February 22, 2024

Spotlight on Russell Thomas

Russell Thomas is American through and through, yet he sings Italian opera to the manner born. At Lyric he's already starred in four iconic roles from that repertoire: Pollione in Bellini’s Norma (debut, 2016/17 Season) Manrico in Verdi’s Il trovatore (2018/19 Season), Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca (2021/22 Season), and most recently the Title Role in Verdi's Ernani (2022/23 Season). He also made his role debut as Canio in Lyric's filmed performance of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, which won two Midwest Emmy Awards. Now we can look forward to his mainstage return in 2023/24 as Radamès in one of our audience’s favorite operas, Verdi's Aida

Russell Thomas as Ernani in Verdi's Ernani at Lyric (2022/23)

Thomas is a true spinto tenor, the category poised between lyric and dramatic. That means that a great many of the most passionately romantic roles in the repertoire are made for Thomas’s voice. It’s big, warm, and full, with an emotional pull that draws any audience into his orbit whenever he’s onstage.

Russell Thomas as Pollione and Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role of Norma at Lyric (2016/17)

This career has been built with tremendous care and intelligence. Once it became clear Thomas had a truly special instrument, he went from the Florida’s New World School of the Arts and the Florida Grand Opera chorus in his native Miami to the most prestigious young-artist programs in the country, culminating in his tenure with the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program.

In Thomas, the international operatic scene rapidly discovered a young tenor whose voice, musicianship, and versatility were ready for the major stages of the world. In addition to every important North American company, he’s starred with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, London’s Royal Opera House, and Oper Frankfurt. Stylistically speaking, his successes encompass everything from Mozart (La clemenza di Tito, Los Angeles, Salzburg, Amsterdam; Idomeneo, Salzburg) to John Adams (A Flowering Tree, Vienna, London).

Russell Thomas as Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca at Lyric (2021/22).

Thomas’s ascendancy to the top rank of Verdi tenors has been a hugely exciting development in his career. One of the most eagerly anticipated role debuts in recent seasons has been his Otello, which he added to his repertoire in concert in Atlanta, subsequently singing it onstage in Toronto, Berlin, and Washington. With his triumphs in that role, as well as in Nabucco (Met, Seattle), Simon Boccanegra (London), Don Carlo (Berlin, Washington), Il trovatore (Cincinnati), Stiffelio (Frankfurt), La forza del destino (Berlin), and Aida (Houston), Thomas is reassuring audiences that Verdi’s formidable tenor heroes will be in the best of hands for many seasons to come.

The hallmark of any Thomas performance — whether in opera, concerts, or recitals — is, above all, sincerity. He’s all about the music and his desire to share it with the public. His generosity onstage and his connection with the characters he portrays are matched by the sheer beauty of his music-making. From the moment he sings his first phrase, Lyric audiences are in for nonstop thrills.

See him onstage as the army general Radamès alongside a host of Lyric favorites in Verdi's Aida, March 9-April 7. Looking for more? Hear Thomas in recordings of Lyric's Il trovatore, Norma, and Verdi Voices, streaming free online.

Assistant conductor Jerad Mosbey goes over the Pagliacci score with Russell Thomas during recent recording sessions onstage at the Lyric Opera House.

MARCH 9 - APRIL 7, 2024



Experience opera at its grandest with Verdi’s visually stunning and musically captivating Aida, featuring intimate arias, dramatic duets, and thrilling Verdi choruses. As a riveting love triangle unfolds in an alluring Egyptian setting, the story is brought to life by principal artists Michelle Bradley, Jamie Barton, and Russell Thomas, all led by Music Director Enrique Mazzola.

Header photo: Russell Thomas as Manrico in Verdi’s Il trovatore at Lyric (2018/19) Credit: Todd Rosenberg

All other photos: Todd Rosenberg, Cory Weaver, Kyle Flubacker