“Sulayman plumbs the songs for the emotional core, sometimes moving into a wispy sotto voce that seems wired directly into his soul.”
BBC Music Magazine
“Lucid, velvety tenor and pop-star charisma.”
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. A 2019 GRAMMY Award winner, he regularly performs on the world’s stages in orchestral concerts and opera, as well as in recital and chamber music, while forging a standout path in the music of the Italian Baroque.
This season, he is presented in recital by Serenata Santa Fe and by East Carolina University’s Fletcher Recital Series, where he also takes up residency for master classes and private teaching. He debuts at Opera Idaho as Acis in Acis and Galatea, and with the Pittsburgh Symphony in Handel’s Messiah. He joins the Piffaro Renaissance Band for concerts of English carols and creates the role of Gawain in the world premiere of Doug Balliett’s Gawain and the Green Knight with the Acronym Ensemble in New York City. He also makes his role debut as Prologue/Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw in Jay Scheib’s new multimedia production with Illuminarts Miami. Future seasons include a US tour with Concerto Copenhagen, a tour of Frank London’s “Ghetto Songs” throughout Germany, and the world premiere of David T. Little’s monodrama What Belongs To You written for Karim and Alarm Will Sound, and based on Garth Greenwell’s acclaimed novel.
Highlights of the 2018-19 season included his debut at Stockholm’s Drottningholms Slottsteater as Claudio Monteverdi in the world premiere of Syskonen i Mantua and his role debut as Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea with Florentine Opera. He also performed concerts of Frank London’s “Ghetto Songs” at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Teatro Goldoni in Venice, and at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the 2017-18 season, Sulayman made his Australian debut as Testo in Monteverdi’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, his debut with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center in Messiah, his title role debut in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Apollo’s Fire on a US tour, and his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in Bernstein’s Mass.
In 2017, he created the role of Albert in the world premiere of Laura Kaminsky’s Some Light Emerges for Houston Grand Opera. He has also appeared with Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater and New York City Opera. Other highlights include appearances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the International Bach Festival, and the Aldeburgh Festival, and collaborations with such conductors as Harry Bicket, Marin Alsop, Jane Glover, Helmuth Rilling, Yves Abel and Robert Spano. As a passionate advocate of new music, he has performed world premieres at Carnegie Hall, the Casals Festival and the Aspen Music Festival.
A dedicated chamber musician, Sulayman was a frequent participant at the Marlboro Music Festival under the direction of and in collaboration with pianists Mitsuko Uchida and Richard Goode. He has since been presented by many leading chamber music festivals including Philadelphia, Palm Beach and Brooklyn Chamber Music Societies, Chamber Music by the Sea, Houston Early Music, Kettle’s Yard (UK), and the Indianapolis Early Music Festival. In 2017, he appeared in concerts of French chamber works at the Roman River Festival in the UK which were recorded and aired by BBC Radio 3.
His growing discography includes his debut solo album, Songs of Orpheus, which was released in April 2018 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, the album debuted at number 5 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart, number 3 on the iTunes Classical Chart, and was honored with the 2019 GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. His sophomore project, Where Only Stars Can Hear Us, is an album of Schubert Lieder with fortepianist Yi-heng Yang that will be released on the Avie label in the Winter/Spring of 2020. He appears on the recording of Matt Frey’s chamber opera, One-Eleven Heavy for Navona Records, which was released in 2019. He has recorded the title role in Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Mercury Baroque, two releases for Naxos in works of Grétry and Philidor with Opera Lafayette, Apollo’s Fire’s Sephardic Journey on Avie, and an album of 21st-century chamber works, Piercing are the Darts, on New Focus Records. He is also featured in the ARTE documentary Leonard Bernstein – A Genius Divided, which premiered throughout Europe in the summer of 2018 and was subsequently released on DVD. His performance of Bernstein’s Mass with the CSO was recorded live and is slated for national television broadcast in 2020.
Additionally, 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 in 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.
A native of Chicago, Karim’s musical education began with violin studies at age 3. He 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. He 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. He 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.