Canadian baritone Russell Braun has excelled on the international stages in concert, opera and recital. He has made appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Wiener Staatsoper, the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the Los Angeles Opera, La Scala, Salzburg and Glyndebourne Festivals with his powerful voice and commanding presence in roles such as Billy Budd, Prince Andrei, Figaro, Papageno, Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni, Pelléas, and Eugene Onegin.
Recent operatic highlights include appearances with the Canadian Opera Company for his debut as Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Iphigénie en Tauride and l’Amour de Loin, a new production of Faust at the Metropolitan Opera and Lescaut Manon at La Scala. Previous seasons have featured his highly successful role debuts as Chou En-lai in John Adams’s Nixon in China and Olivier Capriccio alongside Renée Fleming, both at the Met, The Traveller in Britten’s Death in Venice at the Theatre an der Wien and Manon at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with whom he toured the production in Japan. Other recent opera highlights include a return to the Salzburg Festival as Mercutio in the revival production of Romeo et Juliette, his role debut as Prince Andrei in the COC’s production of War and Peace, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with the Paris Opera, Valentin Faust for Covent Garden, Guglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutte on tour in Japan with the Salzburg Festival, and the title role of Eugene Onegin with the Opera Lyra Ottawa. He made his house debut at La Scala in the title role of Pelléas et Mélisande, and sang Orestes in the Paris Opera’s Iphegénie en Tauride, the title role in Eugene Onegin with the San Francisco Opera, the title role in Billy Budd and as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with COC. He has also appeared in I Pagliacci and Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Met, in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Salzburg Festival, in Roméo et Juliette, Die Zauberflöte, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Fledermaus and Billy Budd at the Wiener Staatsoper, in Cosi fan tutte, Faust and Pelléas et Mélisande at Paris Opera.
Equally in demand on the concert platform, Braun has recently appeared with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Britten’s War Reqieum as part of the City of London Festival at St Paul’s Cathedral, the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Carmina Burana, in Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Washington National Symphony, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with the Smithsonian Chamber Players in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Calgary Philharmonic, A Sea Symphony with the Colorado Symphony, and in recital with pianist Carolyn Maule in High River, Alberta. In previous seasons he sang with the New York Philharmonic in the World Premiere of The World in Flower, a new work by Peter Lieberson, and made his appearances at the BBC Proms, the Salzburg Festival and the Tanglewood Festival. He has also performed with many of the world’s leading conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, David Robertson, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Claudio Abbado, Sylvain Cambreling, James Conlon, Bruno Campanella, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Richard Bradshaw and Bernard Labadie, appearing with major orchestras in Europe, Canada and the United States including the San Francisco Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Dallas Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Edmonton Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic.
His extensive discography includes the GRAMMY-nominated Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Dorian, his highly acclaimed and JUNO-nominated recording of Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Carolyn Maule and the 2007 JUNO-award-winning recording of Mozart arias with tenor Michael Schade and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, both on the CBC Records label. His highly acclaimed Salzburg Festival appearance as Mercutio in Romeo et Juliette was released on DVD.
Future highlights in 2013/14 include Britten’s War Requiem with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Le Prince in Offenbach’s Fantasio in performance and recording with Sir Mark Elder, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Opera Rara, a concert performance of Jaufré Rudel in Saariaho’s l’Amour de loin with Norwegian National Opera and his role debut as the Duke of Nottingham in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux with COC.
Russell Braun is represented by Intermusica in UK and France.
October 2013 / 695 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Britten War Requiem / RSNO
Cond. Peter Oundjian
“I wept openly throughout the exchanges of our soldiers for the night, tenor Jeffrey Francis and baritone Russell Braun, which were sung as one and completely broke me up.”
Michael Tumelty, Herald, November 2013
Britten War Requiem / CBSO / St. Paul's Cathedral
Cond. Ed Gardner
“Russell Braun's rich, velvety baritone was an inspired choice: his ‘Be slowly lifted up’ was forcefully dark, yet he revealed a greater intensity in the pared-back ‘Strange Meeting’, in which he, the German soldier, sings to Spence, the British Tommy, ‘I am the enemy you killed, my friend’. The decidedly more peaceful duet ‘Let us sleep now’/In paradisum was sung by Spence and Braun with sincere feeling, their imitative lines reflecting Britten's stance that no side was better than another in this bloody war. “
One Stop Arts, July 2013
“Russell Braun brought quiet solidity to the baritone part.”
Financial Times, June 2013
“It was the first time I’ve heard the Canadian baritone Russell Braun, and it’s clear what all the fuss is about. His voice caresses and stirs, and he searched out the nuances Britten loads into the Owen poems with exceptional insight…he got to the heart of the music and poetry with an unforgettable mix of unmannered ease and profound modesty.
Braun just got better and better, from the hushed distraction of ‘Bugles sang’ to the bleak power of ‘Be slowly lifted up’”.
Classical Source, June 2013
Chou En-lai Nixon in China / DVD, Nonesuch
Dir. Peter Sellers (New York, 2011)
“Janis Kelly is a superb Pat Nixon, Russell Braun a noble Chou En-lai.”
Anna Picard, Classical Music, June 2013
Recital: James Ehnes (violin) and Russell Braun
Women’s Musical Club of Toronto / Koerner Hall
“Braun came bearing humanity and warmth — starting with his lovely burnished baritone and embroidered by his tremendous ability to wring maximum expression and an overriding sense of genuineness out of everything he sang.”
“…Braun’s rendition of the six songs in Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte (To a Distant Beloved) cycle was impeccable, as were his selections of different settings of poetry by A.E. Housman…”
John Terauds, Musical Toronto, May 2013
“…superstar baritone Russell Braun… the results were nothing short of spectacular.”
“…he was more than up to the challenge. A dramatic, tortured performer, sensitive and heroic by turns, Braun turned his beautiful baritone to best effect, perhaps, in a song cycle written especially for this concert by Canadian composer John Estacio.”
“… Braun plumbed all the emotion in these quite dramatic, almost operatic love songs, to texts by playwright John Murrell, Sondheimesque in places, providing a wonderful canvas for Braun’s emotional range.”
“…Beethoven’s An die Ferne Geliebte... in which Braun displayed both the beauty of his voice and the subtlety of his interpretive skills.”
“… this was primarily Braun’s show, as he focused in very deliberately on the bittersweet quality of these tales of love won, and lost; youth betrayed; ideals dissipated. His command of tone, dynamics and sound was impeccable throughout.”
“James Ehnes and Russell Braun left us in little doubt on Thursday afternoon about the source of their fame. They are both musicians of the first rank.”
Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, May 2013
Recital: Schubert Winterreise / Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater
Vocal Arts Society, Washington / acc. Carolyn Maule
“At the conclusion of Schubert’s well-known song cycle “Winterreise” (Winter Journey), Canadian baritone Russell Braun and piano accompanist, wife Carolyn Maule, for a moment stunned their audience into total silence, delaying applause.
Braun and Maule further intensified Schubert’s introspective settings into a statement of operatic magnitude.
Braun’s array of dynamic shadings matched the many kinetic implications in the poem. Besides the ceaseless wanderer image, the poet constantly refers to straying, hurrying or searching. Braun often adjusted vocal timbres and tempos dramatically from word to word. All the feelings were further expanded by the singer’s gestures ranging from small introspective movements to arms outstretched and head lowered in desperation. That is, Braun actually became the forlorn wanderer in a drama needing no sets or props”.
Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post, November 2012
Conte di Luna in Verdi Il Trovatore
Canadian Opera Company / Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts / cond. Marco Guidarini / dir. Charles Roubaud
"Debuting as the Conte di Luna, Russell Braun exhibited a superlative vocalism and an air of sensitivity that did not leave anyone indifferent. Every aria was an absolute delight for the ears. Vocally, the homogeneity of his beautiful timbre and refined technique – delivering every line and nuance with control and intent – earned him one of the biggest ovations of the night as the curtain fell”.
“También debutando la parte del Conde de Luna, Russell Braun exhibió una vocalidad superlativa y una sensibilidad a flor de piel que no dejó indiferente a nadie. El barítono canadiense hizo de cada una de sus intervenciones un absoluto deleite para los oídos. Vocalmente, la homogeneidad de su bello timbre, la depurada técnica con la cual controló toda su línea de canto y los matices con los cuales fue forjando la intencionalidad de su decir le valieron una de las mayores ovaciones de la noche una vez caído el telón”.
Horacio Tomalino, Mundoclasico.com, November 2012
“Canadian baritone Russell Braun commands the stage as the Conte di Luna with great vocal control and strength.”
Erin Lucuik, Paid Magazine
, October 2012
“[A]lthough it’s impossible with a cast of this calibre to single out a favourite, Canadian Russell Braun’s Conte di Luna was a bit of perfection. Braun not only sang his part with an effortless stream of perfectly modulated sound, he worked hard to try and turn di Luna from something of a cardboard character into a real personality whose obsessional motivations, of both love and revenge, had meaning.”
Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, October 2012
“The other piece of big news was Canadian baritone Russell Braun in his first ever Verdi role, as Conte di Luna. Braun sang with his trademark mellifluous tone and musicality, and he acted the villain with conviction.”
Joseph So, La Scena Musicale, October 2012
“Russell Braun’s di Luna is well defined from the moment he steps onstage. [...] Capturing the character’s driven, uncompromising nature, Braun offers the opera’s one consistent performance.”
Jon Kaplan, Now Magazine, September 2012
Elijah / Washington National Symphony
“…Russell Braun’s crisp and authoritative baritone to carry, quite masterfully, the variety of characters and parts that Mendelssohn meticulously wove into his score. Mr. Braun, in particular, fielding the substantial role of Elijah, proved a standout during the performance.”
Terry Ponick, The Washington Times, April 2012
“Elijah is the baritone’s show, though, and special honors go to Russell Braun, in the title role, who worked hard all night… he had all the notes… and drew out each emotion with taste and skill. “Es ist genug!,” with Braun duetting with principal cellist David Hardy, was wonderfully anguished.”
Robert Battet, The Washington Post, April 2012
Valentin in Gounod Faust / The Metropolitan Opera
cond. Yannick Nézet-Séguin / prod. Des McAnuff
“The German baritone Russell Braun gave us a vocally strong Valentin and provided the right tension as he cursed his errant sister with his dying breath.”
Marlies Wolf, New Rochelle Patch, January 2012
“Russell Braun’s beautifully warm baritone is a stunning Valentine."
Jens Runnberg, Dalarnas Tidningar, December 2011
“Russell Braun was properly aggressive as Valentin; his baritone had a soldierly roughness rather than lyricism, and his duel to the death with Faust was elegantly executed.”
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal, December 2011
“Russell Braun is a winning, firm-voiced Valentin.”
Eric Myers, Variety, November 2011
“Russell Braun brought a smooth baritone to the role of Valentin.”
Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, Classical Review, November 2011
“Pretty singing from baritone Russell Braun as Marguerite’s brother Valentin won a warm ovation.”
James Jorden, New York Post, November 2011
“Russell Braun sings with soldierly force.”
Howard Kissel, The Huffington Post, November 2011
“As the unforgiving Valentin, baritone Russell Braun sang with fervor (…)”
Mike Silverman, Daily Reporter, November 2011
Orestes in Gluck Iphigenia in Tauris
Canadian Opera Company / Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
cond. Pablo Heras-Casado / dir. Robert Carsen
“Add to this the sublime Susan Graham as Iphigenia, with Russell Braun and Joseph Kaiser offering spectacular support and you have a night to remember.”
Richard Ouzounian, The star.com, October 2011
“Baritone Russell Braun (Oreste) and tenor Joseph Kaiser (Pylade) were both convincing as the castaway pals who would rather perish than see the other come to harm.”
Arthur Kaptainis, National Post, September 2011
“As the impassioned Orestes, Russell Braun throws himself emotionally and physically into the role. Joseph Kaiser’s and Russell Braun’s sequential arias in the first half – Orestes explosive, Pylades calming – are beautifully linked; the two characters end up back to back, two halves of a whole. We feel the powerful love in this relationship, though it has none of the homoeroticism captured in the Opera Atelier staging of the opera.”
Jon Kaplan, NOW, September 2011
“Russell Braun brings all the driven passion of Orestes to life.”
Richard Ouzounian, thestar.com, September 2011
Recital of Schubert Die Winterreise
University of Toronto
“Braun’s performance was beyond criticism. Singing from the score – although he didn’t seem to need it much – he delivered a heartfelt performance, glowing with the rich, velvety tone that he’s famous for.”
Colin Eatock, The Globe and Mail, April 2011
“Braun was a master at navigating the shifting moods on a larger scale, as well as in crafting each individual note, syllable and phrase. The singer made it sound easy, but, in fact, what Braun did would have demanded every ounce of breath, vocal and emotional control at his command.”
John Terrauds, Toronto.com, April 2011
Olivier in Strauss Capriccio
Metropolitan Opera / cond. Andrew Davis / dir. John Cox
"…baritone Russell Braun sings handsomely as Flamand’s more urbane rival Olivier."
Mike Silverman, Associated Press, March 2011
Chou-en Lai in John Adams Nixon in China
The Metropolitan Opera / cond. John Adams / dir. Peter Sellars
“Russell Braun’s Chou En-lai projects vision and intelligence in his voice but shows the world a stern, stone face – except when in pain since, as we know, he had untreated pancreatic cancer.”
David Patrick Stearns, RB Gramophone Magazine, March 2013
“The role is sung by the fine, sonorous, dignified baritone Russell Braun."
Smazey, Ottowa Citizen
, February 2011
“The stentorian lines given to Russell Braun as Chou En-Lai and the way they were delivered, I considered the highlight of the opera”
Marlies Wolf, White Plain Patch, February 2011
“Baritone Russell Braun played his role with a good balance of stoicism and perspicacity, adding weight to his words of reflection at the end of the opera.”
David Abrams, www.musicalcriticism.com, February 2011
“Time, then, for the role to pass to a new baritone - and who better than Russell Braun, the one fresh revelation in the cast, catching all the dignity and honour of Chou En-lai in his big banquet speech and all the pathos of his final post-mortem…yielding to tentative hope as the exquisite solo strings of the superb Met Orchestra did the best of all possible jobs on their rising figures at the end.”
David Nice, www.theartsdesk.com, February 2011
“Russell Braun as the pensive Chou En-lai had the most beautiful voice and was particularly effective in ‘I am old and I cannot sleep’, the stirring and touching aria which concludes the opera.”
Susan Stempleski, www.classicalsource.com, February 2011
"Russell Braun makes Chou en Lai the soul of the opera. Chou en Lai is the only character who doesn’t come across as parody, and the one presented with the fiercest intellect. In the banquet scene, which takes place on February 22, he is the only one who gets Pat Nixon’s reference to Washington’s birthday."
Susan Hall, BerkshireFineArts.com, February 2011
"As Chou En-lai, who sings the final line about where in the balance their decisions will hang, among other cool-headed proclamations, Russell Braun was a strong grounding presence with a smooth baritone."
Ronnie Reich, nj.com, February 2011
"Janis Kelly complemented him as a sympathetic Pat Nixon. Robert Brubaker blustered heroically as Mao, Richard Paul Fink bumbled deftly as Kissinger and Russell Braun exuded mysterious dignity as Chou En-lai."
Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, February 2011
"In "I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung," Kim brashly uses her coloratura to make Madame Mao the steamroller she evidently was; Robert Brubaker has a field day as an infirm Chairman Mao who turns red-hot on his third-act bed of lust; Fink not only offers a blustery Kissinger but does double-duty in Morris' brilliant ballet, where he even dances as a whip-cracking Chinese equivalent to Simon Legree; and Braun's ailing Chou En-lai is especially stentorian and sweet by turns."
David Finkle, TheaterMANIA, February 2011
"Robert Brubaker lends a wicked glint to the surprisingly mischievous Mao, and Russell Braun fully conveys the dark secrets and unspoken yearnings of the grave Chou."
David Sheward, Back Stage, February 2011
"When he gives us lyrical flights, he does it beautifully, as in the thoughts of Chou En-lai — as the opera renders the name, which is now usually transliterated as Zhou Enlai — during the opera’s deeply affecting final moments. The role is sung by the fine, sonorous, dignified baritone Russell Braun."
Anthony Thommasini, Hong Kong Economic Journal Blog, February 2011
"The most outstanding performance was that of Russell Braun’s Chou En-lai, his luminous baritone inflecting the figure of the Chinese premier with humanity and flashes of moral self-awareness. Braun has a way of digging for the emotional core of every phrase he sings, as well as the flexibility to move fluidly between different expressive registers."
Corinna da Fonseca-Wolheim, The Classic Review, February 2011
"Best of all the men was baritone Russell Braun as a soulful Premier Chou En-lai. He gets the opera's final words in a solo that asks, "How much of what we did was good?""
WWLTV (AP), February 2011
Mercutio in Gounod Romeo et Juliette
“Russell Braun is the feisty friend of Romeo, Mercutio, and he brings an excellent baritone into play”
Friedeon Rosén, Der Neue Merker, August 2010
Lescaut in Massenet Manon
Royal Opera House / cond. Antonio Pappano / dir. Laurent Pelly
“Russell Braun is superb as a creepily attractive Lescaut”
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, June 2010
“Russell Braun made his mark as Lescaut”
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, June 2010
Schubert Die Winterreise
Clarke Foundation Theatre, Mission, British Colombia
“With one of the world’s most beautiful voices, Canadian baritone Russell Braun is fast becoming a legend among opera singers. His dramatic performances have been described as thrilling, manic, glorious, superbly sung and malevolently acted, rich, powerful, elegant, soft-grained, and spine-tingling.”
Graham Yates, BC Local News, March 2010
Count Almaviva in Mozart The Marriage of Figaro
Canadian Opera Company / cond. Julia Jones / dir. Guillaume Bernardi
“This is a production that affords Toronto audiences a night with an established national treasure such as baritone Russell Braun … Braun, for his part, has all the makings of a wonderful Count Almaviva, the amoral villain of the piece, save for the fact that he simply can't disguise the fact he's a whole lot smarter than the conceited popinjay he's forced to play.”
John Coulbourn, Toronto Sun, October 2007
“Braun tends to dominate the action not just because of his strong baritone but because his Count is more than a simple tyrant or buffoon. He shows us a man who learns through experience that the world no longer runs the way he thinks it does.”
Christopher Hoile, Eye Weekly, October 2007
“Baritone Russell Braun (Count Almaviva) was almost the only one to find a sustained character arc, culminating in an Act 3 soliloquy in which the outwardly self-assured aristocrat revealed the lonely little man hiding inside.”
Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail, October 2007
“Braun, the stage veteran of this cast, offered up a fine voice and an assured dramatic air as the philandering Count.”
John Terauds, Toronto Star, October 2007
Valentin in Gounod Faust
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden /cond. Antonio Pappano / dir. David McVicar
"A tremendous debut from Canadian baritone Russell Braun as Valentin - a glorious performance in terms of vocal beauty and expressive intensity."
The Guardian, September 2006
"Russell Braun won special cheers for his poetic Valentin."
Evening Standard, September 2006
"Russell Braun, making an overdue Covent Garden debut, is a sterling Valentin."
Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2006
"Russell Braun was a noble Valentin."
Opera Magazine, November 2006
Orestes in Gluck Iphigénie en Tauride
L’ Opéra de Paris
"Russell Braun portrays an Oreste of great distinction."
Le Monde, June 2006
"Russell Braun, who portrayed Oreste...was also remarkable."
Le Figaro, June 2006
Schubert Winterreise (CBC Records MVCD 1171)
"One is struck first by the sheer beauty of his voice; it has much the same warmth and honeyed sheen of Fischer-Dieskau's but with a darker and more burnished sound. He sings with a great suppleness and a gorgeous legato that produces a superb caressing of the words. Braun has glowing top notes and an even timbre across the two octaves of these songs. He employs a greater range of contrasting dynamics than any of the singers on the 18 recordings I compared."
American Record Guide, March/April 2006
"...a mellifluous, musical and strongly felt interpretation... His finely honed instrument is placed higher than his father's, with an almost tenorish ease on top, but the substantial low notes audible in "Gefror'ne Tränen" (for one) show that he, too, may eventually sing roles such as Golaud. ... Braun's unpretentiously moving singing is supported with articulate sensitivity and fine, clear tone by pianist Maule."
Opera News, January 2006
"Russell Braun may be better known as an opera singer, but over the last few years, he's blossomed into a great lieder and recital singer, too. Here, in Die Winterreise, he convincingly captures the despair, loneliness and frustration of the young, jilted lover, without ever over-sentimentalizing. Braun has a wide range of vocal colours from which to draw, and they're used beautifully depending on the circumstance and need. This is a classic and classical account of Die Winterreise."
CBC Sound Advice, 5 stars, December 2005
"This Canadian entry in a crowded Winterreise CD market was a brave undertaking, but the result is superb. The baritone's applications of rubato are sparing, and all the more effective for that reason. He is especially strong when Schubert's vocal line drives wildly over close to two octaves in a single phrase, as happens several times."
WholeNote, December 2005
"Russell Braun's eagerly awaited account is superb in every way, notable for its smooth legato, a consistent and ravishingly beautiful tone throughout the vocal range, clear enunciation and impeccable pitch."
Opera Canada, November/ December 2005
"This is a nicely nuanced interpretation. Braun's voice is richer than Fischer-Dieskau's."
Toronto Star, December, 2005