The star tenor takes on a key role in the company's artistic direction


(Los Angeles) January 25, 2021 – As LA Opera anticipates resuming public performances this fall, the company is continuing to look to its artistic future, welcoming the newest member of its leadership team: opera star Russell Thomas, one of today's most prominent tenors, is joining the company as Artist in Residence.

With a tenure extending through the end of the 2023/24 season, he will have significant influence over the company's next few years, playing a substantial role in artistic planning and casting. Additionally, he will be involved on the administrative side, contributing to the day-to-day operations of a world-class opera company. This includes active participation in the company's community engagement, fundraising, marketing and public relations efforts. On the LA Opera stage, he will perform a starring role at least once per season, commencing with his appearance as Radames in Aida (May 21 through June 12, 2022). The company has also commissioned an evening-length, autobiographical work expressly for him from Emmy Award-winning composer Joel Thompson, to premiere in the 2022/23 season.

"This is a huge deal for me, and I'm almost overwhelmed with excitement about all of the possibilities that come with it," said Mr. Thomas. "I'm especially committed to connecting with minority communities, particularly the African American community, throughout Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas. I'm really looking forward to extending my involvement with a company that has given me so many opportunities to perform, and excited about becoming part of the Los Angeles community on a deeper level."


Mr. Thomas will host and curate the company's After Hours recital series, exploring thematic song programs in an intimate setting. The series will resume next month with an online recital called "Black Love," featuring songs by Black composers, and continue with additional programs on the company’s On Now digital platform throughout the spring. The series will return to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion's Founders Room in the fall.


Mr. Thomas will head up two newly created training programs for young singers, both of which have been underwritten in their entirety by an anonymous donor. The first is a virtual training program for singers from historically Black colleges and universities across the nation. Mr. Thomas will mentor eight to ten current HBCU students or recent graduates each season. 

He will also spearhead the new Russell Thomas Young Artists in Training Program, which will give a small group of Los Angeles public high school students from underserved communities long-term vocal training to prepare them for future careers in opera.

Additionally, he will join the exceptional team of coaches and mentors of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, alongside Artistic Advisor Susan Graham, Head of Vocal Instruction Stephen King, and Head of Dramatic Instruction Paul Curran.

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"As we look at a return to public performances in the post-pandemic era, it's critical for us not simply to resume normal operations but rather to push forward with our growth and development, and I couldn't imagine anyone better suited than Russell to take on this new role with the company," said Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco President and CEO. "He commands universal respect as a performer and colleague, as a champion of the arts, and as a powerful advocate for equitable representation in the opera world. We are fortunate that, even as his international singing career continues unabated, Russell has agreed to help shape the future of our world-class opera company, building and curating new initiatives that are particularly meaningful to him, and becoming an even more influential voice within our community, and opera at large."


With a “heroically shining tone of exceptional clarity and precision” (Opera magazine) and “gorgeously burnished power” (New York Times), tenor Russell Thomas uses his signature elegance and intensity to create vivid character portrayals on the world’s most important stages.

A favorite with Los Angeles audiences for nearly a decade, he has appeared with LA Opera as Pollione in Norma (2015), Cavaradossi in Tosca (2017) and Titus in The Clemency of Titus (2019). His appearances with the LA Philharmonic include John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012 and 2013) and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (2018) at Walt Disney Concert Hall as well as Cavaradossi in Tosca (2016) and the title role of Otello (2018) at the Hollywood Bowl.

He began the 2019/20 season with his role debut as Don Alvaro in a new production of La Forza del Destino at Deutsche Oper Berlin. He returned to Washington National Opera as the title character in Verdi’s iconic Otello and made his role and house debut as Radames in a new production of Aida with Houston Grand Opera. He was also the tenor soloist for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Vienna Konzerthaus. (COVID cancellations included leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera as well as in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Toronto.)

Last season, Mr. Thomas made his first staged appearances as Verdi’s Otello at Canadian Opera Company and Deutsche Oper Berlin, after concert performances of that role in Los Angeles and Atlanta. He has sung leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Salzburg Festival and San Francisco Opera, among many others.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Thomas is a much sought-after educator, sharing his expertise on voice technique, performance and career management through popular master classes, seminars and panel appearances.



Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, given the extraordinary challenges of the time. As LA Opera awaits its cue to return to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, the company is offering a multitude of content including live recitals, opera broadcasts and learning opportunities via its LA Opera On Now digital offerings, which have accumulated nearly 795,000 views since launching last spring. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period through the LA Opera Relief Fund. Those wanting to support LA Opera can visit


Vanessa Flores Waite
Director of Communications 

The Russell Thomas Youth Artist Training Academy is underwritten with generous support from an anonymous donor.

LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.