His real name was Harry Joseph Sullivan, but so as to avoid confusion with a Broadway actor
called Joseph Sullivan, he chose Brian as a stage name. He studied at the University of South California, and
made his first steps onto stage (a student performance of The pirates of Penzance, Barbiere di Siviglia at Long
However, not being able to find work enough in opera, he sang in musical comedy productions, then had to serve in the army for
two years, and after his release sang musical on Broadway. He was in the cast of the 1946 Philadelphia world premiere of Weill's
Street scene, and sang also in that work's 1947 Broadway production – so successfully that he was hired by
Colorado's Central City Opera.
Sullivan was back to opera, and already in 1948, he made his debut with the Met, where he stayed until 1964, singing 18 roles in
162 performances: Peter Grimes (his debut role), Narraboth, Andrej Khovanskij, Tamino, Alfred (Fledermaus), Froh, Erster
Gefangener (Fidelio), Pinkerton, Admète (Alceste by Gluck), Don José, Ferrando, Rodolfo, Grigorij, Lohengrin,
Walther von der Vogelweide, Edgardo, Matteo and Parsifal. He also sang in San Francisco, where he was very successful
(1952–55) and Chicago (Don Carlo, 1957), in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and at the Vienna Staatsoper (two
performances as Erik in 1959). Sullivan was also popular on US radio and TV.
He eventually ventured into a really heavy repertory: Otello, Tristan, Tannhäuser, Samson. In June 1969, he was scheduled
to make his debut as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung in Geneva. On June 9th, he was reported missing; on June 17th, his
dead body was found in Lake Geneva. Whether accident or suicide could never be clarified.
Reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens