Brian Sullivan

9 August 1919 Oakland – June 1969 Geneva

Picture of Brian Sullivan as Peter Grimes
Brian Sullivan as Peter Grimes

Brian Sullivan singsOtello: Ora e per sempre addio
In RA format

Brian Sullivan singsOtello: Dio, mi potevi scagliar
In RA format

Brian Sullivan sings Lohengrin: Nun sei bedankt

Brian Sullivan sings L'Africaine: O paradiso
In RA format

His real name was Harry Joseph Sullivan, but so as to avoid confusion with a Broadway actor called Joseph Sullivan, he chose Brian as a stage name. He studied at the University of South California, and made his first steps onto stage (a student performance of The pirates of Penzance, Barbiere di Siviglia at Long Beach Opera).

However, not being able to find work enough in opera, he sang in musical comedy productions, then had to serve in the army for two years, and after his release sang musical on Broadway. He was in the cast of the 1946 Philadelphia world premiere of Weill's Street scene, and sang also in that work's 1947 Broadway production – so successfully that he was hired by Colorado's Central City Opera.

Sullivan was back to opera, and already in 1948, he made his debut with the Met, where he stayed until 1964, singing 18 roles in 162 performances: Peter Grimes (his debut role), Narraboth, Andrej Khovanskij, Tamino, Alfred (Fledermaus), Froh, Erster Gefangener (Fidelio), Pinkerton, Admète (Alceste by Gluck), Don José, Ferrando, Rodolfo, Grigorij, Lohengrin, Walther von der Vogelweide, Edgardo, Matteo and Parsifal. He also sang in San Francisco, where he was very successful (1952–55) and Chicago (Don Carlo, 1957), in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and at the Vienna Staatsoper (two performances as Erik in 1959). Sullivan was also popular on US radio and TV.

He eventually ventured into a really heavy repertory: Otello, Tristan, Tannhäuser, Samson. In June 1969, he was scheduled to make his debut as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung in Geneva. On June 9th, he was reported missing; on June 17th, his dead body was found in Lake Geneva. Whether accident or suicide could never be clarified.

Reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

I would like to thank Thomas Silverboerg for the recordings (Lohengrin, Africaine) and picture.

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