The opera career of Tenor Jeffrey Ballard began in 1986 while he was in graduate study at West Georgia College (now University of West Georgia). During this time, he made his professional operatic debut as a leading tenor in several productions with the Southeastern Savoyards Opera Company (now the Atlanta Lyric Theatre) in downtown Atlanta. This first role was of “Cyril” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida, followed in 1987 by his first performance of “Nanki-Poo” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Jeff was also one of the “Trio” (along with Rue Knapp, one of the founders of the Company) in scenes performed from Iolanthe, by Gilbert and Sullivan, in 1987.
Jeff’s doctoral studies at the University of Southern Mississippi spanned the years from 1988 to 1993. During this time, he studied under the guidance of national award-winning opera director, David Holley (now Director of Opera Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and Jeff appeared as leading tenor in nearly all the operas staged with the USM Opera Company, including the following: “The Impresario” in The Impresario, “Monostatos” in The Magic Flute, “Prince Charming” in Cendrillon, “Basilio”/”Don Curzio” in The Marriage of Figaro, and “Fenton” in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
He also performed many principal tenor roles during this time in the summers with Opera in the Ozarks of Arkansas, including the following: “Gherardo” in Gianni Schicchi, “Schmidt” in a French performance of Werther, “Monostatos” in The Magic Flute, “Todd Wilkins” in The Village Singer, “El Remendado” in a French performance of Carmen, “L’Aumonier” in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and “The Witch” in Hansel and Gretel.
In 1990 and 1991, Jeff performed with the Southern Light Opera of Mississippi in the roles of “Frederic” in Pirates of Penzance and “Ralph Rackstraw” in H.M.S. Pinafore.
In 1993, he took the role of “Monostatos” again with the Chattanooga Opera Company (now Chattanooga Symphony and Opera) in Tennessee.
He has traveled to Italy twice with two international opera festivals. In 1994, he took the role of “Don Ottavio” in an Italian performance of Don Giovanni with the Rome Festival, and in 1996, he traveled with Operafestival di Roma, to perform “Basilio”/”Don Curzio” in an Italian performance of The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze de Figaro). During this festival, he also served as vocal coach/accompanist on faculty in 1996.
In 1996, while at Western Oregon University, Jeff appeared as “El Remendado” in Carmen with the Eugene Opera of Oregon. Jeff again performed “Nanki-Poo” in The Mikado in 1997 with the Willamette Opera Theatre in Oregon.
With the Muncie-Anderson Opera in 1998, he played “Goro” in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and while at Ball State University, he took the role of “Nanki-Poo” in The Mikado with the Ball State University Opera Theatre and the Muncie Symphony Orchestra in 2001.
As the Director of Opera at Ball State University from 1997-1999, Dr. Ballard directed and produced Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, with two complete performances (double cast), Mozart’s The Impresario, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.
Jeff appeared in the tenor role of “Pirelli” in the Muncie Civic Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in October, 2005.