"Rare are the classical singers who use their celebrity cachet to help generate new repertory. One shining example is Lawrence Brownlee, who regards the commissioning of music by living composers and sharing it with audiences around the world an essential part of who he is as a performing artist.
Even so, his involvement with “Cycles of My Being,” the new song cycle he included in his recital Thursday night at the DuSable Museum of African American History, was motivated by something much deeper, something much more personal: Brownlee and his collaborators, composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes, wanted to express their feelings, and, crucially, how they are perceived, as African-American men living in a racially divided America."
"And then the piece ends suddenly and quietly. Here is an existential question delivered in a small moment, and the sensation of a larger meaning coming into focus with a musical gesture felt startlingly familiar.
"The poet who wrote the words can be confrontational. The composer is known for cutting-edge jazz. The singer specializes in ornately written operas from another century. Suffice it to say that Cycles of My Being, a new song cycle by poet Terrance Hayes and composer Tyshawn Sorey — prompted by police brutality against African Americans — won’t be anything typical. Or demure.
"There are only a few tenors in the world who can sing the complicated role of Arturo, and American tenor Lawrence Brownlee is one of them. He masterly presented extremely long high notes that build into genius pathos and expressive melodic lines."
"Brownlee’s performance was nothing short of a triumph, quite the finest singing of this most taxing tenor role one is likely to hear in any opera house today. His entrance aria was pure vocal gold, while his ardent Arturo dominated the third act with one virtuosic feat of vocalism after another."