Spotlight on Timothy Bruno, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist
Bass Timothy Bruno joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the fall of 2015. Read even more about him here.
Where were you born? Do you consider this home today?
I was born in Williamsport, PA: home of the Little League World Series. However, I lived in Toledo, OH from my sophomore year of high school until I came to Silver Spring for the Young Artist program.
What was your first transformative musical experience? How old were you?
Frankly, I had never been very into the popular music culture. Before I got into opera, and before opera, barbershop quartet music, I didn’t really connect to music. The one exception was, for some reason, when I was around 10 years old, I became obsessed with Jesus Christ Superstar. So obsessed, in fact, that I wore out my VHS copy of it.
When did you first know you wanted to sing opera?
I went to Bowling Green State University for my undergrad degree to be a music educator. I had no interest in opera at the time, but I had an incredible and larger than life voice teacher named David Okerlund. He is a dramatic baritone, and when he would demonstrate in lessons, I would be floored by the power and beauty of his singing. That’s when I knew I needed to learn to sing like that.
What is your favorite role you have performed?
When I was 26, I performed Wotan in the Jonathan Dove reduction of Die Walkure at Union Avenue Opera. I realize now I was far too young to do it, but it was the most rewarding dramatic and musical experience of my life. On the other hand, this past season I did Osmin in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, and it was insanely fun. Every number is a show stopper, and the portrayal that we chose for the character was an extremely over the top buffoon. Laughter is maybe the greatest compliment one can receive from an audience, and there was plenty of it.
What is your favorite opera and what is your dream role?
What a difficult question. I am going to call a tie for my favorite operas. One is certainly Der Rosenkavalier. I think it is pretty close to a perfect opera. The mix that Strauss has between a coming of age tale, a love story, and a raucous comedy is pretty amazing. Also, the bass role is fantastic and definitely one of my dream roles. Baron Ochs is the least classy and sophisticated Baron of all time, and it is incredibly obvious to everyone but him; a very fun characterization to get to play. I also think that it is the most beautiful score Strauss ever wrote, and that’s saying something.
The other obvious choice for me is Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Both the music and the storytelling are unparalleled in the world of opera, and I say no theatrical work has or will ever be able to tell a story as epic as this amazing work. Inside this piece is maybe opera’s most interesting character: Wotan. He is something of an antihero: an all-powerful deity who attempts to defy fate itself by manipulating and controlling all of the forces of his dominion. We see him, over the course of the first three operas, go from boastful and arrogant to wizened and world weary. He starts as the avaricious ruler of all creation and ends it happily traveling the world as a lowly peasant. I cannot think of another character in all of opera who goes through such an evolution, and Wotan sings some of the most incredible music ever written, including my pick for the greatest aria of all time: ‘Wotan’s Farewell’ at the end of Die Walkure.
There are many skeptics that believe that opera is a dying art form. Why do you think opera is still relevant today?
I feel it a little silly defending opera. Frankly, it is the absolute most incredible art form on the planet. It is symphony meets literature, a play married with art song. It is a melting pot of the greatest art from all over the world. For example, Rigoletto is a novel by one of the most profound French writers, set to the stage in the Italian tradition by one of the most recognizable composers of all time. Big budget movies with incredible soundtracks are great, but opera happens live on a stage right before your eyes. Not only that, but opera continues to evolve.
Look at an opera like Moby Dick that does the impossible by putting on one of the most epic pieces of literature on the stage, and it was written only five years ago. No musical could ever convincingly tackle such a story, because it would not have an epic score or a 60 piece orchestra in the pit to bring it to life. What is amazing is modern opera can be small and intimate as well- opera is not all about being grand. Dead Man Walking, also based on a great piece of literature, tells the simple story of a nun getting to know an inmate on Death Row in an incredibly moving way, and it was written in the year 2000. Opera is an awe-inspiring and versatile medium with 415 years of history and it is not now nor has it ever been irrelevant.
Was the District different from what you expected when you moved here for the program?
Yes, actually. Having lived in the Midwest for almost a decade, when I think of the East Coast, I think of a metropolitan center like NYC or Philadelphia: a big, slightly dirty, impersonal city. DC is anything but this. It feels more like a European city, with historic architecture, beautiful landscapes, and tons of cute little neighborhoods. I actually really love it here, and would definitely consider making it a permanent base after the program.
If you didn’t become an opera singer, what other career would you have pursued?
I would actually love to be an agent, but assuming I never got into music at all, I think I would have gone into psychology or career counseling.
What has been your favorite/most memorable moment at WNO/YAP?
Unlike most programs, we really get a lot of bonding time here. There were a couple moments that really made me realize what a special place this is, filled with such insanely talented people. The Carmen Young Artist performance was one of these moments. We also had a day where a director visited and a bunch of us did little performances to show what we worked on the week he was here. This is a truly great group, and I’m so pleased to be a part of it.
Do you have social media or a website that you would like to share?
In fact, there is. I don’t currently have any social media, but I do have a website: www.timothyjbruno.com. I make sure to update it regularly!