About This Performance
It’s hard to keep eyes and ears off this accomplished and charismatic artist. “I want people to feel like they’re listening to someone who has something thoughtful and meaningful to say,” says Lawrence Brownlee, who returns to SF Performances after his 2018 debut. Brownlee is deeply thoughtful about his connection to audiences, through selection of repertory and musical storytelling.
ROBERT OWENS: Desire, 0p. 13; Silver Rain, Op. 11
JEREMIAH EVANS: April Song; Lost Illusions; Southern Mansion
MARGARET BONDS: Songs of the Seasons
CARLOS SIMON: Vocalise I, II, III
DAMIEN SNEED: Beauty that is never old; The Gift to Sing; To America
SHAWN OKPEBHOLO: Romance
JOEL THOMPSON: Supplication; Compensation; My People
Five Arts Foundation
Lawrence Brownlee is a leading figure in opera, both as a singer on the world's top stages, and as a voice for activism and diversity in the industry. Captivating audiences and critics around the globe, he has been hailed as “an international star in the bel canto operatic repertory” (The New York Times), “one of the world’s leading bel canto stars” (The Guardian), and “one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today” (NPR).
In the 2022–23 season, Brownlee performed a program with longtime friend, collaborator, and fellow Rossini expert Michael Spyres titled, Amici e Rivali at the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in January 2023, in addition to the premiere of an exciting new program titled Rising which will feature Brownlee and pianist Kevin J. Miller performing newly commissioned songs by composers Shawn Okpebholo, Damien Sneed, Joel Thompson, and others with texts drawn from James Weldon Johnson and other great Black writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He made his role debut as Rodrigo in Rossini’s Otello as part of Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O22 in September 2022. Brownlee returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago last November for the title role of Le comte Ory, and as Elvino in Bellini’s La Sonnambula at Teatro Real in Madrid in December. Brownlee performed one of his signature Rossini roles as Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in February 2023. Brownlee’s season ends with his return to the Metropolitan Opera as Tamino in a new production of Die Zauberflöte.
In spring 2021, Brownlee joined The Juilliard School as a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Member. He serves as artistic advisor for Opera Philadelphia, where his responsibilities include increasing and expanding audience diversity, advocating for new works, and liaising with the General Director from the perspective of a performing artist. “As an artist, I think it is important that we are actively advocating for this beautiful art form we love so much,” said Brownlee, “ensuring that it will be alive and well for many years to come.” Mr. Brownlee also serves as an Ambassador for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited, and is an Ambassador for Opera for Peace. Highlights of Brownlee’s most recent past seasons include his role debut in the title role of Rameau’s Platée with Opéra National de Paris to great acclaim. Brownlee also participated in Washington National Opera’s Come Home: A Celebration of a Return concert to open The Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Season and marking a return to live performance. In Fall 2021 Brownlee released a holiday mixtape with neo-classical pianist BLKBOK called Angels Watching Over Me. He made his role debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at New National Theatre Tokyo. In 2019–20 he added Fernand to his repertoire in a new production of Donizetti’s La Favorite with Houston Grand Opera.
Amid the challenges of COVID-19, Brownlee emerged as a pivotal voice in classical music’s shift toward digital programming and the resurgence of conversations around racial justice. A passionate advocate for diversity initiatives, Mr. Brownlee works with companies and engages civic organizations in the cities he visits to create programs and experiences seeking to expand opera audiences. His critically-acclaimed solo recital program Cycles of My Being, a song cycle that centers on the Black male experience in America today, has toured extensively, including performances at Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and virtual broadcasts throughout 2020. Following the successful Lawrence Brownlee and Friends concert at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2019, Brownlee performed Giving Voice at Houston Grand Opera, a concert created to celebrate Houston’s diverse community, and reprised his concert at Lyric with the virtual performance of Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter in July 2020.
In May 2020, Brownlee launched The Sitdown with LB, a weekly Facebook Live series exploring the experience of being an African-American opera singer. The series featured Brownlee in conversation with renowned artists like George Shirley, Denyce Graves, Martina Arroyo, J’Nai Bridges, Angel Blue, and others. In 2021 Brownlee expanded the series to include a segment titled “Inside the Industry” where he shifted the focus to a behind-the-scenes look at the opera industry, speaking with leaders such as Diane Zola (Metropolitan Opera), Francesca Zambello (Glimmerglass and Washington National Opera), Anthony Tommasini (The New York Times), and Matthew Horner (IMG Artists). Since April 2020 he has also hosted the video series Coffee and a Song, in which he invites artist friends to perform interpretations of art-songs from the intimacy of their own homes, he also gave a Masterclass conversation-performance as part of National Sawdust’s Digital Discovery Festival.
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 Hubbard, Ohio. He was awarded a Masters of Music from Indiana University and went on to win a Grand Prize in the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Brownlee is a winner of numerous awards and distinctions including “Male Singer of the Year” (2017 International Opera Awards), the Kennedy Center’s Marian Anderson Award, and the Opera News Award (2021). In October 2019, he had the distinct honor of singing at Jessye Norman’s funeral in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia.
American pianist and collaborator Kevin J. Miller is acclaimed for his dynamically artful performances. Recent collaborations include recitals with international tenor Lawrence Brownlee at Carnegie Hall and Houston Grand Opera, countertenor John Holiday at the Kennedy Center and The Barbican in London, Joseph Calleja and Nadine Sierra at the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as an appearance with Mr. Calleja on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Mr. Miller prepared soprano Jessye Norman for performances of Laura Karpman’s production of Ask Your Mama, which was performed at Carnegie Hall. He also collaborated with the acclaimed countertenor, David Daniels, in a recital at the Glimmerglass Festival. He can be heard on piano on the recording Been in da Storm So Long, which features baritone Kenneth Overton.
This New York native has been on the fast track to success since his days as a student at the Boys Choir of Harlem. Beginning his musical studies at the age of 8, Mr. Miller was a featured soprano soloist—most notably in Vivaldi’s Gloria and Lake George Opera Association’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While a student at the Boys Choir of Harlem, he studied piano with the late conductor and pianist Warren Wilson. It was also during these years that Mr. Miller began his work as an accompanist, having accompanied the choir on its tours of Europe, Israel, Austria, and Japan.
Mr. Miller studied at the Mannes College of Music, where he received a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano. He continued his studies at the University of Michigan School of Music where he received both a Master of Music degree and the Artist Diploma in Collaborative Piano under the tutelage of Martin Katz.
In addition to his formal studies, Mr Miller has been a participant in some of the country’s most prestigious festivals and young artist apprenticeships that include The Tanglewood Institute of Music, Aspen Summer Music Festival, The Cleveland Art Song Festival, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the Glimmerglass Festival. Upon completion of his apprenticeship at the Glimmerglass Festival, he was invited to serve as a vocal coach at the Glimmerglass Festival.