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.
In the 2022-23 season Mr. Sulayman takes part in three world premieres: he creates the title characters in Sarah Angliss and Ross Sutherland’s Giant (Aldeburgh Festival), and Wolfgang Mitterer and Sir David Poutney’s Peter Pan: the dark side (Teatro Comunale di Bolzano e Trento/Fondazione Haydn), and performs the protagonist in Matthew Ricketts and Mark Campbell’s theatrical song cycle Unruly Sun (Orchestre Classique de Montréal/21C Festival Toronto). He also debuts at Wigmore Hall in two programs of French chamber music, plays Artaserse in Riccardo Broschi’s Idaspe in a new production in Pittsburgh and returns to Stanford Live Arts Bing Concert Hall in chamber music of Barber, Hakim and Birtwistle.
Recently Mr. Sulayman made his solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall to a sold out audience, followed by the world premiere of his critically acclaimed original production, Unholy Wars, an Italian Baroque pasticcio centered around the Middle East and the Crusades, at Spoleto Festival USA. He then returned to the Aldeburgh Festival for several different programs, including his new program, Broken Branches, with guitarist Sean Shibe. Other recent season highlights include engagements at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and Ravinia Festival, as well as with Chicago, Pittsburgh and National Symphony Orchestras, and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, and leading roles with Drottningholms Slottsteater, Houston Grand Opera, Florentine Opera, New York City Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera. In future seasons he returns to Wigmore Hall and the Ravinia Festival, debuts at Opera Philadelphia, Schleswig-Holstein Festival and Boston Celebrity Series, and will premiere David T. Little’s What Belongs to You, a monodrama written for Sulayman and Alarm Will Sound based on Garth Greenwell’s acclaimed novel, directed by Mark Morris.
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.” His third solo album, Broken Branches, will be released by Pentatone in May, 2023.
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.
One of the most versatile guitarists performing today, Sean Shibe’s innovative approach to his instrument has enhanced his reputation for having “one of the most discriminating ears in the business” (Gramophone). He was the first guitarist ever to be selected for BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme, to be awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and, in 2018, to receive the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Young Artists. Accolades for his recordings include two Gramophone Awards and an Opus Klassik. He is also the 2022 recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award.
Following very successful performances at various summer festivals, this season Shibe gives his New York City solo recital debut at the 92nd Street Y which is followed by a tour in the US with Quatuor Van Kuijk. During the concert season he performs at Wigmore Hall four times and in solo recitals in Germany at the Konzerthaus Dortmund, Mozartfest Wurzburg, and returns to the Schleswig-Holstein Music festival sharing the stage with tenor Karim Sulayman. He performs with Hallé Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and tours with Manchester Collective in the UK and Europe.
A great admirer of the masterful composers of the past, Shibe is equally committed to new music. Alongside his own transcriptions of Bach’s lute suites and seventeenth century Scottish lute manuscripts, he continues to explore, experiment, and expand the repertoire for his instrument with recent works by Daniel Kidane, David Fennessy, Shiva Feshareki, David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Freya Waley-Cohen. New commissions include a solo works by Thomas Adès, Helen Grime and a new collaboration with Cassandra Miller and Dunedin Consort.
Highlights of the past seasons include two appearances at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Summer 2022 working with Krzysztof Urbanski and Christoph Eschenbach and receiving the 2022 Leonard Bernstein Award, a special concert with LUDWIG at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, performances at the East Neuk, Aldeburgh, Norfolk and Norwich Festivals, Southbank Centre in London, Liszt Academy in Budapest, the Alte Oper Frankfurt, Heidelberger-Frühling, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Musashino Hall in Tokyo, and Marlboro Summer Music Festival – the latter at the invitation of Mitsuko Uchida. Recent collaborators include the BBC Singers, Quatuor Van Kuijk, flautist Adam Walker, singers Karim Sulayman, Allan Clayton, Ben Johnson, Robert Murray and Robin Tritschler, and performance artist and art filmmaker Marina Abramović. Shibe was one of the first artists to return to the Wigmore Hall following the Covid-19 lockdown, receiving a five-star review from The Guardian.
His most recent release is a second album for Pentatone titled Lost & Found, recorded on electric guitar and featuring repertoire by Hildegard von Bingen, Olivier Messiaen, Moondog, Julius Eastman, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Meredith Monk, Shiva Feshareki, Oliver Leith and Daniel Kidane. His Pentatone debut album Camino (2021) featured an introspective programme of French and Iberian music. The album was named Recording of the Month by BBC Music Magazine as well the Recording of the Week by The Guardian, Presto Classical, and The Times describing it as “one of the most compelling and touching recitals for the instrument I can recall”. The recent releases on Pentatone follow a string of successes on Delphian Records receiving many prestigious awards. With the laconically titled Bach (2020), a chart-topping recording of Bach lute suites arranged for guitar, Shibe received the Gramophone Award in the Instrumental Category and became the cover star of Gramophone Magazine’s June 2020 issue in which the disc was named Editor’s Choice.
Born in Edinburgh in 1992 of English and Japanese heritage, Shibe studied under Allan Neave at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Paolo Pegoraro in Italy. Shibe currently holds a teaching position at University of the Arts Bremen.