Lawrence Brownlee (born 1972) is an American operatic tenor particularly associated with the bel canto repertoire. Describing his voice, Speight Jenkins, general director of the Seattle Opera, said: "There are other singers that sing this repertory very well, but I don’t think anyone else has quite as beautiful a sound and as rounded a tone," and praise his "incredible top notes, adding about his high F (F5) in Credeasi, misera: "With him it’s not a scream, it’s a beautiful sound." Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato adds: “He is always in service of the music,” she said. “His natural instrument is just incredibly beautiful. The word ‘honey’ comes to mind. He also has technical prowess and agility.”
Early life and education
Brownlee was born in Youngstown, Ohio. He grew up without much exposure to classical music, but had an extremely musical childhood, playing trumpet, guitar and drums, and singing Gospel music in church. Brownlee attended Anderson University in Indiana for his undergraduate degree and Indiana University Jacobs School of Music for graduate studies. He studied with soprano Costanza Cuccaro, David Starkey, and Fritz Robertson. While a graduate student, he became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, his desire to become a member was due in large part to his association with members of its Alpha chapter, founded at Indiana University Bloomington in January 1911. He was officially initiated into the Indianapolis Alumni Chapter in the fall of 1999, but considers himself close to the founding chapter and was involved in many of its activities while a student. He became a life member in 2008.
Brownlee’s professional stage debut took place in 2002 as Almaviva in Rossini's The Barber of Seville with Virginia Opera. Brownlee made his Metropolitan Opera debut in a new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 2007. The role has since become one of his most recognizable and famous. He has subsequently appeared in Il Barbiere in Vienna, Milan, Berlin, Madrid, Dresden, Munich, Baden-Baden, Hamburg, Tokyo, New York, Washington, San Diego, Seattle, and Boston. Brownlee's career highlights include performances of The Barber of Seville at the Vienna State Opera, the Boston Lyric Opera and Madrid's Teatro Real. He has appeared in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri, and La Cenerentola at Milan's La Scala, as Belfiore in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims in Brussels and as Tonio in Donizetti's La fille du régiment at the Cincinnati Opera. In concert, Brownlee has performed in Handel's Messiah with the Houston Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. He has given recitals under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation, and was featured in one of that Foundation's Gala Concerts at Lincoln Center. In a departure from his usual repertoire, he created the role of Syme in Lorin Maazel's opera 1984 in its world premiere at London's Royal Opera House on May 3, 2005. He has also received acclaim in Rossini's Armida, alongside Renée Fleming and in the famously challenging role of Tonio in La fille du régiment, both at the Metropolitan Opera.
- Winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
- Winner of the 2006 Richard Tucker Award
- Winner of the 2006 Marian Anderson Award 
- Winner of the 2007 Opera Company of Philadelphia's Alter Award for Artistic Excellence
- Seattle Opera's Artist of the Year in 2008 for his performances as Arturo in Bellini's I puritani.
- Maazel: 1984 – Simon Keenlyside, Nancy Gustafson, Richard Margison, Diana Damrau, Lawrence Brownlee; Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Lorin Maazel (conductor). Label: Decca DVD 074 3289
- Orff: Carmina Burana – Sally Matthews (soprano), Lawrence Brownlee (tenor), Christian Gerhaher (baritone); Berlin Philharmonic; Simon Rattle (conductor). Label: EMI Classics CD 57888/EuroArts/Opus Arte DVD, EUA 2053678
- Italian Songs (Schubert, Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini, and Rossini) – Lawrence Brownlee (tenor), Martin Katz (piano). Label EMI Classics CD 86503
- Mayr: Medea in Corinto – Elzbieta Szmytka, Evelyn Pollock, Lawrence Brownlee, Mark Milhofer, Wojtek Gierlach; Figerete Ymeraj, Andrés de Castillo, Carlos Petruzziello; Chorus and Orchestra of the Theater St. Gallen; David Stern (conductor). Label: OEHMS Classics OC 933
- Rossini: Armida – Renée Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, John Osborn, Barry Banks, Kobie van Rensburg, Yegishe Manucharyan, Keith Miller; Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera; Riccardo Frizza (conductor). Label: Decca DVD 074.3416
- Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia – Elīna Garanča, Lawrence Brownlee, Giovanna Donadini, Nathan Gunn, Roberto Accurso, Bruno de Simone, Kristinn Sigmundsson; Münchner Rundfunkorchester; Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Miguel Gómez-Martínez (conductor). Label: Sony/BMG 822876 80429 2
- Rossini: La Cenerentola – Rachelle Durkin, Elīna Garanča, Lawrence Brownlee, Patricia Risley, Simone Alberghini, Alessandro Corbelli, John Relyea; Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera; Maurizio Benini (conductor). Label: Deutsche Grammophon DVD 073 4577
- Rossini: L'italiana in Algeri– Ruth Gonzalez, Marianna Pizzolato, Elsa Giannoulidou, Lawrence Brownlee, Bruno de Simone, Lorenzo Regazzo, Giulio Mastrototaro; Wildbad Festival, Virtuosi Brunensis; Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir; Alberto Zedda (conductor). Label: Naxos 8.660284-85
- Rossini: Stabat Mater – Anna Netrebko (soprano), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Lawrence Brownlee (tenor), Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (bass); Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Antonio Pappano (conductor). Label: EMI Classics 5099964052922
- Rossini Songs (Il Salotto – Volume 13) – Mireille Delunsch, Jennifer Larmore, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Mark Wilde, Lawrence Brownlee, Brindley Sherratt; Malcolm Martineau (piano). Label: Opera Rara ORR247
- Operngala 16, Festliche Operagala für die AIDS-Stiftung – Simone Kermes, Ailyn Pérez, Petra Maria Schnitzer Lawrence Brownlee, Ketevan Kemoklidze, Renata Pokupić, Peter Seiffert, Michael Volle; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin; Andriy Yurkevych (conductor). Label: Naxos 8.551233
- Colbran, The Muse – Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Lawrence Brownlee (tenor); Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia; Edoardo Müller (conductor). Label: Virgin Classics 945790 6
- Schweitzer Vivien: "Top Notes That Shatter The Glass Ceiling", The New York Times March 11, 2011
- "Lawrence Brownlee: A Rising Star Arrives at the Met", NPR, April 22, 2007
- ", Official Website
- Jacobson, Bernard: "Seattle Opera's Barber of Seville marks a happy return for tenor Lawrence Brownlee", The Seattle Times, January 8, 2011
- "Homecoming: Lawrence Brownlee", Wolf Trap Opera Official Blog, August 14, 2011
- DiDonato, Joyce: "Featured Artist in La Cenerentola", NPR, November 16, 2007
- Rosenberg, Donald: "Youngstown-born tenor Lawrence Brownlee finds contentment in the grandeur of opera and the intimacy of art songs". The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), May 16, 2010
- "Opera-loving justices bring the music to the high court" by Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, May 17, 2010
- D'Astolfo, Guy: "A homecoming of sorts for Youngstown native Lawrence Brownlee", The New York Times, "Tuesday Musical", February 7, 2008)
- Seattle Opera (16 July 2008)