Crouch and Sherman agreed. “They can just sit back and enjoy it,” Sherman noted.
TCO is offering free tickets to anyone 18 years old and younger for Sunday’s performance, Rozzoni said, noting Cinderella is a “door opener” for other operas because it’s a comedy with a familiar story line.
Scenery for the production was built in TCO’s scene shop on Clinton Street in Binghamton. The sets, props and costumes are jointly owned by TCO, Annapolis Opera Company and Opera Columbus. Christian Capocaccia, general and artistic director at Syracuse Opera, will conduct the performances here and in Syracuse (May 1 in the Oncenter’s Crouse Hinds Theater).
TCO has a Cinderella story of its own, Rozzoni said, emphasizing, “For the first time in 15 years we’re financially stable.” The company is now poised to grow, with co-producing part of its future, he said, adding, “As a non-profit organization, we have to be good stewards. That means not going it alone.”
IF YOU GO: Tri-Cities Opera and Syracuse Opera will perform Rossini’s Cinderella at 3 p.m. Sunday (April 10) in the Broome County Forum Theatre, 236 Washington St., Binghamton. Ticket prices range from $20 to $89 (free for anyone 18 and younger); order through the box office, 607-772-0400, or at TCO’s website, www.tricitiesopera.com
According to TCO’s website, masks are required at all times within the theater for the safety of both artists and audience members. Masks are recommended for patrons while in the lobby unless they are eating or drinking.