Tenor Brownlee has emerged as a versatile artist in a wide range of opera works as well as an eloquent voice for racial equality in today’s classical music world
The blend between these two men, who sing roles in which they either vow friendship or express rivalry and animosity, is consistently attractive. Their voices are beautiful. They sound as perfect for each other and as perfectly interesting for us as the coupling of soprano Joan Sutherland with mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne. You’ll search in vain through recorded history for two Rossini tenors who sing duets so compellingly.
Brownlee adds his crystal-clear tones to those of Spyres in a photo finish: a fit of vocal splendor and glory worthy of delight from any Rossini aficionado. In a word, breathtaking. If, as Spyres says of Rossini, "much of his writing for tenor set the boundaries for what the male voice could achieve," then this sensational album is living proof.
Technical mastery is enhanced by the sheer pleasure of hearing two men belting it out as if their lives depended on it. The definite feeling that they are having fun into the bargain is the icing on the cake.
Rossini, two terrific tenors and a first rate musical ensemble—what’s not to love?... We get arias, duets and trios (the tenors are joined by mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and fellow tenor Xabier Anduaga) that are thoughtfully interpreted and artfully sequenced to mimic the construction of a Rossini opera. Its most winning feature, besides the competing tenors who are in full bloom here, is that it flows.
Rossini’s flamboyantly decorated arias showcase the facets of an individual singer’s voice as if it were a diamond under a jeweller’s loupe. Lawrence Brownlee and Michael Spyres’s new album of duelling-tenor pieces, “Amici e Rivali,” is a nice reminder of the sparks that fly when two first-rate voices meet in the playground of a Rossini opera. Spyres’s warm, baritonal colors beautifully complement Brownlee’s shinier timbre in exerpts from “Otello,” “La Donna del Lago,” “Ricciardo e Zoraide,” and other works. The pair dispatches the punishing tessitura, intricate filigree, and endless scales of these duets with undaunted charm, and Corrado Rovaris conducts I Virtuosi Italiani with style.
"A beguiling and superbly gifted lyric tenor"
“The time is now to make a change, and this idea seems to be resonating in a way that gives me hope,” Brownlee told Observer during a recent conversation. “I have been extremely vocal about this for a long time, and hopefully, people are finally ready to take action. We need inclusion and diversity in every area of society, including the arts, and at every level from the administration, board rooms, composers, choruses, and orchestras to a more diverse audience and community engagement.” Brownlee also spoke of the field’s lack of diversity earlier this year on ABC, noting, “I’ve never been hired by a Black general director of a company or a Black artistic administrator or a Black casting director.”
“'Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter' made a compelling statement by featuring a cast of exceptional Black singers."
"As Fernand, Lawrence Brownlee — coming off last weekend’s “Giving Voice” solo recital — steers his supple tenor through a similarly broad emotional range... his low-key delivery effectively conceals his inner turmoil, but the center can only hold for so long: In his final scenes, Fernand’s despair becomes increasingly evident as Brownlee approaches the upper limits of his register."
"Anchoring the cast is an absolutely bravura performance from tenor Lawrence Brownlee, singing with unrivaled sweetness and astonishing flexibility, executing Rossini’s complex and intricate runs with flair and ease. Brownlee’s excellent comic timing and the delicate vulnerability in his acting made him an audience favorite...."
"Tenor Lawrence Brownlee wrung every possible ounce of humor from the role of Count Almaviva... [he] finessed the dizzying flurries of notes assigned to the Count without sacrificing beauty of sound. His physical humor was a delight to behold."
"Brownlee... certainly delivered the goods Saturday night. His tenor has a dark cast that gave his Almaviva a virile, resolute authority."
"Indeed, there may be no better or more agile bel canto tenor on the scene today than Brownlee...the singer commands a stellar technique and honeyed tone that makes his high notes ring with characteristic warmth."
"A new Brownlee emerged as he sung these songs. A brilliant edge was added to the lovely lyricism of the voice we have come to know. Anguish, desperation, and sadness are all painted in his darker tones, often richly textured in the lower registers.”
“The warmth and vibrancy of his voice fit the needs of the music exquisitely [in the Dichterliebe]…in [Cycles] the singer absolutely commanded the stage and sounded gorgeous even in the most dissonant sections.”
“His artistic presentation, emotional face and unbeatable charm complemented the beautiful tone and amazing range of his voice. Brownlee impressed the audience with his long, high notes, especially at the triumphal ending of the aria. What a great high C!”
"For his part, Lawrence Brownlee constitutes the evening's lovely surprise, Ernesto propelled by a delightful, diaphanous di grazia tenor voice."
“Lawrence Brownlee is an Ernesto with clear high notes, exalted in a full voice and soft in a mixed voice. The timbre is rich and warm, notably in the medium and the neat legato. When low, the timbre is full-bodied and pleasant. His light vibrato maintains a contained and regular rhythm. His phrasing most often shows his courage, but he's able to become delicate in his duo with Nadine Sierra.”
"The American tenor Lawrence Brownlee is an Ernesto with a warm and soft timbre...he excels in his serenade."
"A true revelation in this Don Pasquale, Lawrence Brownlee enchants us throughout the opera and even in a teenager's sweatshirt and cap he moves us with "Povero Ernesto!" as well as the distant "Com'e gentil a Notte," sung backstage."
"As a teenager addicted to his phone, Lawrence Brownlee is remarkably natural in the role of Ernesto. One will never sufficiently underline the elegance of this singer, too rare on Parisian stages. All is fluid, linked, clear and direct, with beautiful colors that aptly translate the emotions of adolescence."
"a pair of dynamite performers"
“Brownlee and Spyres are tenors who are out of this world, for whom really no C goes too high. They beautifully matched the sound of the resonant Residentie Orkest and conductor Michael Balke.”
"His romantic phrases are very lyrical and effortless in every register, and his charming smile adds to his sparkling high notes."
"the radiant singer brought many in attendance to their feet"
"Brownlee was able to give the character a flawless voice and a natural likeability. One of the foremost bel canto tenors on the scene today, his vibrant tone matched the youthful passion of his character."
"Brownlee, as Nadir, has no peer with this type of lyric tenor hero, where clarity and beauty of tone speaks pages."
"Making in his debut in the role, tenor Lawrence Brownlee brings real warmth to his early scene with Elliott and tenderness to his duets (on and offstage) with soprano Andrea Carroll’s Leïla."
"The tenor role of Nadir, Zurga’s best friend, was played in outstanding fashion by Lawrence Brownlee, whose liquid tones perfectly suited the role."
"Brownlee, in his role as the love-sick Nadir, was earnest and convincing, and his silky, gorgeous timbre in the the pianissimo sections “Oh divine ecstasy!” was among the vocal highlights of the night."
“[Brownlee’s] bel canto moves and silver-sheen sound add up to his superpower. At one point, he held a high note so long that Owens jested by checking his watch-arm for the time.”
"Lawrence Brownlee strode onto the stage brimming with confidence for Ilo’s entrance aria, “Terra amica.” The American tenor delivered this extraordinary firebolt piece, which he revived in his Vocal Arts DC recital in 2016, with show-stopping authority. High notes rang with authority, including an endlessly sustained final note, and the complex runs and arpeggios crackled with verve in the concluding cabaletta. Although Brownlee was in excellent voice throughout, in both ensembles and arias, this piece was a tour de force."
"The tenor Lawrence Brownlee also made a stunning vocal contribution to the evening, first with a velvety, caressing version of “Un’ aura amorosa” from Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, followed by a delightful, joyous rendition of Donizetti’s “Ah mes amis…” from La fille du regiment. Never have all those high C’s been dispatched more effortlessly or beautifully."