For some, the COVID pandemic has been a frustrating period of idling, and this is especially so for musicians in the arts.
Not so for Lawrence Brownlee.
The 49-year-old Florida-based tenor — long regarded as an international star in bel canto opera repertory, or opera from the early 19th century — has been front and center with classical music’s shift toward digital programming in the last year as well as a voice for activism for racial justice generally and diversity in the industry.
Brownlee is one of the central performers in the 2021 Virtual Oregon Bach Festival (“Music is Everywhere”), which starts its three-week run on June 25. His performance of bel canto arias, spirituals and American song with pianist Myra Huang kicks off on July 5.
Brownlee has been hailed by critics as “an international star in the bel canto operatic repertory” (The New York Times) and “one of the world’s bel canto stars” (The Guardian). He has been in demand the past several years and performed throughout the world in opera performances and recitals.
This past year, as opera houses closed because of the pandemic, Brownlee simply moved on to other platforms.
In May 2020, he launched “The Sitdown With LB,” a weekly Facebook Live series in which he explores being an African American opera singer. This series has featured conversations with renowned artists such as Geoerge Shirley, Denyce Graves, Martina Arroyo and others.
Shortly before that, Brownlee began hosting “Coffee and a Song,” a video series in which he invites artist friends to perform interpretations of art songs from their own homes, and he has given an online master class conversation-performance as part of National Sawdust’s Digital Discovery Festival.
Brownlee is comfortable in the virtual setting, so sit back and enjoy the performance. It should be a treat for opera lovers.
The 2021 Virtual Oregon Bach Festival — Music is Everywhere — is June 25 through July 11. Bel Canto with Lawrence Brownlee runs from July 5 through July 11. OBF’s stream can be found at OregonBachFestival.org.