Talking with singers: Carl Tanner

Talking with singers: Carl Tanner

Jenna Simeonov

American tenor Carl Tanner is currently in D.C., where he shares the role of Radamès in Washington National Opera’s production of Aida. He keeps busy with coveted tenor roles like Don José (Carmen), Canio (Pagliacci), Des Grieux (Manon), Cavaradossi (Tosca), and Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly); yet with his past lives as a truck driver and a bounty hunter - yes, you read that right - Tanner has taken a rare path to his current life as an opera singer.

We spoke with Tanner about finding his way to singing, about the movie being made about his life (starring Michael Keaton), and about what he’s learned from experiencing different kinds of fear.

Can you tell us about your past lives as a truck driver, and a bounty hunter? How accurate are our TV-and-movie-inspired ideas of these jobs?

I was a truck driver just out of university in 1985. I loved it! In a way I had no boss, just me and the truck and my drops. I also loved bounty hunting until I learned it can get you killed! I worked as a bounty hunter for a little over two and half years in which I executed approximately 178 out of 190 warrants. After a few life-changing experiences I realized maybe it wasn’t my calling to chase down people.

What role did singing play in your life before you began to pursue it professionally? What prompted the stark career change?

I always loved Puccini’s Tosca and the role of Cavaradossi. It was my fantasy to play and sing this character since my first day at university. I learned both tenor arias as soon as I switched from baritone to tenor in college; I’ve gone on to sing the role over 40 times around the world.

How does it feel to have a movie in the works about your life (starring Michael Keaton, no less)?

I’m truly honored and excited that Michael Keaton 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 the attention of others.

Tanner as Radamès in Aida, Washington National Opera, 2017. Photo: Scott Suchman.

Your career paths have included a certain kind of fear (physical danger, stage fright) - what have you learned about yourself from these different types of “dangers”?

The most important things I have learned are:

  • If you are prepared than you can face anything! It may not change the outcome but at least you did your part!
  • Breath and release! Keep calm, because letting your nerves get the best of you will not do you good! It took me years to learn how to channel my nerves into positive energy and once I learned how I always practiced and studies how to keep that knowledge.

What do you know about the singing career now, that you wish you had known 10 years ago?

What I know now that I may have known ten years ago but never paid attention to…is take each day at a time! Enjoy every single moment - even the challenging ones - because it’s how we grow as artists and humans. Most of all enjoy what you do, because if you don’t it’s not worth your effort! Find your peace!

For more with Carl Tanner, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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