Opera legend Peter Halverson retires, sings 'Elijah' on Sunday

One of the greatest voices in Fargo-Moorhead is entering a new phase of life.

Peter Halverson.jpg
Peter Halverson rehearses for "Elijah," performed this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Concordia's Memorial Auditorium.
Kevin Wallevand / WDAY-TV
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MOORHEAD — Baritone Peter Halverson has taught opera and voice to students at Concordia College for decades. Thousands have heard him perform over the years as one of the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's stars.

This Sunday, April 24, at 2 p.m. at Concordia's Memorial Auditorium, Halverson will sing his final performance as a faculty member.

All of Concordia's choirs and orchestra will be there on Sunday.

After singing some of the biggest roles in opera, Halverson is going out with a bang, rehearsing for the role of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" in Sunday's oratorio.

"(W)hat a character. I mean, he's the only person that goes to heaven in a chariot," Halverson said.


Halverson spent nearly 40 years at Concordia. The opera and voice students had the perfect role model in him. Halverson has been the voice of FM Opera, playing memorable roles, his unforgettable baritone commanding the stage.

"Your life to a large degree — other than family — revolves around music. I've often thought it was sort of my hobby and my job. When I wasn't teaching here, I was off singing," Halverson said. "A lot of singers have a bucket list and over the years, I was able to sing the repertoire I wanted."

At Concordia Christmas concerts, Halverson could be heard as the voice of God.

But after performances here, the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and a long list of opera venues in America and around the world, Halverson is ready to retire from teaching.

"It's sort of, I suppose, bittersweet in a way. There's a lot of it I'll miss," Halverson said. "I think once you're a musician, and it sort of becomes your life, you don't really stop becoming a musician. Your life, to a large degree, other than family, revolves around music."

But it hasn't been an easy ride at times for the singer.

"I never really got, 'Oh my God, I have cancer.' I thought, 'We'll beat this,'" Halverson said in 2015.

Seven years ago, when WDAY News talked with Halverson, he was going through a tough series of chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.


At the time his two concerns were surviving, and if his voice would come back.

"I'll be very curious. For something that's been my life, being a singer, to see when I get back my physical strength, how the voice responds," he said back then.

"It feels good to be able to sing and feel good about that," he now says, today.

His voice did come back, better than ever, and with it came some life-lessons learned.

"You become very grateful. I'd run into people and they say, 'You're lucky to still be alive,' and I am and to be here today and do a performance of a great work, one has to feel lucky," Halverson said.

Once a performer and singer, you just don't quit. But the crazy routine of teaching and singing and performing will be no more. There is valuable family time to enjoy, and a retirement to savor.

"I am a grandpa," Halverson said. "You have to be close to the grandchildren."

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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