*28-year-old Chicago janitor Keanon Kyles has scored the lead role in the Scottish stage production of Puccini’s opera La Bohème. He is set to perform for nine days at the Edinburgh International Festival. Kyles, a janitor at ABC’s Chicago station WLS-TV, will travel to Edinburgh in July for the rare opportunity to take on the role.
“I have always been interested in performing in the U.K.,” Kyles told ABC News. “I went online and searched ‘opera auditions in the U.K.’ and one in particular stood out to me. It required that I send a video of me performing two contrasting arias.”
Although Kyles performed in Italy last year, the singer says he did not expect to get a call-back for the popular Scottish opera after sending in his audition tape. To his surprise, he received a call back the next day.
“I am the only American chosen for the opera,” he said. “Everyone else is from overseas, so I go there feeling as if I’m representing a nation.”
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Keanon beat out competitors from all over the world, and he described his role in the production as:
“The character I’m portraying is Colline, known for the infamous aria ‘Vecchia Zimarra,'” Kyles explained. “He’s the philosopher, known for his stern, close-minded and egotistical traits. He surprises the audience and fellow cast mates when he pawns his most valuable coat in order to help save the life of Mimi, who is sick and dying.”
Kyles grew up on Chicago’s South Side where he has been singing since he was 8. “I definitely got a bit of flak for being an opera singer,” he said of being teased by his peers growing up. “You can imagine how those jokes went.”
Keanon hopes his story and journey inspires others to never give up, no matter the obstacles they may face.
“I’m really hoping it not only benefits me, but encourages, inspires and motivates individuals who feel like giving up to keep pushing,” he said.