Tenor Russell Thomas on diversity and blackface in opera

Acclaimed operatic tenor Russell Thomas shares his perspective on why banning blackface won't get at the root issues of opera's lack of diversity.
Russell Thomas with host Tom Power in the q studio in Toronto, Ont. (Vivian Rashotte/CBC)

Russell Thomas is an acclaimed operatic tenor who's performed in some of the world's most prestigious opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, the English National Opera and the Los Angeles Opera.

Right now, Thomas is starring in the Canadian Opera Company's latest production of Otello in Toronto. In the past, the role has received criticism for casting white actors who have had their skin darkened to play the part. But as a black opera singer himself, Thomas says that outrage is misplaced.

He joined host Tom Power in the q studio to share his perspective on why banning blackface won't get at the root issues of the genre's lack of diversity.

"We run the risk of alienating ourselves as minorities, as black people, if we only advocate for the black roles," said Thomas.

You can catch Thomas in the lead role of Otello, which runs until May 21 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Produced by ​Beza Seife

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