Behind the curtain, Logan singer fights cancer

Music • Utah Festival Opera roles boost spirits of ailing singer.
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In the theater world, superbly executed drama transports an audience to a time and place far removed from everyday life.

A different reality plays out behind the curtain.

This summer, while tenor Michael Jones sings the roles of Cassio in the opera "Otello" and Avram in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" for Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, he also is fighting testicular cancer.

He received the diagnosis just before the beginning of UFOMT's season. He also has a rare and painful internal bleeding disorder that causes nausea and fatigue. This complicates his cancer treatment and has delayed chemotherapy.

"When I found out about my cancer, the first thing I did is call the company and ask them what I should do," Jones said, knowing most opera companies would have hired someone else. But company director Michael Ballam assured him that he could still come, if his health would allow it.

"I knew in my heart that I needed this experience," Jones said, confident that the trip to Logan for his third season at the festival would provide a needed boost before more aggressive treatment.

On opening night, a medication Jones was taking reacted badly. "I found that it is difficult to step out onstage and sing with any kind of energy when you spend all of your offstage time throwing up with your head in a bucket."

Ballam, who is no stranger to the disease, emailed a statement about the ailing singer. "Michael has been courageous, disciplined and professional through this journey. Having endured the challenges of chemotherapy myself, I salute him for his fortitude! He is a treasure to the company and an inspiration to me personally."

Jones has noticed a different — more inspiring — atmosphere at UFOMT than other performance venues. "That's the reason that I and many other artists continue to come back to Logan and spend our summers here."

Jones temporarily left singing in 2008 and started a nonprofit foundation called SOW Inc. (Serving Others Worldwide) that opened a homeless shelter for families in Rome, Ga. Four years later, the performer, who is now 33, went back to singing, taking a role in Peter Ash's 2012 world premiere opera "The Golden Ticket," based on Roald Dahl's beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He also became a member of the Grammy-nominated group Cantus, a nine-member male a cappella ensemble. —

On with the show

The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre season continues, with "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Flying Dutchman," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Otello" playing in repertory, through Aug. 10.

Where • Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan.

Information •