Brian Sullivan ranks as one of the great American singing finds of his generation. His career is particularly unusual in that he did not study or perform in Europe prior to his Metropolitan debut.
Although he did not know it at the time, his road to the "vocal varsity" began in high school when he was drafted for a student production of "The Pirates of Penzance." His fine natural voice set off a campaign of urging among his friends and teachers that he choose music as a career.
At 21 he made his professional debut as the Count in an English version of "The Barber of Seville."
This performance led to an offer to sing the same role in Italian two weeks later, with John Charles Thomas as Figaro.
With few operatic stages open to untried talent, he accepted an increasing number of musical comedy engagements, and made a tour with the "Ice Follies," along with another opera star-to-be. George London.
After two years of World War II infantry service, Sullivan made his Broadway debut as Gaylord Ravenal in the highly successful revival of "Showboat." But it was in another show that was being produced at that same time that he came to a turning point in his career. Kurt Weill's musical version of Elmer Rice's "Street Scene" was having its pre-Broadway try-out in Philadelphia. The producers were dissatisfied with the lead, and were looking for a young tenor who could act as well as sing. Sullivan was called, auditioned and signed. Eight days after the audition he was on stage. And he was a hit within a hit.
During the first week of "Street Scene's" run on Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera's officialdom attended and applauded. In February, 1948. he made a brilliant Metropolitan debut in the title roie of Benjamin Britten's contemporary opera, "Peter Grimes."