Opera Memphis & Stax Music Academy’s 12-Year-Old Caleb Thompson Contracted at the Metropolitan Opera

By Afton Wooten

(Credit: Ticanda Thompson)

12-year-old, Caleb Thompson will understudy the role of “Char’es Baby” in Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in my Bones” at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2021-22 season.

Thompson is a voice student at Stax Academy in Memphis, Tennessee. Here, he has also been a part of an opera class that started after the cancelation of Opera Memphis’s “Beale Street Boheme” which would have featured students of Stax. This year-long class was designed for the students to learn opera history, language, and musical styles online. The conclusion of this class was a performance of “The Evening Prayer” from “Hansel and Gretel” sung in both English and German. Opera Memphis and Stax Academy have been partners since 2011 with multiple performance opportunities for the academy’s students.

Bethania Baray, Thompson’s vocal coach and instructor of the opera class says, “I knew these students would be one-of-a-kind, but students like Caleb have completely surpassed my expectations. Two semesters later, I find myself meeting with Caleb via Zoom to coach his audition for a role at the largest opera house in the world. He is incredibly hard-working and talented, and I could not be more elated for him!”

Thompson will perform in “Fire Shut Up in my Bones” cast alongside Will Liverman, Angel Blue, and Latonia Moore. This historical production will be the Met’s first performance of an opera by a Black composer.