Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Brownlee to Bring West Coast Premiere to SFP

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee (courtesy of San Francisco Performances)

This month will conclude with the third of the four concerts in the 2017–2018 Vocal Series being presented by San Francisco Performances (SFP). The vocalist will be tenor Lawrence Brownlee, whom I first came to know in the fall of 2016 when his second album with Delos, Allegro io son (happy am I), was released. The timing could not have been better, because, less than a month after encountering this recording, I was enjoying the second of the six performances he gave to make his debut with the San Francisco Opera in Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.

Now Brownlee is scheduled to give his SFP debut, and the occasion will be all the more special because it will feature a West Coast premiere. The idea for the program originated in 2016 when Carnegie Hall asked Brownlee to plan a recital there. In an interview Brownlee told The New York Times that he knew he wanted to include Robert Schumann’s Opus 48 Dichterliebe (a poet’s love) song cycle. He then decided that the Schumann cycle should be complemented by a more contemporary cycle “detailing our own perspective of what it is to be a black man in America” (Brownlee’s words).

This objective led to a collaborative project with composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes. The result was a program that would couple Schumann’s Opus 48 in the first half with Cycles of My Being, what emerged from Sorey’s partnership with Hayes, in the second. The world premiere was given this past February 20 at a recital presented by Opera Philadelphia, and Brownlee is now taking his program on a more extensive tour. As a result, we in San Francisco will get to hear Sorey’s new work before it arrives in Carnegie Hall on April 24. Brownlee’s accompanist for these performances is pianist Myra Huang, who will also be making her first SFP appearance.

This recital will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, whose entrance is the main entrance to the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, located on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The venue is excellent for public transportation, since that corner has Muni bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel. Tickets prices are $65 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $55 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $40 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.

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