Author Topic: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage  (Read 4328 times)

Offline Meryl

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Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« on: December 27, 2010, 12:16:29 pm »
My friend and colleague from City Opera, Carl Tanner, is making his Met debut tonight, and the Times has a really nice article about him.  Thought you might enjoy.  He's a Southern boy, a proud gay man, and a great guy.

December 26, 2010

Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage

By DAVID BELCHER

Carl Tanner is a truck driver turned bounty hunter turned opera singer making his Metropolitan Opera debut on Monday. Yes, it’s a long story — but that’s only the beginning. He’ll slip into the role of Dick Johnson, the pistol-packing, high-note-hitting romantic lead in “La Fanciulla del West” for one night, almost like a Wild West bounty hunter who rides into town for what’s called in that trade a quick collar.

It’s a role he has sung dozens of times around the world, but he’ll be starring in this Puccini opera for the first time at the Met, which commissioned “La Fanciulla” and where it had its world premiere a century ago this month. Mr. Tanner’s performance is a one-shot deal, if all goes as planned. As the standby for the tenor Marcello Giordani, by contract he gets to sing the role one time during the run (through Jan. 8).

Dick Johnson is just the type of guy Mr. Tanner would have pursued in his former life. The two are a renegade and a bounty hunter separated by 100 years. In fact, Mr. Tanner’s life sounds like a modern-day antithesis to that of Dick Johnson, the bandit who falls in love with Minnie (the soprano Deborah Voigt), a bar owner in a California gold rush town in 1849.

“I’ve learned how to spin a six-shooter onstage, but I wouldn’t spin a real gun offstage,” Mr. Tanner said over a recent breakfast at an Upper West Side diner. “And let me tell you, I couldn’t spin a 9-millimeter or a sawed-off shotgun when I was bounty hunting.”

Mr. Tanner, 48, is a hulking, blond teddy bear of a man with a slight Southern drawl and a knack for storytelling. He grew up in a household of four boys in Arlington, Va., and studied voice at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va., before becoming a long-haul trucker to pay the bills and avoid office work. On a hot Saturday afternoon in 1989, while stuck in traffic on Interstate 95, he was singing along with Plácido Domingo on a Met radio broadcast of “Tosca.” His windows were rolled down, and he heard a car horn pierce his impromptu duet.

“This lady in a red convertible was blowing her horn at me, so I yelled something colorful back at her,” he said. “She asked why I was driving a truck. She told me that I had missed my calling.”

That same day he returned to the trucking office, where his boss, coincidentally, had heard the same Met broadcast and asked Mr. Tanner whether he was ever going to pursue his love of singing. It was the first of several “Twilight Zone”-like moments during a day that changed his life.

His car broke down on the way home, and while walking to his parents’ house nearby he found a four-leaf clover minutes after asking God to send him a sign if he was supposed to become an opera singer. His father, who worked as a building painter for the federal government, greeted him when he arrived.

“He told me, ‘I heard that Plácido guy on the radio singing that opera stuff that you sing,’ ” Mr. Tanner remembered. “Then he said, ‘You don’t want to be old like me and realize that you didn’t use what God gave you.’ ”

These coincidences — or messages, as Mr. Tanner likes to call them — sprang him into action. He continued voice lessons and began working with a coach in New York, Gerald Brown (with whom he still studies), while driving trucks for a few more years. One day a friend told him about a bounty-hunting job in Arlington. The money was good, Mr. Tanner said, and he learned how to use three large guns. But two events occurred that still haunt him and turned him away from that line of work.

First was the case of a teenager holed up in a cabin in West Virginia. Mr. Tanner and another bounty hunter, called in by the boy’s parents, cased the place. “I saw someone inside, then heard loud sounds at the front door,” he recalled. “I realized someone was shooting.”

The teenager, he said, shot at him 17 times through the door, then ran from the house. But Mr. Tanner tackled him, hogtied him and put him in the back seat of the car.

“I thought to myself on the ride back, Why am I not singing? as I’m preaching to this kid,” he said.

A week later he was offered $500 for 30 minutes of work on a bail bond that was about to expire. He didn’t have a good feeling about it but couldn’t pass up the cash. “The only thing you have in that business is to trust your gut,” he said.

A fellow bounty hunter covered the front door of an apartment in Arlington where the suspect was hiding, and Mr. Tanner covered the back window in the two-story apartment building. When the front door was stormed, the suspect jumped from the second-story window, grabbed overhead electrical wires, was immediately electrocuted and fell to his death at Mr. Tanner’s feet.

“That was the end of my bounty-hunting career,” he said. “I had nightmares for a year.”

He moved to New York in late 1990 at age 28 with $77 in his pocket. He worked as a singing waiter at Asti’s restaurant, where Richard Gaddes, a former general manager of the Santa Fe Opera, invited him to audition for the company. He was an apprentice there for the summers of 1992 and 1993, making his debut in 1992 in “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and singing the role of Prince Calaf in “Turandot” in 2005. (Mr. Tanner also sang this male starring role in “Turandot” in the Met’s summer parks series in 1993, but “La Fanciulla,” also known as “The Girl of the Golden West,” is his official Met debut.) He has sung more than 40 roles in dozens of opera houses throughout the United States and Japan, but performs mostly in Europe.

In a review of “Pagliacci” at New York City Opera in 2007, Bernard Holland wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Tanner “was a convincing Canio, taking advantage of the level of rug chewing built into the part, but not abusing it,” adding that “musically and physically he does well.”

His schedule as a singer keeps him on the road from 7 to 11 months a year. When he’s not traveling, he lives in Arlington with his partner and their 2-year-old son.

Dick Johnson has become a signature role for Mr. Tanner with companies like the Deutsche Oper in Berlin; the Opera Orchestra of New York; the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, Belgium; and, more recently, in a concert version at the Edinburgh International Festival last summer.

Mr. Tanner said he has discovered parallels between his life and the story of Dick Johnson. “When you’re a bounty hunter, people think you’re a tough guy because you chase and arrest people, but I wanted to know what made people tick,” he said. “When you’re arresting people, you notice that we all want the same things, and that we all make mistakes.”

For him the journey from bounty hunting to the opera world has been about finding not only similarities between fugitive and pursuer but also between fugitive and singer.

“The most insecure people I knew were criminals, but the most delicate and insecure people I know now are entertainers,” he said. “In opera you want to be loved and appreciated, but then that’s the common denominator with every person alive.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/arts/music/27tanner.html?_r=1&hpw
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Offline southendmd

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2010, 12:26:48 pm »
Cool story.  Enjoy, Priestess.  Be careful going through them blizzardy city streets.


Offline Meryl

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2010, 12:46:16 pm »
Cool story.  Enjoy, Priestess.  Be careful going through them blizzardy city streets.


You too, doc.  I think Boston got even more snow than we did.  :P

Nice pic of Carl!  8)
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2011, 02:28:32 pm »
Whut is a Fanciulla, anyway. Sounds kinda disreputable.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline southendmd

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2011, 02:47:46 pm »
Whut is a Fanciulla, anyway. Sounds kinda disreputable.

It means "girl" LOL.

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2011, 03:01:54 pm »
Whut is a Fanciulla, anyway. Sounds kinda disreputable.

It means "girl" LOL.

You sure it don't mean fancy lady, er sumthin'?  ::)
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Meryl

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2011, 06:12:53 pm »
You sure it don't mean fancy lady, er sumthin'?  ::)

It does sound kind of like that, Jeff, especially when she's from the West.  Miss Kitty comes to mind.  ;D

I didn't report on the opera performance.  Carl did really well, sounded beautiful in the Met auditorium.  He didn't seem to suffer from nerves, either.  Before the show my agent and I used our clout and went to eat downstairs in the Met dining room.  Carl came by and chatted with us, and he said he was supposed to have about 70 people showing up to see him!  However, with a full 20 inches of snow already on the streets and transportation at a near standstill, there was some doubt they'd all make it.

The production of Fanciulla has a big, roomy bi-level saloon for the first act, a cozy cabin surrounded by a snowy forest for the second act, and the main street of a beat-up mining town for the last act.  In Act II, both Minnie and Johnson (Carl's character) enter riding horses, which are then taken offstage.  The blizzard onstage got a few chuckles, since it perfectly mirrored the weather outside.  ;D

After the show I went backstage, and there were so many friends of Carl's that they opened up the green room and let him hold court in there.  It's not too big, but it held most of us.  I think there were at least 50 or 60 people.  And who should come in via a wheelchair pushed by a nice-looking young man, wearing a mink coat and hat, but Celeste Holm? (I looked it up: she's 93!)  You never know who knows who in this biz.  Pretty neat!  8)
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Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2011, 08:14:49 pm »
Sounds like a high-class entertaining evening, Meryl!  :D

And Celeste Holm still gets out at 93!  :D
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline milomorris

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2011, 08:47:26 pm »
Celeste Holm!?!?!? WOW!! You're right, you never know who's out there in the house while you're wailing away onstage.

I don't know Carl (at least not by his name), but I do know a few of singers who have worked with him in various houses over the years. His voice is indeed glorious from what little I have heard.

Good for him on the Met debut. He's worked hard for a long time to deserve this.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline delalluvia

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Re: Bounty Hunter Takes His Skills to the Met Stage
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2011, 08:47:47 pm »
I saw the title of this thread and thought,

"Dog the Bounty Hunter is going to the Met?!?!"  :laugh: :laugh: