A homecoming of sorts for Youngstown native Lawrence Brownlee

Vindy.com - February 7th, 2008

by Guy D'Astolfo

While in Akron, the performer will conduct a master class.

In a span of just six years since his college days, Lawrence Bownlee has established himself as one of the most prominent bel canto tenors on the national and international opera scenes.

The East High graduate regularly performs with he world's most prominent opera companies and in the most prestigious halls. David Shengold of Opera Magazine had this to say about Brownlee: "Stylistically impeccable, the young tenor from Ohio also employed breathtaking technique...with a mixture of audacity and mastery that delighted the audience."

Brownlee is also making headlines for the honors he receives. Last year, he was awarded the Philadelphia Opera Company's Alter Award for Artistic Excellence. In 2006, he received both the Martin Anderson and Richard Tucker awards, a feat never before achieved by any artist in the same year.

Brownlee will make a homecoming of sorts next week when he performs in concert at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron, with pianist Marl Katz. He talked about his life and career in this question and answer session with The Vindicator.

Q. How does it feel to return to Northeast Ohio?

A. I am extremely excited to be coming "home" to perform for my family, friends and so many well-wishers who have supported me from the very beginning. I look forward to a very special night and, yes, this will be an important homecoming of sorts.

Q. Are your family and friends in Youngstown going to Akron to catch your performance?

A. My parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, my pastor, friends, you name it, will all be there, as well as many others, including several of my music teachers. Perhaps even some of my principals will be there.

Q. Has there been any talk of a Youngstown show in the next year or so?

A. Honestly, I had hoped to appear in Youngstown first, which would have been the true homecoming, but it never worked out for one reason or another. I am most grateful to everyone connected with the Tuesday Musical Association in Akron for this wonderful opportunity. At this time, there is nothing scheduled in Youngstown, but I hope it will hapen in the near future.

Q. What can we expect to hear at the Akron concert? Who will accompany you?

A. The recital will be comprised of works by Mozart, Duparc, Rossini, Donizetti, and various songs and Negro Spirituals. I will be accompanied by Mark Katz, a frequent collaborator, who is considered one of the best in the business.

Q. I understand you are doing a master class at Akron. Is this something you have been doing lately? I imagine that many students would be eager to attend such a class, and it must be rewarding for you to share your expertise.

A. Yes, I am looking forward to giving the master class. I always start off by saying I am no master of anything, but I will just give the students some ideas of what I think may be of help, whether it be textually, musically or vocally.

Q. How has your life changed since your acclaimed debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera last year?

A. First of all, that was one of the single most wonderful experiences of my life. Since the Met, things have been better than I could have ever imagined. I received more offers from that company, as well as several other important theaters in the world. I consider myself fortunate to be living the life I am and doing what I enjoy and love.

Q. Any exciting projects on your schedule for this year?

A. Yes, in May I will perform for the first time in a staged production of Bellini's "I Puritani" at the Seattle Opera, which I consider my artistic home, having graduated from its Young Artist Program. It will be with a great cast and production team. I will also be debuting the role of Narciso in Rossini's "The Turk in Italy" in two important theaters: Unter den Linden (Berlin) and the Theatredu Captole in Toulouse. I will also make two Rossini recordings during the summer: The Italian Girl in Algies with Maestro Alberto Zedda for the Naxos Label and a solo CD of the composser's songs accompanied by Malcolm Martineau (Opera Rara). So yes, this is a very exciting season.

Q. The Met has a new program in which opperas are shown live in high-definition at theatres around the world, including Tinseltown in Boardman. Have you ever been on one of these broadcast? Are you on the schedule?

A. I have not yet been a part of those broadcast, buy I believe one of the productions in which I am appearing with the Met in a future season will be included in that programming.

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