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Holladay Journal

Opera Appreciation Club of Utah welcomes Michael Ballam

Jun 30, 2023 12:32PM ● By Collette Hayes

The Opera Appreciation Club of Utah hosted their annual spring luncheon in Sandy. Barbara Newman, club president, welcomed renowned guest artist Michael Ballam. (Photo credit Julie Paull)

Michael Ballam, opera singer, educator and founding general director of Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, joined the Opera Appreciation Club of Utah for an afternoon filled with stories told through music.

The club, an organization formed to foster appreciation of the performing arts, hosted their annual spring luncheon in Sandy at the home of club member Kathie Horman. Ballam engaged an attentive audience through operatic song and musical story. His presentation was followed by a luncheon which included a main course and a dessert selection of homemade deep-dish pies.

“The organization began 93 years ago in a woman’s home who taught dance,” said Opera Appreciation Club president Barbara Newman. “Mothers would come to the home and bring their children. While the children were downstairs taking dance lessons, the mothers sat upstairs and visited. During the conversations, the women discovered a common interest and appreciation for opera. This resulted in the founding and organization of the opera club.”

Newman and past president Horman extended a welcome to each club member and visitor creating an intimate community atmosphere. Following her brief remarks, Newman introduced Ballam. Involved in the performing arts for over four decades, Ballam has shared the stage with the world’s greatest singers. His operatic repertoire includes more than 600 performances of over 100 major roles. Although Ballam performed with many national opera houses including the San Francisco, Metropolitan and Washington National, he can be found singing to terminally ill patients or introducing children to the magical world of sharing stories through song.   

“Touching people through music has been my goal all my life,” Ballam said. “That is why I love the theatre.”

Reflecting back during his 90-minute presentation, Ballam shared a timeline of his operatic and recital career, conveying his journey through song. Currently, Ballam is founding general director of Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre housed in the Utah Theatre in Logan. 

“We will come to life on May 5 when 400 employees will arrive to tell stories through song,” Ballam said. “The best of the best performers from all over the world will come to Logan, Utah, because they know they will have a wonderful experience. They will be surrounded by a nurturing environment. Our opera company is about the singers, and our job is to create an environment in which they can feel at ease and perform their best.”

When Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre season comes to a close, Les Misérables will be presented Aug. 12-19 at the Utah Theatre by high school seniors from across Utah.  

“We hold a competition throughout the year and present Utah High School Musical Theater Awards,” Ballam said. “This year we visited 42 high schools to watch the high school musical performances and to video record them. We then sent the video recordings to professional judges, who make their living on stage in musical theater and opera. We selected 10 of what we think are the best musicals in the state. Awards are presented to the best actors, best supporting actors, creators of scenery design and the best orchestra. We’ve been presenting high school musical awards for 15 years.”  

Ballam also discussed how opera performance is expensive. According to Ballam, a front row seat at the Metropolitan Opera is $2,000, only 18% of its actual cost. A Utah Festival Opera ticket pays 40% of the actual cost of each seat. 

“We have to look to foundations, government and friends for donations due to the cost of opera performance. We try to stretch every dollar until it sings,” Ballam said.

The Opera Appreciation Club meets the third Thursday of each month at noon, September through May. Membership is open for those interested in joining. For more information contact Colleen Paddock at [email protected].

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre tickets are available by calling 800-262-0074 or by visiting their website at Utah Theatre is located at 18 W. Center St. in Logan. λ