CHICAGO, IL (6/30/2020) - Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director, president and CEO, Anthony Freud, announced today that the previously announced “Sunday in the Park with Lyric’s Rising Stars'' concert at Millennium Park has been reimagined as Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter.
“Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter will be a free virtual concert hosted by world-renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who also serves as artistic adviser for the event, at 6pm on Sunday, July 26th,” said Freud. “Due to state COVID-19 restrictions on the capacity of public gatherings, this new concert offering is being created specifically for the digital space.”
Lyric recently announced the cancellation of productions until January 2021, and this concert is the first planned offering in a wide range of exciting alternative artistic activities to be presented through the fall, with a focus on ensuring that the art form of opera remains in the hearts and minds of Lyric audiences and supporters through this period of closure.
In addition to Lawrence Brownlee, the concert will feature prominent Ryan Opera Center alumni—soprano Whitney Morrison, mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges, and baritone Will Liverman. It will also feature three current 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members—tenors Martin Luther Clark and Lunga Hallam, and baritone Leroy Davis, all in their first year with the program. Performances will be accompanied by Craig Terry, the Grammy-Award winning music director of the Ryan Opera Center, and Chris Reynolds, current Ensemble pianist.
Members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra will also be featured in a movement of John Carter’s “Cantata” alongside J’Nai Bridges, performing from their homes. The repertoire for this concert will include music and/or texts by BIPOC artists, as well as selections by other composers in a combination of arias, songs, and spirituals, showcasing the range of the artists. Two pieces that Brownlee will be performing include "Ah! mes amis” from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, and arrangements of spirituals by Damien Sneed, including “All Night, All Day.” While Craig Terry and Lawrence Brownlee conceived the concert format in collaboration, each performing artist has selected their own repertoire.
“Many of my most treasured musical relationships have been with brilliant artists of color, including my dear friend Lawrence Brownlee,” said Terry. “We recognize that artists of color have not had equitable platforms from which to be heard. Collectively, we must do all that we can to bring about significant, permanent change. We hope this concert helps illustrate Lyric’s commitment to celebrating the depth, breadth, and virtuosity of the artistry of people of color in our community and on our stages.”
Lawrence Brownlee has become a Lyric favorite over the past few years, most recently as Count Almaviva in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville last fall. The Guardian has referred to him as “one of the world’s leading bel canto stars,” and Brownlee can be heard in opera houses and symphony halls around the world. A passionate advocate for diversity initiatives, Brownlee works with companies and engages civic entities in the cities he visits to create programs and experiences seeking to expand opera audiences. He serves as an ambassador for Lyric’s Learning and Creative Engagement initiatives, as artistic advisor for Opera Philadelphia, and as a peace ambassador with Opera for Peace. Last fall, he created and produced “Lawrence Brownlee & Friends” at Lyric, showcasing the Black experience and the power of song.
"I am very excited to return to one of my favorite cities, to perform with one of my favorite opera companies in collaboration with some of my favorite colleagues in Craig, Whitney, J’Nai, and Will, as well as members of the Ryan Opera Center,” said Brownlee. “This concert is meaningful because we are shining a spotlight on African American singers at a time where our voices need to be heard. We hope that the audience will embrace this program, as we amplify our sound and work to fill the atmosphere with hope!"
A few weeks ago Lyric invited audiences to begin a dialogue about how Lyric can create change within the company in the coming months to promote equity and diversity. “We recognize that we at Lyric have work to do. And we are committed to doing that work,” said Freud.
This free 75-minute virtual Ryan Opera Center concert will stream live on Lyric’s YouTube and Facebook channels. Learn more about Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter by visiting www.lyricopera.org/lawrence-brownlee-and-friends.