Full circle

Published 3:25 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Opera singer Richardson coming home to Tidewater

Opera singer Adam Richardson, a 2005 graduate of Smithfield High School and the Governor’s School for the Arts, will return to his roots in January when he joins the Virginia Opera for the production of “Sanctuary Road” in Norfolk. 

The performances are set for Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 28 at 2:30 p.m. at Harrison Opera House. Additional shows are slated for February in Richmond and in Fairfax.

“Sanctuary Road,” based on the writings of William Grant Still, is an opera that “documents stories of enslaved fugitives escaping to freedom during the early to mid-1800s,” Richardson said. “I am the baritone soloist for this production. What’s most heartwarming about this show is that while it’s a story about enslaved people, the show’s ending concludes from a perspective that isn’t customarily highlighted when it comes to the story of the enslaved. And that being thanks to the likes of people like William Grant Still, some enslaved people did escape to freedom.”

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Richardson began singing as a child when his elementary school music teacher selected him to sing “Home on the Range” in front of the school. He honed his skills by singing in the church choir.

“My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, we all sang in church, so funnily enough, I thought everyone could sing,” he said. “What I enjoyed then and still enjoy now is the community I’ve found in singing. Having a shared passion for something and creating it with other like-minded individuals is one of the best parts of this career.”

After graduating from high school, he went on to study classical voice music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he earned a degree in music. He later received his master’s degree at The Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently resides. 

Richardson’s repertoire includes roles in “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “Factotum,” “X: The Life Times of Malcolm X” and Hanjo, among others. He’s traveled across the country as well as to Amsterdam and Italy for performances.

“Each of these experiences has been rewarding in their own way,” he said. “I’ve gotten to work with incredible artists at the top of the field, and with friends, some of whom I’ve known for over 20 years. Outside of opera, I also perform in Broadway musicals as well. I last performed in the Tidewater area in early 2020 on the national tour of Cats.”

“Sanctuary Road” will be his first time performing with the Virginia Opera.

“I was excited when I was asked to join this production, as it’ll be my debut with this company, but mainly, I can have my family and friends at home see me perform,” he said. “Virginia Opera was also the first professional company I worked for as a teenager. During my days at the Governor’s School, there was an apprentice program where older students could sing in the chorus of a few other productions. I had the privilege of being in two operas, so this feels like a full-circle moment.”

He is looking forward to taking the stage in his own backyard.

“I’ve had the privilege to travel all over the country and to different countries, and, while those experiences are amazing, it’s rare that I know many or anyone in the audience,” he said. “So, getting to perform for a home crowd is really special.  I hope people come and can enjoy themselves. I would love it if parents bring their children. I was fortunate to have the arts in life, in various forms, from a young age, and I know the importance of arts education, so if this show can be even a tiny part of that for a young person, I hope they can experience it.”

For ticket information to the performances of “Sanctuary Road” in Norfolk, visit www.virginiasymphony.org/sanctuaryroadnorfolk.