In the summer of 2004, an unknown African-American tenor starred in Cincinnati Opera's production of The Daughter of the Regiment, best known for the killer aria "Ah! Mes Amis!" with its nine high C notes. Lawrence Brownlee made it sound effortless, spinning off octave jumps with crystalline purity and laser-like accuracy. When he finished, there was a split second of silence verging on disbelief — followed by pandemonium.
Now one of the world's most sought-after tenors, Brownlee returns to Cincinnati to perform in Mendelssohn’s grand oratorio "Elijah," the concluding work in this year's May Festival.
Brownlee's gleaming tone and extraordinary command of coloratura singing have propelled him into a select group of singers who specialize in bel canto, a style demanding precise execution of often florid passagework. Oratorio singing requires additional skills, says Brownlee, who appeared last year with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, yet another killer solo with stratospheric high notes.
Lawrence Brownlee performs in "Elijah," the May Festival's concluding concert, Saturday at Music Hall. Go here to read Anne Arenstein's full interview.