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  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: The 'Macabre' opera coming to Pittsburg

  • Dr. William Hall, founder and director of the American Opera Studio in Kansas City, got an early start on his professional singing career.

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  • Dr. William Hall, founder and director of the American Opera Studio in Kansas City, got an early start on his professional singing career.
    “I sang my first professional opera at the age of 9,” said Hall, a baritone. “I was in the cigarette boy chorus in a production of ‘Carmen’ with the long-defunct Oklahoma Opera Company.”
    Nevertheless, he entered college as a computer science major.
    “I decided after a year of double majoring that I just couldn’t put off the performance career,” Hall said.
    He performed internationally with the Roustabouts, friendship ambassadors from the U.S. government.
    He taught at the college and university level and realized that there was a major deficit in the performing world for people from their own geographical area.
    “This developed from my own private teaching studio into an internationally recognized opera studio,” Hall said.
    The American Opera Studio, founded in 1998, is a registered not-for-profit in Kansas. Students are current professionals or those in training for performance careers ranging in age from teenage to adult.
    “Our students have toured throughout Europe, including Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic,” Hall said. “Previous tours have included Broadway concerts and sacred recitals to fully staged operatic productions. We also have our Passport Series, which highlights music from one particular country in an evening of classical art song.”
    Right now Hall and his students are engaged in rehearsing for “The Macabre,” a collaborative effort with the Midwest Regional Ballet, which is based in Joplin and draws dance students from around the four-state area.
    The show, to be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium, will feature selected scenes and solo pieces from musical theater, jazz, art song and opera. The program will highlight the spooky nature of Halloween.
    “Tricks of the Light fire dancers from the Kansas City area will join the production and there will be aerial ballet, vampires and Egyptian mummies,” Hall said. “This is one program that truly will have something for everyone. We encourage those who wish to come in costume.”
    This is not the first collaboration between Hall’s studio and the ballet.
    “The Midwest Regional Ballet performed with us at our Macabre Ball in Kansas City last year,” Hall said. “I met Kaye Lewis, the MRB director, through a friend in Joplin and it was an immediate marriage of two artistic minds. Kaye is an amazing person and an amazing performer with a great artistic vision.”
    An award-winning choreographer, Lewis won Teacher of the Year in 2001-2003 from Dance America in New York City. MRB has been in the area for 12 years and presented numerous productions in Pittsburg. In fact, Lewis is a Pittsburg Community Theatre board member and as worked with PCT as a director and choreographer, most recently as choreographer for the highly acclaimed PCT production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in July.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Working on ‘The Macabre’ has been such an amazing experience, combining opera and dance,” she said. “And Dr. Hall is a very talented director.”
    Both Hall and Lewis will also do some performing in the production.
    “I’m dancing the role of a vampire,” she said.
    Lewis has been teaching students since 1986 and is proud that several have gone on to professional dancing careers, while others are now teaching or direct their own studios.
    Hall said that, as much as he loves performing, he gets his greatest sense of accomplishment from teaching. He maintains studios in Kansas City and in Washington State. His professional career requires a lot of traveling, but he makes his home in Kansas City with his wife and three sons.
    Tickets for “The Macabre,” available at the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium box office or online, will be $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and youngsters under 13, and $8 for the balcony.

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