Named 2017 “Male Singer of the Year” by both the International Opera Awards and Bachtrack, American-born tenor LAWRENCE BROWNLEE has been hailed by The Guardian as “one of the world’s leading bel canto stars.” Brownlee captivates audiences and critics around the world, and his voice has been praised by NPR as “an instrument of great beauty and expression … perfectly suited to the early nineteenth century operas of Rossini and Donizetti,” ushering in “a new golden age in high male voices” (The New York Times). Brownlee also serves as Artistic Advisor at Opera Philadelphia, helping the company to expand their repertoire, diversity efforts and community initiatives.
The 2018/19 season starts with two evenings of duets with bass-baritone Eric Owens at the Van Cliburn Foundation, followed by a night of arias at Amsterdam’s famed Concertgebouw. Operatic engagements this season include two role debuts in North American houses, singing Nadir in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers with Houston Grand Opera and Ilo in Rossini’s Zelmira with Washington Concert Opera, as well as returns to several international opera houses, performing in La Cenerentola at Opéra National de Paris, La sonnambula at Opernhaus Zürich and Deutsche Oper Berlin, and I Puritani at Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège. His season also features a 17-stop U.S. tour with bass-baritone Eric Owens performing at the Seattle Symphony, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and other venues, as well as a performance at Carnegie Hall in March 2019 with Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran as part of “Migrations: The Making of America – A Citywide Festival.”
Highlights from last season included returns to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to Opernhaus Zürich, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Opéra National de Paris, as well as the world premiere and recital tour of a new song cycle, Cycles of My Being. The cycle centers on what it means to be an African American man living in America today, touching on the recent series of tragic deaths and the Black Lives Matter movement, and was composed by Tyshawn Sorey, with lyrics by Terrance Hayes, both of whom are MacArthur “genius” grant winners. Co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited, Cycles of My Being had its world premiere in Philadelphia before moving on to Chicago, San Francisco, Carnegie Hall, and other venues. The piece was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a work of both anguish and optimism, at once accusatory and stirring ... whose traversal feels like a descent into a maelstrom followed by the emergence out the other side,” while the Chicago Tribune praised how “Sorey’s music allows Brownlee to do what he does best – to soar effortlessly into the vocal stratosphere, nail perfectly placed high notes, and invest them with expressive meaning.”
One of the most in-demand singers around the world, Brownlee has performed with nearly every leading international opera house and festival, as well as major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra.
Brownlee has appeared on the stages of the top opera companies around the globe, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, the Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, the Berlin State Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Teatro Real Madrid, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, and the festivals of Salzburg and Baden Baden. Broadcasts of his operas and concerts – including his 2014 Bastille Day performance in Paris, attended by the French President and Prime Minister – have been enjoyed by millions.
Brownlee’s latest album, Allegro Io Son, received a Critic’s Choice from Opera News, among numerous other accolades, and followed his previous Grammy-nominated release on Delos Records, Virtuoso Rossini Arias, which prompted The New Yorker critic Alex Ross to ask, “is there a finer Rossini tenor than Lawrence Brownlee?” The rest of his critically acclaimed discography and videography is a testament to his broad impact across the classical music scene. His opera and concert recordings include Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra, Armida at the Metropolitan Opera, Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Accademia di Santa Cecilia, and Carmina Burana with the Berlin Philharmonic. He also released a disc of African-American spirituals entitled Spiritual Sketches with pianist Damien Sneed, which the pair performed at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and which NPR praised as an album of “soulful singing” that “sounds like it’s coming straight from his heart to yours.”
Brownlee is the fourth of six children and first discovered music when he learned to play bass, drums, and piano at his family’s church in Youngstown, Ohio. He earned a Master of Music degree at Indiana University and went onto win a Grand Prize in the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Alongside his singing career, Brownlee is an avid salsa dancer and an accomplished photographer, specializing in artist portraits of his on-stage colleagues. A die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State football fan, Brownlee has sung the National Anthem at numerous NFL games. He is a champion for autism awareness through the organization Autism Speaks, and he is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., a historically Black fraternity committed to social action and empowerment.