The German-born Canadian baritone, Russell Braun, is the son of Canadian baritone Victor Braun and German mezzo-soprano Eraine Schwing-Braun. He lived in Frankfurt until the age of 17, when his family moved to Canada. He studied piano with John Coveart at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and later voice with Patricia Kern at the University of Toronto.
Russell Braun's early successes include Papageno in Die Zauberflöte for Opera Atelier and the Canadian Opera Company in 1993. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1995-1996 in Die Fledermaus, a season that included his European debut as the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro in Monte Carlo and Berlin. He sang the title role in Pelleas et Melisande in Paris the following year, and reprised it at the Salzburg Festival in 1997, a production that also starred his father, Victor Braun, as Golaud.
Renowned for his luminous voice "capable of the most powerful explosions as well as the gentlest covered notes" (Toronto Star) baritone Russell Braun rightfully claims his place on the concert, opera and recital stages of the world. Possessing a lyric baritone of beauty, flexibility and communicative power, Braun's large repertoire encompasses the operas of Rameau, Gluck, Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Monteverdi, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Berlioz, Thomas, Charles Gounod, Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Strauss and Benjamin Britten. His intelligent and thoughtful portrayals of Chou En-lai, Billy Budd, Prince Andrei, Figaro, Papageno, Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni, Pelléas, Eugene Onegin, and The Traveller have captivated audiences at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, l'Opéra de Paris, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in London, the Los Angeles Opera, La Scala in Milan, the Salzburg or the Glyndebourne Festival. In demand as a soloist in recital and oratorio, his orchestral and recital repertoires include 2 dozen major works and hundreds of songs in German, French, Italian, Russian, and English.
Russell Braun has performed with many of the world's leading conductors, including Simon Rattle, Michael Tilson Thomas, Claudio Abbado, Cambreling, Conlon, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Bradshaw, and Bernard Labadie, and with major orchestras in Europe and North America. In recent years his duo recitals with tenor Michael Schade have received great critical and popular acclaim.
Recent seasons have seen Russell Braun in performances in the Canadian Opera Company productions, including his debut as Conte di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore, Iphigénie en Tauride and l'Amour de Loin, in a new production of Faust at the Metropolitan Opera, and in Manon at La Scala. Concerts and recitals featured appearances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Carmina Burana, in Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Washington National Symphony Orchestra, Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with the Smithsonian Chamber Players in Toronto's Koerner Hall, J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Calgary Philharmonic, A Sea Symphony with the Colorado Symphony, and in recital with pianist Carolyn Maule in High River, Alberta.
The 2010-2011 season featured Russell Braun's highly successful role debuts as Chou En-lai in John Adams's Nixon in China at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and as Olivier alongside Renée Fleming in Capriccio, also at the Met. He also toured to Japan with the ROH Covent Garden as Lesaut in Manon and made his South American debut with the Rio di Janiero Orchestra.
Other recent opera appearances include • The Traveller in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice at the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna • Lescaut in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden production of Manon • Valentin in Faust at Royal Opera House Covent Garden • the title role of Pelléas et Mélisande at La Scala • at the Opéra national de Paris in Iphegénie en Tauride, Die Zauberflöte, Cosi fan tutte, Faust, Pelléas et Mélisande • Eugene Onegin with the San Francisco Opera • the title role in Billy Budd, as Prince Andrei in War and Peace, and as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Canadian Opera Company. Performances have also taken him to New York's Metropolitan Opera (I Pagliacci and Il Barbiere di Siviglia), at the Salzburg Festival (Ariadne auf Naxos, Roméo et Juliette), the Wiener Staatsoper (Roméo et Juliette, Die Zauberflöte, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Fledermaus, Billy Budd), San Diego (Les Pecheurs de Perles, Cosi fan tutte), the Glyndebourne Festival (Pelléas et Mélisande), l'Opéra de Montréal (Die Zauberflöte), and l'Opéra de Québec (Don Giovanni).
Concerts and recitals always have a major place on Russell's calendar. In addition to an extensive recital tour of Western Canada, in the past few seasons he has appeared with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the World Premiere of The World in Flower a new work by Peter Lieberson, in a special 2010 Olympics performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Bramwell Tovey, at the BBC Proms in Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, the Salzburg Festival in Schubert's Mass in G, the Tanglewood Festival in Johannes Brahms' Deutsche Requiem, with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Labadie, in L'Enfance du Christ with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, in Elijah with the Minnesota Orchestra and in Maurice Duruflé's Requiem with Les Violons du Roy in Québec City. His performance in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in Toronto continues to be a stand-out in Toronto's musical memory.
Russell Braun has also performed in duo recital with Michael Schade in London, Edinburgh, Toronto, San Diego, Graz, Berlin, Hamburgg, Vienna, Strasbourg, Ludwigsburg and Kansas City and in solo recital in Montréal, Toronto, New York, Paris (La Chapelle Royale at Versailles), Winnipeg and Ottawa. His interpretations of German Lieder have won him international acclaim - "A searching musician, Braun also has one of the world's most beautiful baritone voices. He brings a poet's soul and a young man's bewildered grief to Schubert's shattering cycle of solitude and loss." (New York Newsday).
A highlight of Russell Braun's 2013-2014 season is his role debut as the Duke of Nottingham in the Canadian Opera Company's premiere production of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux. In December 2013, he appeared at London's Royal Festival Hall as Le Prince with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Sir Mark Elder in a concert performance of Offenbach's comic operFantasio, which will also be recorded for future release. Also in concert, he reprises his highly acclaimed role of Jaufré Rudel in Saariaho's l'Amour de loin with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Adding to an already challenging concert schedule, he sings Benjamin Britten's War Requiem both in Glasgow with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Grand Philharmonic Choir in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Giancarlo Guerrero, L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Gabriel Fauré's Requiem with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
Russell Braun's extensive discography includes the GRAMMY-nominated Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (Dorian), his highly acclaimed and JUNO-nominated recording of Schubert's Die 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. Winterreise quickly made its mark among a revered set of recordings of the famous song-cyle - "[it] goes up against this formidable competition [Fischer-Dieskau and Goerne], as well an estimable Winterreise by Braun's late father, Victor. Braun fils's effort emerges with considerable credit...a mellifluous, musical and strongly felt interpretation." (Opera News)
Winner of the 2001 JUNO for Apollo e Daphne with Les Violons du Roy (Dorian), Russell Braun has twice recorded Dido & Aeneas (Telarc with the Boston Baroque; CBC Records with Tafelmusik), the award-winning "Soirée Française", a rare French repertoire with tenor Michael Schade, "Le Souvenir", a collection of Canadian songs, "Shattered Night, Shivering Stars" featuring the music of Canadian composer Alexina Louie and "Liebeslieder - Folksongs with the Aldeburgh Connection". Other releases include Meditation, featuring the works of Gerald Finzi (CBC Records) and "Serata Italiana", a recording of Italian opera arias and duets with tenor Michael Schade (CBC Records), and "Beethoven Lives Upstairs", "Mozart and Magic Fantasy", and "Daydreams and Lullabies" on the Classical Kids Label.
Many of Russell Braun's performances are available on DVD. Both his much-lauded portrayal of Chou En-lai in Adams's Nixon in China (Nonesuch) and his performance as Olivier in Capriccio (Decca) at the Metropolitan Opera were released on DVD as part of the company's Live-in-HD series. Also on DVD, he can be seen as Mercutio in the highly acclaimed Salzburg Festival production of Romeo et Juliette and heard in the Mark Morris dance adaptation of Dido and Aeneas. He is also featured in Alexina Louie's comic opera Burnt Toast, a series of eight 6-minute comic operas written by Dan Redican for television featuring many of Canada's brightest actors and the voices of some of its most famed opera stars.
Russell Braun makes his home near Toronto with his wife, pianist Carolyn Maule and their sons, Benjamin and Gabriel.