Artist of the Month, June 2018

Artist of the month: Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

Named 2017 “Male Singer of the Year” by both the International Opera Awards and Bachtrack magazine, American-born Lawrence Brownlee has been hailed by the Associated Press as one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors.”

One of the most in-demand singers around the world, Brownlee has performed with nearly every leading symphonic orchestra including the Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Academia di Santa Cecilia, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra. He 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 Covent Garden, The Vienna State Opera, Opera National de Paris, Opernhaus Zürich, the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Teatro Real Madrid, Théâtre Royale 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 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.

Lawrence_and_Placido_at_the_New_Orleans_Gala_Jan_09Brownlee’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 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 Academia 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.”

Mr. Brownlee has had a busy recital tour this spring that included San Francisco, Boston, Princeton, and more, with numerous performances, often notably featuring his groundbreaking new song cycle Cycles of My Being, composed by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by Terrance Hayes. Enjoy a beautiful performance of “Inhale, Exhale” From “Cycles of My Being” here: “Inhale, Exhale” from CYLES OF MY BEING.

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 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. 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 African American fraternity, committed to social action and empowerment.

You can explore more about this prolific artist via his webpage:
https://www.lawrencebrownlee.com

Met_Armida photo credit: Ruby Washington nyt
Lawrence at the Met in Armida. photo credit: Ruby Washington nyt

About the contributor: Tamara Gallo

Did You Know….

The 2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Auditions were held on March 11-12, on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock – Pulaski Technical College.

Fifteen rising stars from colleges and universities across the country were invited to Little Rock to audition for financial scholarships. In addition, one all-expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria was granted for a week long, intensive vocal study course with dramatic soprano and teacher, Carol Byers; Italian and German vocal coaches, Luisella Germano and Werner Lemberg; and noted stage director Peter Pawlik.

Judges 2018
Dr. George Shirley, Maestra Kathleen Kelly, Kristin Lewis and Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff

 

Three illustrious powerhouses of the opera world, Dr. George Shirley, Maestra Kathleen Kelly, and Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff, judged and mentored each finalist throughout the two-day audition process.

2018_shirley_award
Vice Mayor Kathy Webb and Dr. George Shirley

 

During the 2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Finals’ Concert, Dr. George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing at The Metropolitan Opera, was granted a Name Day, March 11th, in the state of Arkansas! He was also bestowed with a Key to the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, by Vice Mayor Kathy Webb.

Link to G. Shirley video
Click image to see video

Above is a short video presentation from the Finals‘ Concert. Included are our judges, Kristin Lewis, Vice Mayor Webb, and the Kristin Lewis Foundation Board Vice President, Mrs. Barbara Hawes. The video is accompanied by a musical clip of Dr. Shirley’s beautiful rendition of “Un’aura amoroso” from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti.

2018_awards_group
2018 Kristin Lewis Foundation Scholarship Award Participants

Congratulations…

… TO

Gabrielle Beteag,

MEZZO-SOPRANO

on being named the 2018 recipient of the Foundation’s top vocal scholarship award,
the Vienna Stipendium!

Gabrielle Beteag is a mezzo soprano native to Atlanta, Georgia. She recently graduated from Georgia State University with a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance, where she was seen onstage as Lady Billows in Albert Herring and Katisha in The Mikado. This summer, Gabrielle will return to the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop to perform the role of Augusta Tabor in the Ballad of Baby Doe and to cover the role of Jo March in Little Women. Her other role credits include Madame de Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites and Secretary in The Consul. Gabrielle was the 2018 recipient of the Kristin Lewis Vocal Scholarship Vienna Stipendium. She is also a recent winner of Georgia State University’s Brumby Concerto Competition and was the 2017 graduate division winner of the Opera Guild for Atlanta’s Vocal Scholarship Competition.

Vienna is the land of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Mahler, Hadyn and many other historic locations, from Schönbrunn Palace to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Mozarthaus Vienna, an immersive museum that includes Amadeus’ original, preserved apartment, await Gabrielle!

She will receive a one week, all expense paid trip to Vienna, Austria, for voice lessons with noted soprano Carol Byers, vocal coaching with collaborative pianists from the Vienna State Opera, acting and diction lessons.

Where in the World Is Kristin Lewis…?

Kristin Lewis is not only the founder and Executive Director of the Kristin Lewis Foundation, but her travels as a world- renowned opera singer have taken her literally all around the world! Kristin credits most of her travels to the opera Aida, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s best known operas. This particular opera has become a signature one for Ms. Lewis, which has given her worldwide fame. She has been honored to perform the starring role of Aida more than two hundred (200) times!

Aida in hamburg 1

Aida is set in the land of Pharaohs. Aida, an Ethiopian princess and daughter to the king, was kidnapped and taken to Egypt. She inadvertently falls in love with the courageous general, Radames, who is going to war with her home country. The miserable Aida is in a tormenting predicament because she has to choose between the country she cherishes and the man she feels she cannot live without.

This opera was originally commissioned by the Cairo Opera and performed in 1871. This poignant classic allegory has been conquering the world stages since this time. Ms. Lewis is on a mini break from performing; therefore, we had the opportunity to sit down with her to check-in and see where are some of the places she has traveled and to find out what she has been doing.

KLF Newsletter: Hello, Ms. Lewis! How are you? Where have you been traveling lately? Let me just say it –inquiring minds want to know.

Kristin:Ha, ha… Inquiring minds, huh? Well, I’m currently resting at home; however, I just finished a production of Aida in Hamburg, Germany at the Hamburg State Opera. This production was directed by Guy Joosten. We wrapped things up in March.

KLF Newsletter: Wonderful! I know that Aida is your signature role. What has been the most rewarding and challenging opportunity related to performing the role of Aida?

Aida in hamburg 2

Kristin: Well, what was very challenging to me during my initial performances, was discovering how to bring the character of Aida to life. The setting of the opera is in the ancient Near East. Therefore, I had to learn as much as I could about that culture, so that I could make my character as close as authentic as possible while also making her relatable to the audience. This meant creating my personal interpretation in order to bring out the emotions and actions of the character. Performing this role is very challenging and rewarding. Each experience with this role has been different because of my always working with a new cast and director who have their own interpretations of how the opera and its characters should be presented. In fact, during my most recent production in Hamburg, instead of the setting taking place in ancient Egypt, it was a modern day presentation. Of course the music and libretto didn’t change, but the setting was different.

KLF Newsletter: : Did that version significantly change how you approached the role?

Kristin: Yes, surprisingly it did. This was a rare opportunity for me to be a part of a production where the setting was more realistically geared toward today’s standards. In this production, I did not have to act like an Ethiopian that required me to assimilate to Egyptian culture. I could relate to the role as Kristin in today’s society. I did not have to control the acting as much in regard to my reactions and responses in this particular version. The character came to life for me in a new and dynamic way.

Aida in hamburg 3

KFL Newsletter: Wow! That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing with us Ms. Lewis, and we look forward to learning what other places in the world you will travel to and perform in.


This interview was given by Amelie Jones, a local pastor in the United Methodist Church, a journalist and a producer for the award winning radio show, “The Method: Real Talk for Real People. She is also a published author whose work has been displayed in the world famous Bridwell Library.

The Good Book of Ruminations

Philosophical ruminations can be extremely important to consider when embarking upon a career in performance. Divine guidance, natural talent, dedication and humility are among the fundamental tools needed for success.
Further, I invite aspiring artists to consider the thoughts of seasoned artistic professionals, or Opera Apostles, as they share their most meaningful words of wisdom
in a new blog entitled,

The Good Book of Ruminations:
A Musician’s Guide To Survival.

Book of Ruminations 1:1-3A Good Word from Operatic Apostle and Tenor, Michael Fabiano

Chapter 1

1Thou shall not holdeth out thine hand before thy brotherman for help. 2From whence comest thine help? It cometh from thine own toll, labor and passion while out in the field. 3Therefore, go ye forth with full courage, for thy strength awaiteth thee on the path where ye shall soon trod.

Michael Fabiano
Michael Fabiano

Commentary

Don’t wait for anyone to hold your hand. Do it yourself. Go your own way and not ask for a handout. An example of how I lived by this same principle occurred for me between the ages of 19-20. The way that I earned money to get the resources to go on audition tours was by singing 115 weddings, 70 funerals, and umpiring 85 baseball games

This was how I paid my bills. It was a lot of work, yet I did it and felt it was worth the sacrifice. Therefore, taking ownership of one’s career from its beginning can cause one to feel a sense of ownership of what they are trying to accomplish. And by the time one receives their first major operatic job, then there can be a greater sense of achievement.