Tenor Robert Brubaker was born in Mannheim, Pennsylvania, and studied at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. Shortly after graduation he joined the New York City Opera, where he advanced from being a baritone in the chorus to become one of the company’s leading tenors, appearing at Lincoln Center and on tour in such roles as Rodolfo in La Bohème, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, the Duke in Rigoletto, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Alfredo in La Traviata, and Cavaradossi in Tosca. Since then he has gone on to sing at some of the world’s leading opera houses. In 1992, he made his Metropolitan debut as one of the Mastersingers in Die Meistersinger, and two years later he made his European debut at the Rome Opera in the title role of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (The Dwarf). Brubaker’s first appearance at the English National Opera in London was in 1995—in Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny—and in 1999 he sang his first Peter Grimes there to great acclaim. In 2000, he debuted with the Opéra de Paris–Bastille as Pierre in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. His numerous other appearances have included Peter Grimes, The Makropulos Case, and Bussoni’s Dr. Faust at the Met; Janacek’s From the House of the Dead and John Adams’s Nixon in China at the English National Opera; and Der Zwerg and Khovanshchina in Paris. In 2002, he made his Salzburg Festival debut in the title role of Zemlinsky’s König Kandaules. Brubaker has also sung at the Houston Grand Opera; the Washington, Seattle, Vancouver, Canadian (Toronto), and New Israeli (Tel Aviv) operas; and at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. During the 1980s, he sang with the New York–based Jewish male-voice choir Schola Hebraeica, and as a chorister for traditional High Holy Day services. He points to the influence of those cantorial renditions on his own vocal development and his spiritual approach, and he often credits the emotional impact of that experience with informing his interpretation of sacred music in general.
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