About This Performance
Lawrence Brownlee’s voice has been described as, “an instrument of great beauty and expression,” by NPR, a fact attested to by an enthusiastic SF Performances audience at his recital debut here three seasons ago. This tremendously versatile tenor—who was named “Male Singer of the Year” by both the International Opera Award and Bachtrack—explores a program including selections from the 24 Italian Songs & Arias, German and French Art Songs and Spirituals.
Selections from the 24 Italian Songs & Arias
SCARLATTI: Già il sole dal Gange
TORELLI: Tu lo sai
CACCINI: Amarilli mia bella
LEGRENZI: Che fiero costume
German Art Songs
SCHUBERT: Der Jüngling an der Quelle and Nacht und Träume
STRAUSS: Heimliche Aufforderun and Cäcilie
French Art Songs
FAURÉ: Après un rêve
LISZT: Oh! Quand je dors
H.T. BURLEIGH: Deep River and Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
HALL JOHNSON: Walking and Ride on King Jesus
Helen Berggruen for the 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).
Amidst the challenges of COVID-19, Brownlee has emerged as a pivotal voice in classical music’s shift toward digital programming and the resurgence of conversations around racial justice.
Highlights of Brownlee’s 20–21 season include Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola at Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, his role debut as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor at New National Theatre Tokyo, Arturo in I Puritani with Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, and Tonio in La Fille du Regiment with Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège. In concert, Brownlee reprised Lawrence Brownlee and Friends at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Giving Voice at Houston Grand Opera, Lawrence Brownlee and Friends and Cycles of My Being with Opera Philadelphia, as well as a virtual recital with pianist Myra Huang for the Schubert Club International Artist Series, a virtual concert with the Tallahassee Symphony, the tenor solo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Tulsa Symphony, and a virtual recital with Music Worcester. In spring 2021, Brownlee joined The Juilliard School as a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Member.
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 Master 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.
One of the leading collaborative pianists of his generation, John Churchwell enjoys a career on the concert stage as well as in the nation’s leading opera houses.
In August 2011, Mr. Churchwell was named Head of Music for San Francisco Opera. Previously, Mr. Churchwell was an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera for 14 years. He has assisted on more than 100 productions and has collaborated with some of the world’s leading conductors including James Levine, Nello Santi, Nicola Luisotti, James Conlon, Donald Runnicles, Sir Charles Mackerras, Marco Armiliato, and Fabio Luisi.
A champion of American music, John was involved in the world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. In recent seasons, Mr. Churchwell has prepared the world premieres of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, as well as the Philip Glass opera Appomattox, the Stewart Wallace/Amy Tan collaboration The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne, and the recent world premiere of Girls of the Golden West by John Adams, all for San Francisco Opera. From 2005–2008 Mr. Churchwell was the official accompanist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.
On the recital stage, Mr. Churchwell has partnered some of today’s most sought-after vocalists including Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Diana Damrau, Larry Brownlee, Lisette Oropesa, Frederica von Stade, Leah Crocetto, Dawn Upshaw, Carol Vaness, David Pittsinger, Patricia Schuman and Jill Grove. In addition to song recitals, Mr. Churchwell is an active chamber musician and has appeared regularly with members of the Metropolitan and San Francisco’s Opera Orchestras.
A native of Knoxville, TN, Mr. Churchwell studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and Tufts University where he earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano and a Bachelor of Arts in French, respectively. Mr. Churchwell continued his studies at the University of Minnesota where he earned a Master of Music and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Accompanying. Mr. Churchwell studied song literature at the Banff Centre for the Arts and remains the only pianist to be invited for three summers as a Tanglewood Fellow.
Mr. Churchwell has been a member of the faculty of Music Academy of the West since 2000.