Oct. 17, 2012 - Issue #887: Dedfest
The legacy of Aida is in its scale
Carl Tanner's life reads more like a movie script than a personal history. It's also in talks to become one: the American tenor, one of the anchoring voices in Edmonton Opera's season opening production of Aida, took the kind of winding road to get to opera, that's both incredulous and totally true. Graduating high school with a penchant for music (he played violin), he ended up in music school eventually, but after graduation, he notes that he lacked the drive he saw in his fellow graduates to push along a difficult path for a soloist's career.
"As a singer, a soloist, you have nothing out there: you have opera companies that are falling apart every day—because they're privately funded in America," he says. "In Europe they are funded by the state or the government, and you could go get a job as a chorister. Well, you didn't work four years to be a chorister, unless that was your aspiration, and that's OK. ...They're paid, they're hardworkers, but you don't set out to be that. you want to be a soloist. You want to shine."
Instead, Tanner drifted. He took a job as a commercial truck driver; when that wasn't paying the bills like he wanted, he was introduced to a bounty hunter who took him on as a partner. Tanner, it turns out, had some quality insights into the occupation: instead of wasting time and funds looking for those they were hunting, he convinced his partner to spend that money on a PI to find these guys for them. "We tried it for a month," he says. "And we caught four more people than average."
The push back to a career in music music came on a day when three people, independent of each other, told Tanner singing was his calling (one was a stranger, hearing him sing along to the radio in traffic; the second was his truck driving boss; the third was his father), and, asking for a sign—he prefers "spiritual" to "religious," he notes—found a four-leaf clover on the ground. Shortly after, his boss told him it was his last day, and effectively fired him: handed him a small envelope of cash, assembled by his co-workers, to move to New York and make a go at a singing career.
He went. Now, he's sung at the White House, and has his enduring soloist job, fronting operas across a worldwide itinerary.
The legacy of Aida, Tanner notes, is in its scale: this is opera at its most grandiose, massively cast (here pulling on a huge chorus and a group of Brian Webb dancers), as the titular slave girl finds herself caught in a doomed love triangle with the Egyptian warrior she loves and the king's daughter who vyes for the same man.
"It's such a large, grand-scale opera," Tanner says. "I mean, you can have a long, three-hour boutique opera that has three-four characters, and that's it. This opera has four or five principal singers, then you have a chorus of 60 people, and you have this long orchestration—it calls for a large orchestra. And then you have all the costumes and everything. The triumphal march scene is one of the largest scenes in opera. It's why a lot of people go to opera: it brings out the kid in all of us to go to opera. And the music is amazing: Verdi really knows how to really stir emotions when it comes to throwing 120 people onstage."
Fri Oct 19 (8 pm); Sun, Oct 21 (2 pm); Tue, Oct 23 & Thu, Oct 25 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Dejan Miladinovic
Jubilee Auditorium, $50 – $150 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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