A Burnsville High alum has been chosen as a finalist in the "American Idol" of opera, the National Council Auditions at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Of 1,500 contestants, bass-baritone Thomas Richards was one of just six finalists to receive the top award—a $15,000 scholarship. The competition is considered one of the most prestigious contest in opera, and has launched the career of many luminaries like Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson.
To those who knew Richards in high school, a career in opera may have seemed unlikely. Richards, now 24, told an interviewer at NYC's WQXR that he was into goth-rock like KORN and Marilyn Manson in high school.
"I had a mohawk and everything," Richards recounted.
His direction changed when he was cast as Judd in the musical "Oklahoma."
"I sang it people liked it and the rest has been great," Richards said.
Richards is currently working toward an Artist Diploma at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati, where he studies opera with voice teacher William McGraw. He graduated from The George Washington University in the District of Columbia in 2010 with a double major in political science and music.
On Monday, Richards was honored by the Met, after a week of grueling auditions. He made quite an impression on the judges, in spite of a nasty cold, with his haunting rendition of Claggart's soliloquy from Britten's "Billy Budd," and a side-splitting take on "La calunnia" from Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia."
To see a video of Richards' interview with WQXR click here.