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The San Francisco Opera recently decided to include on its Web site a brief bio of each chorister. I submitted a very modest bio for their consideration, but below, for your edification, is what I really would have liked to have said. - Tom

Chorister Tom Reed has survived more than three decades with the Company. His musical talents first became apparent at the tender age of seven when Sister Adelaide Marie discovered that her little “high-potential/low-achiever” was capable of singing a high-C under torture. Those raw talents eventually gained him the lead role of Captain Henryk van Goop in his high school’s rickety production of The Red Mill.  Unfortunately his big aria was interrupted when the mill fell over on opening night, literally catapulting his leading lady into the spotlight. But for the young Mr. Reed, fame would have to wait.  In college he devoted his energies to daydreaming about becoming a famous second tenor. Eventually, fate led him to the San Francisco Opera where in 1975 he became the first second tenor ever to successfully audition with a soprano aria in Latin.  This was just the beginning.

Mr. Reed has sung a number of unscheduled but widely acclaimed solos, including an extra “Noah!” in the wretchedly difficult opera The Death Of Klinghoffer in 1992, and a misplaced “SMEEE-looysya!!” in the 1983 production of Boris Gudounov—an error that he blames on an overzealous Super who shouldn’t have actually hit him with the whip. Even more remarkable is Mr. Reed’s distinguished career as an understudy “cover” for his chorus colleagues. Over the years he has auditioning for, and almost gotten, dozens of coveted chorus solo roles, from the challenging “There she is, the whore!” in the 1979 production of Mary Queen Of Scots, to the pivotal “Prugne di Tours” in La Bohème in 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2004. At one point he he boasted of being understudy to each and every one of his tenor colleagues, including a new Extra Chorister who had just joined the company for his first (and only) season. Mr. Reed is not the least bit bitter about losing the part to the cocky newcomer, despite the fact that the little showoff arrived late for the audition, didn’t have the part memorized, and ended up botching the rhythm in every single performance. “Sure, he got the solo,” he says dismissively, “but it was only seven words. And where is he now? Across the street scratching out a living in the Symphony Chorus. That’s where.”

The crowning moment of his career came when he was chosen above all the others to understudy the leading principal role of “Iro, Gluttonous Follower Of The Suitors” in the 1990 production of Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. “I had all of the qualifications the others lacked,” he says with enormous pride. “I was the only one who fit the costume. Lots of tenors are fat, but not many of us are TALL and fat.” Unfortunately we shall never know what might have been if Mr. Reed had been called upon to step into the role, because the star tenor never got sick. “It’s OK,” he says philosophically. “The opening was a disaster. The stage elevators broke down, and he was totally out of breath.”

Over the last three decades Mr. Reed has appeared in 2,240 performances of 332 productions of 135 different operas, most of which he is unable to forget. As his career approaches its midpoint, Mr. Reed enjoys looking back over his many and varied chorus character roles which include:

“An Aging Lehrbube” in Die Meistersinger Von Nuremberg
“A Gay MP” in Doctor Atomic
“A Male Stripper Nun” in The Damnation Of Faust
“The Hyper-Gay Innkeeper” in Falstaff
“The Idiot Town Drunk” in Faust
“A Crotch Grabber” in Harvey Milk
“The Druid Putz Who Tripped Over a Stump While Ogling a Super’s Bare Butt” in Norma
“A Big Fruit Vendor” in La Bohème
“The Idiot Policeman” in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
“The Cowboy Choking on a Cigar When He Was Supposed To Be Singing” in La Fanciulla del West
“The Sailor Who Went Splat  on the Stage” in L’Africaine
“The Soldier Who Went Splat on the Stage and Caused the Audience To Gasp” in La Forza Del Destino
“A Satrap Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing When the Falling Tarp Knocked Off Dick Brown’s Hat and Wig” in Arshak
“The Soldier Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing When Henry Metlenko Lost His Toupee” in La Forza Del Destino
“The Prisoner Sleeping Next To the One Who Farted” in Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk
“The Peasant Who Caused Tamaki McCracken To Accidentally Slide Down the Hill” in La Forza Del Destino
“Adina’s Favorite Village Idiot” in L’Elisir D’Amore
“The One Who Shot the Arrow Before They Put the Apple on Jamie’s Head Because They Forgot To Tell Me They Changed the Trigger” in Guillaume Tell
“The Pained Looking Saxon Who Had To Stand There for an Eternity with a Trumpet Blasting in His Ear” in Lohengrin
“A Young Relative” in Madama Butterfly
“A Middle-Aged Relative” in Madama Butterfly
“An Old Relative” in Madama Butterfly
“The Odd Looking Japanese Whom Director Matthew Farruggio Stuck Behind a Bush” in Madama Butterfly
“The Druid Doofus Who Wouldn’t Leave When His Torch Went Out and Nearly Smoked Joan Sutherland Off the Stage” in Norma
“The Cossack Klutz Who Fell Off the Ladder, Got Back Up, and Then Tripped Over a Loose Tarp” in Prince Igor
“The Philistine Who Dared To Cross In Front of Marilyn Horne While She Was Emoting” in Samson et Dalila
“The Only Party Guest Making Love to an Empty Chair During the ‘Dooy Doo’ Chorus Because His Partner’s Dress Was Falling Off and She Had To Leave the Stage” in Die Fledermaus