YNN reports impending changes at TCO

Did you catch this YNN item about Tri-Cities Opera earlier this month? (YNN is Your News Now, the Time Warner 24-hour news channel.)

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Changes could be coming to Binghamton’s Tri-Cities Opera.

The opera company has been a local fixture for more than 60 years and announced its lineup for next season just a couple weeks ago. But a source with close ties to Tri-Cities tells YNN the opera company is now dealing with fiscal difficulties. The source says a number of options are being considered. Some may involve personnel.

We contacted General Manager Reed Smith. He says the Opera’s board is looking at some changes, but declined to get into specifics. Smith said any announcements about decisions made would come in June. He added the Opera’s next season will go on as planned.

Tri-Cities Opera runs an artist training program and holds several full-scale productions each season.

Here’s a link:


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4 Responses to "YNN reports impending changes at TCO"

  1. A local arts patron had technical difficulties with an e-mail account while setting up a WordPress log-in, but still wanted to comment. The following is octavian1‘s unedited comment:

    There are more rumors than you can count circulating about these anticipated changes at Tri-Cities Opera. The following things seem certain and can be checked out even without comment from the General Director:

    1) TCO co-founder Peyton Hibbitt will no longer be employed by the company.

    2) Current Artistic Directors Duane Skrabalak and Peter Sicilian will be paid per production if employed at all by TCO.

    3) The Resident Artist Program, once the foundation of the company, has been largely disbanded. The Masters in Music program (through Binghamton University) will remain

    4) TCO is, and has been, in financial trouble.

    I don’t know which of the first three items is the most troubling. Letting the co-founder go? The man dedicated his life to bringing opera to this area. He and Carmen Savoca were never paid what they were worth – it was their contribution to the community and to the art they loved. To be removed at his advanced age is an insult.
    Removing the current artistic staff? These two have committed their lives to continuing the good work done here over the last 60 years.
    Disbanding the training program? This was the launching pad for countless major careers – Jake Gardner, Cynthia Clarey, Richard Leech, Guido LeBron to name just a few.

    The last item is a no-brainer – all arts organizations are in trouble and that is unfortunate and terrible. We should be proud that, in a community of this size, we have such a great selection of performing groups. Since the community has been an important part of the opera company throughout the years (a partner, really), why are we the last to know? Why wasn’t a general appeal made to save “our opera company”? Would you have come forward with additional funds, even at low levels, to assure the continuation of this unique program if you had known? The current climate of secrecy is not doing anyone any good.

    Of course changes undoubtedly needed to be made; growth always requires it. But this is major surgery. Is it really necessary? Are there really no other options?

  2. nessuncanta

    Having just heard of the potential changes about to be made to the nationally known Training Opera Company of the Tri-Cities, I am more than curious as to why the public has not been made more aware of the situation.
    Is this a case of money or lack thereof, or is this a change of philosophy regarding the purpose of the company?
    It is my understanding that though the Company’s Resident Artist’s Training Program will be scrapped (it could be said the pulse and core of this group) that the resource of students from the Masters in Music (with a specialization in Opera) program at Binghamton University will still exist – therefore giving TCO the continued young area talent for performances. Let it be understood that in Albany, the Board of Regents, who created this program at BU, did only as a partnership with TCO’s training program. With no training program—I would say Albany would be in their rights to dissolve the BU program as well—domino effect!

    The Board of Directors of TCO seems a bit confused in their search for a new identity. IMHO doing Opera performances only, while a noble pursuit, moves the company into a new and dangerous world. Without a “home grown” product, the once very busy, active, and visible company would transform themselves to basically an office with a phone.
    Some people will gather for a few weeks out of the year and then sing down at the Forum. Much different than before, but will it be better for the art and for the community?

    One of the proposed cuts seem to target, of all people, the salary and position of the co-founder of the company–Peyton Hibbitt, who is, from what I gather, still a very active coach and rehearsal conductor.
    I shall be so bold as to give caution to the Board of Directors concerning this potential blunder of thought. This would be a misguided direction for more reasons than this writer wishes to expound upon at this time.

    Having heard from many sides in this very new development I would encourage the Board of TCO to do what they are suppose to do- actively raise money for the organization. Get out of the Board Room and onto the streets where I am sure their is a more than caring public who would be eager to support that which means so much to the community at large. Let the training continue – this is the pride of the area, whether you know it or not.

    Yes, the economic downturn has sent many non-profits to their recent graves, yet I believe it would be difficult to find a performing arts organization more woven into a community’s’ living fabric than Tri-Cities Opera in it’s 60 years of existence.

  3. Any more news on this? Will there be a press conference or story?
    What are the changes?????

  4. Concerns About Our Beloved Tri-Cities Opera!
    Posted on June 3, 2010, by romojo8

    It is unfathomable for this writer and countless others to think that an organization like Tri-Cities Opera, which has been ongoingly stable and contributed so greatly to the community – in a variety of wonderfully positive ways over so many years – could potentially be undergoing grave upheaval and transformation. But it’s even MORE unconscionable to think that the major changes and restructuring apparently being contemplated would involve absolute dissolution of the organization’s principal mission: providing/conducting TCO’s wonderfully unique Resident Artist Training Program – not to mention the firing of its outstandingly talented artistic staff: Founder Peyton Hibbitt, Artistic Director and Conductor Duane Skrabalak and Stage Director Peter Sicilian, all of whom are unquestionably the very backbones and essence of the total organization.

    Further insult to injury is added and evidenced by the fact that the general public seems NOT to have been made aware of and/or appealed to concerning this matter – at least not for very long or in very effective ways. It would appear that only a limited number of folks have been consulted, perhaps along with TCO’s Board, and it is further rumored that a “power grab” may potentially be at play.

    Whatever the case, I’m sure all would agree that the dramatic measures currently being considered should be LAST stab efforts to save some semblance of TCO. If these decisions are carried out from the get-go, then what would be left of our beloved TCO anyway? The organization would apparently become a mere regional opera company that presents a couple or few productions per season and utilizes only seasoned professional singers and conductors brought in on a per-production basis. Tri-Cities Opera, as it has been regarded and thought of for at least the past 40-plus years, would basically become non-existent and obsolete. Everything that made it the special training program/professional opera company it has always been would be transformed into something much less – in terms of its artistic impact, quality, importance, presence and consistent standing in the community. Without the Resident Artist Program, Tri-Cities Opera is actually NOT Tri-Cities Opera at all.

    Why not work to save the fantastic organization that was originally founded in 1949 and has been operating successfully in its current format since the 1960s – AND launched so many spectacular careers in the process? At least it is imminently necessary to TRY all reasonable and effective measures FIRST, before throwing in the towel and dismembering it altogether.

    One wonders, too, how such a transformation would affect Binghamton University’s support and involvement. This writer has been under the impression that university’s vocal degree program works hand-in-hand with the Resident Artist Program. Without that integral, core program it would seem much less appealing and attractive for a young, up-and-coming singer to consider studying at BU. Toward that end, one wonders if the university has “blessed” such a decision, or even how that would be possible considering how greatly their vocal department would surely suffer by losing students in the process. The financial stress would, in essence, bleed significantly toward the university as well.

    This writer firmly believes that the community and university itself should be made ABUNDANTLY aware of TCO’s financial state, as well as about ALL options currently on the table –BEFORE any dramatic decisions or changes are allowed to be implemented. A small number of people, perhaps with self-interests that may very well not be in TCO’s best interest, must NOT be allowed to make these decisions. This writer is extremely concerned about that possibility!

    Last but not least, this writer is incredibly disappointed, saddened and disheartened to think that, however TCO is potentially transformed, it would EVER be a consideration to release Mr. Hibbitt, Mr. Skrabalak and Mr. Sicilian from their long-standing, highly-respected and well-regarded positions. As previously stated, they are an institution unto themselves – and have always been the genuine backbone and very heart and essence of TCO, as was the late co-founder Carmen Savoca. To think it even possible to carry on TCO’s torch, in whatever form, without these amazing gentlemen at the helm is simply unconscionable, unthinkable and just out-and-out unacceptable. Surely the public and university would agree that such a decision should NEVER be considered, let alone approved – not in any way, shape or form. It would not only be incredibly insulting and unjust considering all they have sacrificed and given to TCO through the years, but it simply goes against mere common sense. Status quo should at least be kept in that very important respect, and, too, it would be extremely unhelpful and denigrating to TCO, not to mention a great loss to all those singers who deserve the opportunity to work with them. It is simply WRONG.

    This writer is a firm lover and believer in TCO’s immense value to the university and community as a whole. Every measure should be taken to continue its support and in its fully intended capacity and mission as BOTH a training program and production company. Certainly budgetary cuts may (and surely should) be made wherever they are reasonable and doable; that goes without saying. Especially in these challenging economic times, curbing expenditure wherever possible makes excellent sense. But the core, heart and very life’s blood of the organization must NOT – under ANY circumstance – EVER be cut! Not only would that be false economy by any standard, but it would surely be the ultimate downfall of TCO. And we must NOT let that happen!

    This writer has great faith, hope and trust in the community, in its ability and willingness to step up and do the right thing by TCO. If the information is properly shared and the right appeals are made, the public will surely do whatever is necessary to save beloved TCO – along with its most important and beloved artistic staff.

    Long live TCO, and may God bless it for all that it is – and all it has been – far into the future, for many years ahead!