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Opera singer Sam Hall, a bay area favorite, dies at 47

Bill DeYoung

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The bay area’s close-knit opera community was shocked to learn that tenor Samuel Hall died Saturday afternoon from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The father of three was 47. 

“Sam was a magnificent singing and musical talent,” said St. Petersburg Opera executive director Mark Sforzini. “He was a vital part of the company the past few years, first coming to SPO in 2014 working as an Emerging Artist, and then being promoted to singing lead roles like Faust in Faust and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.”

Emerging Artists is a developmental program for up-and-coming talents.

“He was a positive influence in every cast for every show he ever worked on, and highly thought of by all his colleagues,” Sforzini added. “So many possibilities awaited Sam in the musical world. I will miss him terribly.” 

Sam Hall and Zoya Gramagin in “Madama Butterfly,” St. Petersburg Opera Company, 2019. Photo by Jim Swallow

Zoya Gramagin was Hall’s co-star in Madama Butterfly (2019). “He was the best colleague and partner onstage you could possibly dream about,” the soprano said. “He was very supportive and very kind. And as a singer, I felt very secure and calm with him onstage. It was a beautiful feeling to work with him.”

Hall, who had a degree in computer technology, spent 21 years as a self-professed “cubicle jockey” – designing, maintaining and repairing business computer systems in Ohio.

Singing, however, was his passion. He’d studied voice at the Eastman School of Music before joining the financially secure IT world.

After reaching the semifinals in a local “Opera Idol” competition in 2011, however, he began to sing with smaller opera companies in Columbus and Dayton, first as a chorus member. “I remember sitting there in the auditorium,” he said in a 2019 interview, “watching the principals rehearse Lucia di Lammermoor, and thinking ‘You know, I could do that.’ Of course, you say that, but you don’t realize what all is involved.”

In 2016, he was accepted into the Sarasota Opera Apprenticeship Program. “That’s when I quit my day job,” Hall remembered. “Financially, it was a terrible decision. But there’s so much more in this world than finances. And I have never been happier.”

The family lived in Clearwater for two years before moving back to Ohio.

Other performances with St. Pete Opera included Carmen, Turandot, Tales of Hoffmann and Il Trovatore; with Opera Tampa, The Pearl Fishers and MacBeth.

Hall’s Sarasota Opera credits included Norma and Manon Lescaut. He performed in 2019’s Cavalleria rusticana with the Sarasota Festival of Vocal Arts.

Other Florida affiliations included Opera Naples, Opera Orlando, Tampa Bay Symphony, First Coast Opera, Gulf Coast Symphony, Naples Bach Ensemble, Orlando Light Opera and the Tampa Oratorio Singers.

Last year, the New York-based Gramagin co-founded Spotlight Artist Management, a nationwide booking and promotion agency for singers and musicians.

“We invited Sam to be on our roster,” she said. “We discussed so many more roles that we could sing together as partners and good colleagues. This is incredibly sad right now, because we just spoke not so long ago, that after the pandemic we’ll get back to more of a normal life, with many more roles.”

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3 Comments
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3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    April cook

    November 9, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    I miss you, Sam.

  2. Avatar

    Becky P

    November 9, 2020 at 10:49 pm

    I remember singing with Sam in high school. He was an amazing talent even then. He will be greatly missed.

  3. Avatar

    Murkoph

    November 11, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    Such a talented fellow. It sounds like he lived a full – if too short – life.

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