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Opera Theatre Of Saint Louis Vocalists ‘Sing For Siteman’

It’s safe to say that the life of every person is at some time touched by cancer. That is the unifying factor in the 5th Annual “Sing for Siteman” benefit concert. Eight principal singers from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2014 season will perform in a concert directed and accompanied by pianist Carol Wong on June 9 to benefit Siteman Cancer Center’s Discovery Fund. The emcee will be St. Louis Post-Dispatch Classical Music Critic Sarah Bryan Miller.

Miller, Wong and “Sing for Siteman” co-chair Kim Eberlein joined Steve Potter on Cityscape to discuss the concert and their reasons for participating.

Wong’s father died of cancer in Hong Kong. “I never really forgave myself for not being there when he died and I created this concert actually to honor him. My mother is also a cancer survivor as well,” she said.

A two time cancer survivor, Miller is grateful for the excellent care she received from Siteman Cancer Center director Dr. Timothy Eberlein. After being diagnosed in 2010 with a stage 3 rare and aggressive breast cancer, she was urged to talk with him. “I figured he would be too busy, but I finally called Tim,” Miller said. “He called me back and talked for 20 minutes and said ‘we’re going to cure you’ and he was right.”

“Sing for Siteman” co-chair Kim Eberlein is Tim Eberlein’s wife so has an inside understanding of the concert’s beneficiary, Siteman Cancer Center’s Discovery Fund. “It’s sort of like a start-up fund for the most promising [cancer] research,” she said. “In recent years we’ve been able to fund the development of a cancer vaccine by Dr. Will Gallanders. This funding allowed him to show that this method works and then go and get outside funding to a large extent, probably at the ratio of 25 to 1. They are now carrying out trials of the breast cancer vaccine right here in St. Louis.”

The benefit concert features eight Opera Theatre of Saint Louis singers including Stephanie Blythe who will create the role of Gertrude Stein in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordan’s 27 beginning June 14. She will be joined by Rene Barbera, Susannah Biller, Patrick Carfizzi, Sean Panikkar, Levi Hernandez, Elizabeth Zharoff and Tobias Greenhalgh.

In assembling the program, Wong’s goal was to create an evening that she would want to attend, which would be fun. “We have every voice type. We have all ages of singers and we have very serious music, French melody, German lieder,  Rachmaninoff, but we also have musical theater, “ said Wong. There’s also a selection by John Lennon and one by Ricky Ian Gordon. “I think there is really something for everyone in this program,” said Miller.

A dessert and wine reception follows the concert when audience members will have the opportunity to mingle with the singers and hear their stories.

“Sing for Siteman” begins at 7:30 p.m. on June 9 in the new Performing Arts Center at John Burroughs School in Ladue.  More information is available at (314) 961-0644 or on the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis website.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.

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