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For opera singer Lawrence Brownlee, performing in "I Puritani," by Vicenzo Bellini is a rewarding experience.

"It has some of the most memorable music from Bellini," said Brownlee, adding it's one of his favorite shows.

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents "I Puritani" (translated "The Puritans") through Feb. 28 at The Lyric Opera House.

It's an opera that puts bel canto, or stylized Italian singing, in the spotlight as well as a focus on a Romeo-and-Juliet-type of story. This opera, however, has a happy ending unlike Shakespeare's famous sweethearts' tale.

Brownlee portrays Arturo Talbot in the Bellini opera. Talbot is the love interest of character Elvira. "I Puritani," which is directed by Eric Einhorn, is conducted by Enrique Mazzola.

"It's the sixth time I get to perform (this work) and share the stage with my colleagues," Brownlee said. "It's a piece I know well." He's also happy to be back on stage in Chicago.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to be back at The Lyric Opera. It's one of my favorite places to perform," he said.

Brownlee said "I Puritani" is an opera that people often say is "hard to cast" because the singing in it is so virtuosic and can be technically challenging. Though rewarding, "It's not a walk in the park," Brownlee said, adding one must really be prepared.

The singer said music was an important part of his life as he was growing up in Ohio. Music was always in his home and he learned to play various musical instruments at a young age. Brownlee also had experience singing in church.

"Music (and singing) was just something innate," he said, adding he felt it was just something natural for him.

"My mother and father sang gospel. My father was a choir director and my mother was a soloist," he said.

Brownlee, who is a graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington, was named 2017 Male Singer of the Year by the International Opera Awards. He's also received many other musical accolades through the years, and is known as one of opera's premiere bel canto tenor singers.

In addition to his role in "I Puritani," Brownlee will perform the song cycle titled "Cycles of My Being" on Feb. 22 at The DuSable Museum in Chicago.

"It's a song cycle that I and two other African-American men came up with. We wanted to use our art as a platform to show what African-American men deal with" (in our lives), he said. A recent news release on the song cycle states the work shares the "realities of life as a black man in America inspired by Trump’s first 200 days in office."


Features reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.