Leadership

Dimitri Pittas he/him Artistic Director

Dimitri lives a dual life as the Artistic Director for Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera, as well as an international operatic tenor. Both careers feed his passion to create and change the lives of people through art and music.

He founded Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera (HALO) with General Director Leah Edwards as part of his commitment to create a sustainable opera and musical theatre organization in Charleston, South Carolina, the birthplace of opera in North America.

As an opera singer, he has appeared on leading opera stages throughout North America and Europe including the Metropolitan Opera, Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Canadian Opera Company.

Leah Edwards she/her General Director

Having been hailed as an “eloquent, versatile soprano” with an “entrancingly beautiful voice,” Leah has forged a unique career path, captivating audiences as an actress, singer, dancer and pianist. Ms. Edwards made her Broadway debut in 2011 as a member of the company of Terrence McNally’s Master Class and, Off-Broadway, regularly joins the company of the Encores! series at New York City Center. Ms. Edwards can be seen in the Emmy-nominated production of Carousel with the New York Philharmonic, has appeared as a musical guest on A Prairie Home Companion, and recorded the most recent cast album of George and Ira Gershwin’s Lady, Be Good. Ms. Edwards has been presented in concert at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, with the New York City Ballet Orchestra and nationally with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, Las Cruces Symphony and the Utah Festival Opera Orchestra. Ms. Edwards is also sought after for her experience with new music, which has resulted in world premiere recordings for the Opera America Songbook. An award-winning pianist, Ms. Edwards appeared as a guest artist at The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, enjoyed the honor of performing as the musical ambassador to the Chinese Consulate, and her presentation of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto was a featured segment on National Public Radio.

Francesco Milioto he/him Music Director

A rising star in the younger generation of conductors, Francesco Milioto is forging a unique career as a versatile interpreter of both the operatic and orchestral repertoire. He is currently Music Director of Opera San Antonio and Artistic Advisor to the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee. Mr. Milioto also enjoys guest conducting relationships with a wide variety of organizations, and cover/assistant conductor positions with several distinguished opera companies. Praised for his energy and integrity on the podium, the Chicago Tribune has said, “Milioto presided with Bernsteinesque bravura”.

This season will see his much anticipated return to Opera San Antonio to conduct both Tosca and Rigoletto. His seventh season as a cover/assistant conductor at Lyric Opera of Chicago includes productions of Luisa Miller, Madama Butterfly, and Die Walküre in the complete RING Cycle. Mr. Milioto also looks forward to making his debut conducting Korngold’s Der Ring des Polykrates with Numi Opera in Los Angeles.

Last season Mr. Milioto made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut conducting a performance of Massenet’s Cendrillon, in addition to working on a production of La traviata. He then returned to The Dallas Opera to work on a successful production of Falstaff, and also conducted a family performance of Pepito by Offenbach. Mr. Milioto ended his season with the Santa Fe Opera as cover conductor for their production of Jenufa.

As a music director and guest conductor Mr. Milioto has thrived in Chicago and beyond. Over his fifteen years in Chicago he claimed the title of Music Director to the New Millennium Orchestra, the Skokie Valley Symphony, the Highland Park Strings, Access Contemporary Music, and the Chicago Cultural Center Summer Opera. As a guest conductor he has amassed several critically acclaimed productions with Chicago Opera Theater and has collaborated with many professional local orchestras. His work with the New Millennium Orchestra and Chicago Opera Theater were each named to the Chicago Sun-Times list of the “10 best performances of the year”. Mr. Milioto is particularly proud of his work with the New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago, which he co-found in 2005. The NMO had an incredible range of repertoire, playing everything from classical music and opera to collaborations with jazz and hip-hop artists. His highly acclaimed work over ten seasons with both the Highland Park Strings and Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra ranged from early music to the most contemporary works, and often featured world-renowned soloists. As Artistic Director/Conductor of Access Contemporary Music, Mr. Milioto led the brilliantly vibrant ensemble Palomar, which has been featured on the radio and in performances throughout the city and abroad. He has also conducted successful productions with Opera Santa Barbara, Opera Southwest, Elgin Opera, and Opera on the James.

As a cover/assistant conductor, Mr. Milioto has flourished under world-class mentorship. He is currently in his sixth season at Lyric Opera of Chicago where he has been fortunate enough to work closely with Sir Andrew Davis, and other luminaries, on several operas and concerts. He is also a member of the music staff at The Santa Fe Opera and has worked at both the Canadian Opera Company and The Dallas Opera. For 10 seasons Mr. Milioto worked with the Ravinia Festival as an assistant conductor, pianist, vocal coach and prompter being involved in over a dozen operas, and many concerts with such artists as Daniel Barenboim and James Conlon.

 

Music Staff

Patrick Harvey he/him Pianist

Pianist and vocal coach Patrick Harvey originally hails from Brunswick, Georgia. He has performed and coached at Houston Grand Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Utah Opera, Knoxville Opera, North Carolina Opera, Atlanta Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, and Opera North. He has also served on the faculties of The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Rice University, and Baylor University. Patrick currently works as a freelance pianist based in Houston, TX.

Patrick Boyle he/him Pianist

Patrick Boyle has performed in concert throughout the British Isles and on both coasts of the United States. Patrick currently performs and teaches in Charleston, South Carolina.
Performing locally in Charleston, Patrick has appeared as a soloist in a variety of venues including at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and St Theresa Third Sunday Series. Patrick is also an enthusiastic collaborator and is dedicated in particular to sharing contemporary music. He is a founding member of the Charleston Eclipse Ensemble and regularly collaborates with other musicians across a variety of genres and mediums. Alongside his collaborations with HALO, Patrick has performed on the piano along ballet dancers, with jazz combos and big bands, accompanied choirs, and has even enjoyed music-directing musicals.

Patrick received a double Bachelors in History and Music at Boston College, and earned a Masters in Music at the Longy School of Music. More information can be found at patrickboylepiano.com.

Chee-Hang See he/him Pianist

Chee-Hang See is a prize-winning pianist who has been called “a cool and confident performer” by the Charleston City Paper. He has soloed with the Montevideo Philharmonic (Uruguay), Charleston Symphony, Toa Payoh West Chinese Orchestra (Singapore), Bela Bartok Orchestra (Italy), Cleveland Institute of Music Chamber Orchestra. He has performed in concert series and festivals such as the Festival Internacional de Colonia, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra Musicale, South Carolina Chamber Music Festival, Chicago Duo Piano Festival, Hawaii International Cultural Arts Festival, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, and has been broadcast on South Carolina Public Radio. He remains in high demand as soloist, chamber pianist, and composer in his native Singapore and all over the U.S.

Chee-Hang is faculty at the Charleston Academy of Music, and music director at Midtown Theater where he directs a chamber music concert series. He plays regularly with the Charleston Symphony, Chamber Music Charleston, and his duo Tan and See Piano Duo. His debut album “Violin Transcriptions”, featuring works by Rachmaninoff and Muczynski, was released in 2014. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and College of Charleston where his teachers include Sandra Shapiro and Enrique Graf.

 

Opera 101

Will Berger he/him Lecturer

William Berger was born in Los Angeles in 1961, and grew up in a bilingual (Spanish and English) and multicultural (Mexican, Italian, and Jewish) home. After spending some teen years in various places in the US and Europe, he studied Latin and Italian Literature at UC Santa Cruz. During college, he worked part time at the San Francisco Opera in various capacities, including merchandising and translating for the Artists’ Liaison. Moving to New York in 1984, he worked in architecture/design, and was a part-time instructor of Italian and Romance Languages at Baruch College. As a free-lance writer, he has written on a variety of subjects, including architecture, religion, and sports. He is the author of several books on opera, including Wagner Without Fear, Verdi With a Vengenace, and Puccini Without Excuses, (Vintage Books), and wrote the tribute “Chris De Blasio” in Loss Within Loss: Artists in the Age of AIDS (University of Minnesota Press). His most recent book is Speaking of Wagner: Talking to Audiences About The Ring Of The Nibelung (Academica Press, 2020). He is a frequent lecturer/speaker at a variety of venues, including The Embassy of Finland, The Italian Cultural Institute (NY), the Smithsonian Institute, The Wagner Society of America (New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas, and Boston), the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the opera companies of Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Baltimore, Austin, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. He was a frequent contributor to the NPR program At the Opera, and was the host of WNYC’s Overnight Music in 2004-2006, which included the weekly show “El Salón”, focusing on Hispanic issues in classical music. He is a commentator for the Metropolitan Opera and is heard on Met Opera Radio’s Sirius/XM broadcasts and the podcast series “In Focus”, and is responsible for the Met’s Opera Quiz. His recent articles have appeared in the publications of the opera companies of Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington DC, San Francisco, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and Barcelona’s Liceu. He is a keen and active supporter of new music in a variety of genres, especially his predominant passion of Metal. He lives in New York’s East Village with his partner of 24 years.

Ashley Emerson she/her Technical Director

With her sparkling voice and stage presence, soprano Ashley Emerson has been described as a “vocal and dramatic delight.” In the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Emerson returns to The Metropolitan Opera for her acclaimed portrayal of Papagena in The Magic Flute, and makes two company debuts in familiar roles: Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Opera Omaha, and Flora in The Turn of the Screw with On Site Opera. On the concert stage she sings her first Handel’s Messiah (Part 1) with the New Choral Society. In the spring, she will create the role of Little Daughter in the world premiere of Omar, a new opera by Rhiannon Giddens at the Spoleto Festival USA. Future engagements include a debut with Kentucky Opera as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Papagena in a new production of Die Zauberflöte at The Metropolitan Opera conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and a return to Opera Omaha debuting the role of Johanna in Sweeney Todd.

In the 2018-2019 season, Ms. Emerson performed the roles of Laura Fleet in the North American premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie, which was broadcast Live in HD to movie theaters worldwide, as well as Brigitte in Iolanta, and Papagena in The Magic Flute, all at The Metropolitan Opera. She also curated a recital of love songs based on the works of Robert and Clara Schumann which she performed at The Crosby Center in Belfast, Maine; and will take the recital to venues in upcoming seasons.

Ms. Emerson is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and subsequently has appeared in over 200 Metropolitan Opera performances. Her 2017-2018 season included included Giannetta in L’elisir d’amore (Live in HD Broadcast), Papagena in Die Zauberflöte (Live in HD Broadcast), and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro at the Met. Additionally, she toured Russia in concerts celebrating the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with numerous orchestras, including the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (Svetlanov) at Tchaikovsky Hall, and appeared in chamber music concerts at The Twickenham Festival. In the 2016-2017 season, she was heard as Gretel in Hansel und Gretel with the Seattle Opera, made her professional European debut as Cunegonde in Candide with Opéra National de Bordeaux and the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, and debuted at The Dallas Opera as Flora in The Turn of the Screw. Additional recent performances include Sister Constance in Dialogues of the Carmelites atWashington National Opera, Tebaldo in Don Carlo in a new production for Opera Philadelphia, and Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Des Moines Metro Opera. She has also appeared in major roles at the Atlanta Opera, Central City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and The Tanglewood Festival.

Ms. Emerson received highest critical praise for her debut performances of Sister Constance in Dialogues of the Carmelites at Opera Theater of St. Louis, lauded as “definitive” (Opera Today), “exquisite” (Wall Street Journal), and “glorious” (The Washington Post). Other acclaimed and favorite roles include Marie in La Fille du Régiment (Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Maine, Greensboro Opera), The Maid in Thomas Ades’s Powder Her Face (Opera Philadelphia), and Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann (Palm Beach Opera).

She has been honored with awards from The Sullivan Foundation, The Gerda Lissner Competition, The Palm Beach Opera Competition, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. In addition to the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Emerson has trained at the Gerdine Young Artist Program at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, at the Marlboro Festival, the Verbier Festival, and the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

Margaret Fournier she/her Lecturer

Although born in South Carolina, I lived most of my young life elsewhere. My entire adult life, until last September, was spent in the Chicago area where I fell in love with opera.  A friend and I decided to subscribe to a season at Lyric Opera of Chicago on a whim. We sat in the nosebleed section and, at first, did not know much about what we were experiencing, but we liked it. Before long, I got totally hooked which led to a much better seat and a 50 year-long subscription.  Not to mention a lifelong passion. The more I saw, the more I wanted to learn. I even went back to school to study music theory and history.  For many years after that, I was a member of the Lyric Opera Lecture Corps and gave many lectures to audiences throughout the Chicago area. I also worked in many other capacities as a volunteer for Lyric Opera of Chicago.

 

Since I moved to Charleston last September, I have been actively looking for some opera connections and have been thrilled to find out about the development of HALO.  I am delighted to be a part of this wonderful endeavor.

 

Social Distance-SING!

Kenneth Stavert he/him Technical Director

Praised for his strong “sense of theatricality,” Baritone Kenneth Stavert has performed on operatic, concert and recital stages throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Some of his recent highlights include Silvio in Pagliacci, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, and Ping in Turandot (Dayton Opera), Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos (Palm Beach Opera), Yamadori in Madama (Santa Fe Opera), Renato in Un ballo in maschera, Scarpia in Tosca (Opera in the Heights) and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (Pacific Opera Project). Kenneth’s orchestral credits include Berlioz’s Lélio, Fauré’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore. He has also been a featured recitalist throughout the United States specializing in less performed English art song. 

 

Administration

Zandrina Dunning she/her Operations and Marketing Manager

Zandrina Dunning is a vocalist and concert producer originally from Boston Massachusetts. The Charleston area has been called home since her early grade school beginnings. Opera has been one of her passions since she was introduced to the genre in 7th grade but she has been seen performing a wide range of music to include Soul, Funk, Gospel, Country, and Rock.

Although she began singing at a young age in church and in elementary school, Zandrina began her professional musical journey studying Classical music and Theatre Arts at South Carolina State University in 2000. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Industry with a concentration in Vocal Music in 2004.

Zandrina has performed with local and national recording artists to include Multi-Grammy Award winner George Benson, Nashville singer/songwriter Patrick Davis, Darius Rucker & Mark Bryan of Hootie & The Blowfish, American Idol Season 11 finalist, Elise Testone, and more. She has performed at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN, the Lincoln Theater in New York City, and others throughout the US and internationally.

International Afro-Cuban Percussionist, Gino Castillo featured the vocalist on his 2015 release appropriately titled “Soul FunKubanized” live in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Ms. Dunning utilized her Music education in Liberia, West Africa with the Save More Kids Foundation in 2017 teaching music and performing with young adults from Christ Children’s Home in Gbarnga City.

Since 2013, Zandrina has been managing her own career, providing professional opportunities for her colleagues, & producing concerts to include tribute shows to Janet Jackson, girl groups from the 1970’s to today, Queen of Soul: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin, and more. She also performed duties as the Associate Producer at South of Broadway Theatre Company in North Charleston from 2018-2020.

Zandrina can be seen performing in and around Charleston with a few local acts and with her own project, The Zandrina Dunning Experience.

 
 

Social Distance-Sing!

Social Distance-SING!™ was created by HALO in partnership with Fox Music House as an innovative solution to safely engage our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our mobile concerts offer an up-close experience of opera and classic musical theatre selections featuring un-amplified voices in an open air setting.

Request a Performance

Send us a note. We'd love to hear from you...

  • Checking if you are human.