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.
Emerging from the music industry’s devastation by Covid-19, Karim resumed live performances in June 2021 with Britten-Pears Arts at Snape Maltings in the UK in chamber music of Hahn and Vaughan Williams with the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective. In July 2021 he reprised his performances of Frank London’s Ghetto Songs on tour in Germany, and he appears with Alarm Will Sound premiering Part I of David T. Little’s monodrama What Belongs to You, based on Garth Greenwell’s acclaimed novel, which is set to premiere in its entirety in 2023. He continues the 2021-22 season with his role debut of Prologue/Peter Quint in Laine Rettmer’s new multimedia production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw in Miami. He brings his acclaimed interpretation of Handel’s Messiah to Winston-Salem Symphony, and returns later in the season for Haydn’s Creation, and he curates, produces and performs a filmed program highlighting the intersection of Latin American, Spanish and Arabic music for CAP-UCLA’s Tune In Festival. He also makes his Carnegie Hall solo recital debut in his original program of Schubert songs, Where Only Stars Can Hear Us.
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, collaborating frequently with groups like Eighth Blackbird and as a core member of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective. 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 album 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 as “Critic’s Choice” by Opera News, and included on the New York Times’ “Best Classical Music of 2020.”
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 prize winner 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.
In other visual media, he is 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 broadcast on PBS Great Performances in the spring of 2020 and in the fall of 2020 Karim appeared on the second season of the acclaimed series 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. 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.
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.