Robert Hale has walked among kings, rubbed shoulders with aristocrats, helmed phantom sea vessels and struck some devilish deals during his distinguished career as an operatic bass-baritone. A frequent guest at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Milan’s La Scala, London’s Royal Opera and Vienna’s State Opera, Hale attributes much of his success to his early training at Southern Nazarene University and the University of Oklahoma. This week, Hale will return to Oklahoma to perform a benefit recital at 7:30 p.m. Friday in SNU’s Cantrell Recital Hall, 6729 NW 39. Hale will be joined by coloratura soprano Julie Davis in a program of operatic arias, Broadway show tunes and sacred selections. Proceeds will benefit the Mr. & Mrs. John Hale Memorial Voice Scholarship and the Robert Hale Strings Scholarship programs at SNU. In a career that has spanned more than 40 years, Hale has performed many of opera’s greatest figures, from Barak ("Die Frau Ohne Schatten”) and Mephistopheles ("Faust”) to Scarpia ("Tosca”) and Jochanaan ("Salome”). But his greatest successes have been in the music of Richard Wagner, most notably as Wotan in "Der Ring des Nibelungen” and the title character in "The Flying Dutchman.” "Mr. Hale, a former York City Opera stalwart, made a fine impression (as the Dutchman),” The New York Times’ John Rockwell wrote of Hale’s Metropolitan Opera debut in December 1990. "Hale ... sang and acted with dramatic fire, and even looked the part of this spectral wanderer.” After completing his master’s degree at OU, Hale continued his studies with Boris Goldovsky in New York and soon made a name for himself at City Opera. The company’s focus throughout much of the 1960s was the neglected bel canto operas of Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini. "Beverly Sills was doing all these bel canto revivals at the time, and I was fortunate to be cast in a lot of them,” Hale said. "My voice was very flexible and supple, so I could do the more lyrical basso cantante (literally, singing bass) roles like Henry VIII in Donizetti’s ‘Anna Bolena’ and Giorgio in Bellini’s ‘I Puritani.’” After several seasons with City Opera, Hale headed to Europe, a common practice that allowed young opera singers the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of roles. He sang his first Dutchman in 1978 at a small German house, one of many Wagnerian roles that would figure prominently in his burgeoning career. "Because I was a young singer, people often warned me about the dangers of singing Wagner,” Hale said. "I had a natural stamina, and by then, I had developed a good technique. The ability to sing a higher tessitura (the range in which a role lies) without strain was something I was lucky to possess.” Hale’s most acclaimed role was Wotan, the King of the Gods in Wagner’s "Ring.” He performed the role throughout Europe, most notably at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1992–93 and at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in 1994. He recorded the "Ring” with Wolfgang Sawallisch in a Bavarian State Opera production in 1998. "My only real regret is not singing Hans Sachs (in Wagner’s ‘Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg’),” Hale said. "I was offered a chance to do it in Berlin, but it came to me at a time when my career was bursting at the seams. Today, I’m doing more recitals and master classes, but I’m happy with the idea that I had 45 years on the opera stage.”
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Robert Hale→Title: Bass-baritone vocalist. →Hometown: Kerrville, Texas. →Education: Southern Nazarene University, University of Oklahoma, Boston University, New England Conservatory.