Name almost any major Hollywood film in the last decade and Reid Bruton may very well have sung on its soundtrack. From Star Wars to Suicide Squad to Frozen, Bruton’s rich bass voice can be heard in the background of an emotional moment (like the epic moment in Star Wars between Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren) or as a menacing creature-like sound effect. He can do it all, and that includes opera. Bruton has been singing with the LA Opera Chorus for almost 20 years, appearing in more than 80 productions with numerous appearances in comprimario roles. We caught up with Bruton before his work as Macbeth’s servant for this season’s opening production, to chat about his varied roles in opera and film.
How long have you been part of the LA Opera chorus?
Since 1997. My first production was LAO’s first Il Trovatore.
Did you always have a love of opera?
Oh, yes! I was raised in a farming community near Memphis and I used to drive a tractor for my father, which was equiped with a small radio inside. On Saturday mornings, I would plow fields and listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio or put in a cassette tape of Leontyne Price or Maria Callas singing. I listened and loved it, but never saw an opera until I went to college where I was a double degree in voice/opera and piano.
Why have you stayed with LA Opera for so long?
There are many reasons, but one of the most important is that at LA Opera I have the unique opportunity to work closely with some of the most notable singers in the world today… singing and acting with them very closely. Being on stage with great artists who inspire me and whom I learn from – it’s better than a college degree. I teach voice privately. So by getting to work so closely with all of these great singers with different voice types I am able to share, first hand, my experience and observations with my students.
What do you love about working with the company?
I always say: I laugh more at LAO than I sing! We make each other laugh constantly; we have a lot of fun. Obviously, we make great art and that’s the ultimate experience. But we are also a family… a family who is a ton of fun to be around.
Everything started from LA Opera for me. I distinctly remember walking through the artist’s entrance in 1997 for the very first time thinking, “this is the beginning.” It truly was. Everything sprang from that moment, including my work with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. While working at LA Opera, I watched Walt Disney Concert Hall being built and thought, “I want to sing in that hall someday.” Sure enough, I’ve been soloing with LAMC and the LA Philharmonic not only at Walt Disney, but also at the Hollywood Bowl for about 10 years now. I recently sang the role of the Jailer in Tosca for Dudamel at the Bowl.
My work in film also sprang from LA Opera and two chorus colleagues in particular – Aleta Braxton and Michael Geiger. When I first arrived at LAO they heard me sing and told me about this unknown world of film score work. Now, I have sung on over 100 films plus numerous TV shows and other recording projects.
What does your studio work entail?
First and foremost it requires sight-reading. You have to be an ace sight-reader, because you don’t know what you’re going to sing until you get there. Sometimes you don’t even know what film you are going to be singing on until you arrive at the studio. And secondly, for me, it usually requires low notes!
What has been your most memorable experience at LA Opera?
We staged Thaïs in 2014, starring Plácido Domingo. Towards the end of the opera, his character runs around a multi-level, circular moving stage while being chased by ghost-like figures in his nightmare. I was the leader in this pack of ghosts chasing Plácido. At a certain point, Placido would turn to us and we would all freeze while the stage continued to turn for one entire rotation. Plácido and I would lock eyes during the entire freeze but our characters were far from frozen. He would give me “fear” in his eyes and I would return with “anger” in mine. We made eye contact in this manner every performance. One night during our eye lock, I saw something red out of my peripheral vision and realized it was Plácido’s bare foot bleeding. We continued in this frozen stare until the stage completed its rotation then as soon as the curtain came down, I helped him find the nail which caused his injury. They wrapped his foot and he finished the opera with no complaints. Plácido, incredibly, held his character during that freeze, despite probably being in quite a bit of pain. I’ll never forget being in a stare lock with a bloody footed Plácido Domingo.
What are you most looking forward to in Macbeth?
I am looking forward to working with Plácido again. He’s fantastic to work with and really feeds off of you as an actor while on stage. Also my long-term voice teacher/mentor from New York will be here for opening night of Macbeth. I am very much looking forward to having her in the audience!
For more information about and to purchase tickets to Macbeth, click here.