ROBERT ORTH is the best baritone in his price range. A man of average looks and more than adequate vocal skills, he has somehow made the difficult climb from Chicago Opera Theater (his first operatic engagement) to Opera Grand Rapids (his most recent). It has often been said of him, “He has clawed his way to the middle.” A high baritone, he has been referred to as “half man, half tenor.” But it’s Mr. Orth’s abilities as an actor, not as a singer, that have put him in demand to sing Figaro in THE BARBER OF SEVILLE in such cities as Syracuse, Toledo, Corning, and Wilmington. Critics have often commented on his “windmill arms,” his “toothy smile,” and his general tendency to “overact.” Nevertheless, audiences have tolerated him in roles from Morales in CARMEN to Mr. Gobineau in THE MEDIUM. The Metropolitan Opera may not be interested in him. (“We don’t think you’d hear him in our large theater.”) But he is a regular in Indianapolis and Memphis, where the big stars seldom shine. Last year Mr. Orth created the role of Harvey Milk in the opera HARVEY MILK, based on the life of the famous dead homosexual. Though a few critics did not like the opera, most noticed that Mr. Orth tried really hard. A devoted family man, he is away from his wife and children for 7 to 8 months each year. So it’s probably just as well that he has no work for 3 months this summer. But next January he will spend his 50th birthday freezing in Calgary, Alberta, and after that he will make a triumphant return to Grand Rapids, Michigan. His career may be nearly over, but he refuses to give in, a trooper to the end.