From trucker and bounty hunter to world-class tenor, Carl Tanner’s backstory reads like a movie script. In fact, there were even plans for Michael Keaton to direct and Stan Chervin (Moneyball) to write the script for a biopic at one point. Tanner has had an interesting past and an even more exciting present. As a singer, he’s always been a natural. After a neighbor heard him singing the shower, Tanner decided to try out for high school choir. He went on to Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1985 without any aspirations to sing professionally. After college, he got his commercial driver’s license and became a trucker. A friend got Tanner into bounty-hunting for a while where he made 172 arrests in 190 pursuits.
Fate intervened when he was driving his big rig in Washington, D.C. singing along to opera on the radio. A woman in a convertible pulled up alongside him and asked if what she heard was him or the radio. “Because if it’s you,” she said, “you’re missing your calling.” His boss had been telling him the same thing, so he decided to go to New York to try his luck. He took voice lessons and got a telemarketing job to pay for them.
During that time, he wandered into a restaurant where he had heard opera music playing. The proprietor asked Tanner if he could sing. When he did, the force of destiny struck again. Two customers in the restaurant were top administrators at Santa Fe Opera. They offered him a summer apprenticeship in Santa Fe in 1992, and the trucker-turned-tenor was on his way.
Tanner has established an international performance career and appears regularly at the world’s most prestigious opera houses including Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Washington National Opera, the New National Theatre of Tokyo, Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro Real de Madrid and Liceu de Barcelona, among others.
Tanner first performed Otello at the Metropolitan Opera in 2018 to rave reviews. And now Orange County audiences will have a chance to hear him in Pacific Symphony’s semi-staged production of Verdi’s greatest masterpiece (April 7, 9 & 12).