The stage is set, designed imaginatively to incorporate the view: spartina lightly swaying in the breeze, the sun setting over the Ashley River, and the faint smell of pluff mud, only slightly overpowered by that of star jasmine. Patrons, dressed in a range of attire, take their seats, drinks in hand, ready to experience a classic piece of theatre of the premiere of a commissioned work. The cast is a combination of homegrown talent and international stars. Children rush eagerly to their seats, ready to observe on the stage those artists with whom they have worked closely in school. This is the distinct duality of experiencing high art in the Lowcountry.

This is how Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera – HALO – reclaimed Charleston’s legacy as the birthplace of opera in North America.

The Mission

It is HALO’s mission to engage with the Lowcountry community by presenting quality art and artists in performances ranging from large-scale productions to intimate conversations.

In 2015, Leah Edwards and Dimitri Pittas made a trip to Charleston to escape the hustle and bustle of their careers. Wooed by its beauty and hospitality, the couple returned a month later to make it their home. In connecting with their community through discussion and performance, they realized that there was a strong local desire to learn more about and attend opera and musical theatre.

Upon learning that Charleston is, in fact, the birthplace of opera in North America, Leah and Dimitri embraced the serendipity and embarked on the giant adventure that is opening and running Charleston’s first full-time opera company.

A new art form, opera, is born in Europe and shaped for centuries by composers like Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner.

Ballad opera arrives in Charleston, the first of its kind in North America, eventually becoming American musical theatre.

Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera is founded to celebrate both the European tradition of opera as well as the American art form into which it transformed.

to Community

When a global health crisis shut down the performing arts, we devised a mobile concert initiative to safely engage our community through live music.

These performances offer an up-close experience of opera and classic musical theatre selections featuring un-amplified voices in an open air setting.

Now affectionately referred to as "a pair of singers, a piano, and a pickup truck," our Social Distance-SING! series boasts more than 100 performances all over the Lowcountry, from the Peninsula to Mount Pleasant, from Summerville to Kiawah Island.


HALO is passionate about providing in-person and online learning experiences for audience members of all ages.

Our Opera 101 lectures stimulate those who wish to learn more about all aspects of opera. Our partnership with the Charleston County Public Library enables us to engage children in early learning classes and all Lowcountry residents through pre-movie conversations at The MET Opera Live in HD presentations.

Committed to discovering and encouraging tomorrow’s artists and audiences, HALO will collaborate with existing organizations like Arts, etc. and Engaging Creative Minds to foster young people’s excitement and appreciation for the performing arts.


It is paramount that HALO’s outreach programs extend to the most vulnerable, under-served members of our community.

Our Social Distance-SING! mobile concert initiative is poised to continue presenting 30-40 minute concerts of opera and musical theatre selections at elder care facilities and intends to explore partnerships with East Cooper Meals on Wheels and Carolina Youth Development Center.

Opera Night at the Joe Opera-themed game day with the Charleston Riverdogs Thursday at The theatre Multi-genre arts movie series at a drive-in theatre Recital and Cabaret series Performances by visiting and local artists

On The Stage

Committed to producing theatre of the highest calibre, HALO’s casting process for singing actors will include making direct offers to leading industry professionals, as well as holding local and out-of-town auditions. All talent will be considered for leading, supporting and ensemble roles. Our creative teams (conductors, directors and designers) will be similarly selected. We intend to complete our production team with paid and volunteer set builders, sound/lighting crew, costume/wardrobe assistants and wig/makeup artists from within the Charleston community.

Below The Stage

HALO is excited to invite existing musical ensembles such as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the North Charleston POPS! Orchestra and Chamber Music Charleston to serve as the instrumental component for the opera and musical theatre productions. We will also seek out special opportunities to partner with student ensembles, like showcasing the Wando High School marching band in our production of The Music Man.


From our artists to our board, from our school programs to our volunteers, we promise to uphold our belief that live theatre is for everyone.

HALO welcomes all people, inclusive of race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age, and economic status.

Charleston Is...

...'the No. 1 city in the U.S. to visit' according to Travel + Leisure Magazine for eight years in a row.

...the first place opera was ever performed in North America.

...where George Gershwin felt inspired to write his inimitable opera Porgy and Bess.

...the city deemed most suited for Gian Carlo Menotti to mirror his Italian opera festival.

With a renowned culinary scene, beautiful weather, storied history and a booming population ripe with desire for live music,
for Charleston to have its first full-time opera company.


Long-Term Vision

HALO will become one of America’s premiere full-time performing arts organizations. HALO will enhance prestige, encourage tourism, and complement the existing artistic landscape of classical art. HALO is committed to providing quality theatre, in-depth education, professional opportunities for young talent, and collaborative efforts with local partners. The cultural, artistic, and financial capacities that Charleston possesses are vibrant and growing daily. HALO looks forward to being the catalyst that brings artists and audiences together.

Holy City Arts & Lyric Opera is the future of opera in Charleston.

City Benefits

  • Professional opportunities for local talent.
  • Performing arts will be a viable profession.
  • Keep home-grown artists working at home.
  • Commission new works with Charleston-specific subject matter.
  • Partner with restaurants, hotels for an exclusive experience.

Arts Complex

  • Outdoor theatre
  • Indoor recital hall
  • Practice rooms
  • Rehearsal studios
  • Scene & costume shops
  • Administrative offices

Impact by the numbers over the first 3 years

Audience members

Students attend free dress rehearsals

Lives touched through outreach initiatives

Artists and staff employed by HALO

Opera is the largest collaborative art form. Every contributing factor strengthens the whole.

Together we will build an organization that reflects the beauty, history and hospitality of our city and community.

Together we will reclaim Charleston’s legacy as the birthplace of opera in North America.

Leah Edwards

Co-founder & 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.

Dimitri Pittas

Co-founder & Artistic Director

Dimitri has appeared on leading opera stages throughout North America and Europe, including the Bavarian State Opera, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Canadian Opera Company. He is a graduate of The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and has been heard on the Met stage as Rodolfo in La bohème, Macduff in Macbeth...

Leah and Dimitri met while performing at the Santa Fe Opera in 2006. They were married in 2010 and moved to Charleston in 2015. They often perform together, but their favorite collaborations are their children, Stellan (4) and Orion (1.5).

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