Q&A: Carl Tanner On Heroism, Hieroglyphs, and Hollywood

By Logan Martell

Performances of Washington National Opera’s (WNO) production of Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Aida’ are well underway. While the production finishes its run on September 23rd, there remains great interest, and for good reason. With set and costume designs drawing inspiration from Los Angeles-based artist RETNA, audiences will no doubt find much novelty in this classic work set within the ancient world of Egypt.

OperaWire had the opportunity to speak with tenor Carl Tanner, in his signature role of Radames, to learn not only about the production, but the unique perspective afforded by his fascinating career wic as included working as a truck driver and professional bounty hunter

OW: How do your experiences as a trucker and bounty hunter compared to when you take the stage in roles that are often these bold, heroic figures, such as Radames and Otello?

CT: My experiences driving a truck and bounty hunting really cannot relate to be a singer. While Both Radames and Otello are heroic figures in each opera being a true life bounty hunter is less romantic. In opera, the tenor almost always gets the girl. As a Bounty hunter, I almost always got the criminal.

OW: In your opinion, how does the role of Radames compare to that of Otello? Do you find any similarities apart from them being generals?

CT: In my opinion, these two roles are slightly similar in the fact that they are lengthy heroic roles that should be sung by the same voice type of Tenor. Otello is a slightly heavier role vocally. Both roles start out with vocally-demanding introductions to their characters. Both characters are devoted, patriots and lovers. I find that Radames is more even-keeled with his emotions where Otello is more fragile with his.

OW: What can we expect from the WNO’s production of Aida?

CT: In this beautiful and modern production inspired by the famous LA street artist RETNA, the audience gets to experience colorful hieroglyphics and calligraphy immersed in the classic story of Aida the slave girl who wins the love of the general Radames.

OW: How do you adapt to different productions?

CT: I am for the most part a traditionalist. I love old school opera. That being said, when I am contracted to perform a new, non traditional (modern) production I’m fine with new ideas on an old theme. As long as the audience can comprehend and enjoy the new production I’m all aboard.

OW: How does the writing of Verdi work for your voice? Are there any vocal challenges with the role of Radames?

CT: I have found that Verdi loved to write demanding music right out of the gate for the voice. Puccini would love to allow voices to warm up a bit with lighter motifs and simpler melodic phrases for the artists. In Verdi’s writing, we can find demanding arias for the voice immediately as the curtain rises giving the artist little time coasting.

OW: Having been praised for your voice since high school, do you ever feel you should have become a professional singer sooner than you had?

CT: Actually no! Things happen in time for a reason. I feel if I had possessed the will and determination to go directly into singing and opera when I was right out of college I most likely would not be singing now. I was very well educated in college but not prepared technically to start a career in the business! Most young singers aren’t fully ready to embrace a singing career until after years of auditioning, coaching, apprentice programs and the like!

OW: What are your thoughts on the biopic Michael Keaton is producing?

CT: I’m truly honored and excited that MK and others approached me about the interest in making a movie about my life. I know my path to the present is a highly unusual one. I have learned that things move at weird paces in Hollywood. I’m blessed that my story has even caught the attention of others.

OW: As a bounty hunter having a record of 172 arrests in 190 pursuits, is there any message you’d like to send to the few who got away?

CT: Not boasting….but they didn’t get away! The ones that I didn’t get arrested for we’re ones that either turned themselves in or their bonds were excused.

OW: How did you come to start Carl Tanner Designs? Will we be seeing any of your jewelry worn during Aida?

CT: Since I was 15 years old I was always interested in the fabrication of Jewelry. Everyone loves shiny things but the creative aspect of Jewelry truly made me excited and still does to this day. Unfortunately, we haven’t been asked to design anything for this production of Aida but the idea sounds fun. We do have an opera inspired selection on our website Carl Tanner Designs called our “Opera collection”.

OW: With such an interesting past and an exciting present, what does the future look like for Carl Tanner?

CT: Love, life, happiness, music, joy, my partner and our son Oliver. This is my future. I have great plans for my singing and Jewelry company future but my favorite is watching my son grow up!


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