“Sulayman plumbs the songs for the emotional core, sometimes moving into a wispy sotto voce that seems wired directly into his soul.”
“Lucid, velvety tenor and pop-star charisma.”
BBC Music Magazine
“Sulayman is always engaging, with an appealing honesty to his approach and a vividness to his storytelling (his ‘Erlkönig’ is powerfully effective). His light, silvery tenor is in many ways suited to much of the programme’s theme…”
Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman has garnered international attention as a sophisticated and versatile artist, consistently praised for his sensitive and intelligent musicianship, riveting stage presence, and beautiful voice. The 2019 Best Classical Solo Vocal GRAMMY® Award winner, he continues to earn acclaim for his programming and recording projects, while regularly performing on the world’s stages in opera, orchestral concerts, recital and chamber music.
Highlights of the 2020-21 season include appearances at Carnegie Hall in his debut with Concerto Copenhagen, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, Eighth Blackbird, Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, and Brooklyn Art Song Society. He also reprises the role of Gawain in Doug Balliett’s Gawain and theGreen Knight with Acronym Ensemble, returns to Frank London’s Ghetto Songs on a tour throughout Germany, and debuts at the Istanbul Festival with the Pera Ensemble. Future seasons include his role debut as Prologue/Peter Quint in Laine Rettmer’s new multimedia production of Britten’s The Turn ofthe Screw, and the world premiere of David T. Little’s monodrama, What Belongs to You, written for Karim and Alarm Will Sound, based on Garth Greenwell’s acclaimed novel.
Recently Mr. Sulayman debuted at Stockholm’s Drottningholms Slottsteater creating the role of Claudio Monteverdi in the world premiere of Syskonen i Mantua, a pasticcio of Italian Baroque music with new music composed by Andreas Edlund and Djuro Zivkovic. He also created the role of Albert for the world premiere of Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges at Houston Grand Opera. Recent seasons have also featured major role debuts in operas of Monteverdi: Nerone in Florentine Opera’s new production of L’incoronazione di Poppea, the title role in L’Orfeo in a USA national tour with Apollo’s Fire staged by Sophie Daneman, and Testo in Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra staged by Constantine Costi.
Mr. Sulayman has also appeared with New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Chicago Opera Theater, as well as with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, and National Symphony Orchestras. He has been presented by the Elbphilharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Ravinia Festival, International Bach Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Casals Festival and the Aspen Music Festival, collaborating with conductors like Harry Bicket, Marin Alsop, Osmo Vänskä, Helmuth Rilling, Jane Glover, Yves Abel and Robert Spano.
A dedicated chamber musician, Sulayman was a frequent participant at the Marlboro Music Festival in collaboration with co-directors and pianists Mitsuko Uchida and Richard Goode. He has since been presented by many of the world’s leading chamber music festivals and his concerts and recordings have been broadcast nationally and internationally on NPR, American Public Media, BBC Radio 3 and WDR 3.
Sulayman’s thought provoking and innovative programming is highlighted in his growing discography which includes his debut solo album, Songs of Orpheus, which was released to international acclaim on the AVIE label. Named “Critic’s Choice” by Opera News, and praised for his “lucid, velvety tenor and pop-star charisma” by BBC Music Magazine, Karim won the 2019 GRAMMY® Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. His second solo album, Where Only Stars Can Hear Us, an program of Schubert Lieder with fortepianist Yi-heng Yang was released on AVIE in March 2020 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart and has received widespread critical acclaim, including being named, once again, “Critic’s Choice” by Opera News.
In November 2016, Karim created a social experiment/performance art piece called I Trust You, designed to build bridges in a divided political climate. A video version of this experiment went “viral” on the internet, and was honored as a prizewinner at the My Hero Film Festival. He has been invited to give talks and hold open forums with student and adult groups about inclusion, empathy, healing from racism, and activism through the arts.
In other visual media, Sulayman is featured in the ARTE documentary Leonard Bernstein – A Genius Divided, which premiered throughout Europe in the summer of 2018 and was subsequently released onDVD. His performance of Bernstein’s Mass with the CSO was broadcast on PBS Great Performances in the spring of 2020 and in the fall of 2020 Karim appears on the second season of the acclaimedseries Dickinson on Apple TV+.
A native of Chicago, Karim’s musical education began with violin studies at age 3 which he continued through high school. He also spent years as a boy alto the Chicago Children’s Choir and was hand selected by Sir Georg Solti and Leonard Slatkin as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony. Karim graduated with highest honors from the Eastman School of Music where he worked in the Collegium Musicum under the tutelage of Paul O’Dette, and earned a Masters degree from Rice University. Karim later moved to Paris, France where he studied with renowned tenor/haute-contre, Howard Crook. He also studied improvisation at the Second City Training Center in Chicago.
Karim is passionate about his place in the Arts industry as someone who challenges audiences to think outside the box in a quest to maintain classical music’s relevance in a modern world, smashing the practice of treating old works as museum pieces. He enjoys educating the next generation of music students, encouraging them to think in this way while helping them cultivate their own unique voices. He hopes to make positive changes through thoughtful performance, arts advocacy and social justice that will impact generations to come.