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John Brownlee (1901 - 1969)

John Brownlee was born into a musical family: his father sang, and taught John to play the cornet, which he played in the Geelong Municipal Band. After completing his education at Osborne Naval College however, he studied accounting as well as singing; but when only twenty he won the vocal section of the South Street Eisteddfod at Ballarat. As a result he became a pupil of Ivor Boustead, moved to Melbourne, and there began to sing in concerts. Boustead arranged for Brownlee to sing for Dame Nellie Melba, who, greatly impressed, insisted that he go to Europe for further study.

At the start of 1923 Brownlee set sail for England where Melba had arranged for him to study with the eminent baritone Dinh Gilly, who taught in both London and Paris. Gilly was an ideal teacher, having himself been a pupil of Antonio Cotogni. He passed on to Brownlee the classic Italian method of voice production together with the key elements of the French style. Brownlee later moved to Paris, where he met his future wife, an Italian countess; they were married in 1928. During 1926 he began to appear in operas mounted at the weekends at the Trianon Lyrique in Montmartre, making his début as Frédéric/Lakmé.




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