- - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tenor Carl Tanner travels the world to star on international stages, often as Radames in “Aida,” one of his signature roles, but his heart remains with his hometown and his beloved Redskins.

This week, Mr. Tanner returns for a concert version of Verdi’s opera at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniele Callegari. He will be joined on stage by soprano Marjorie Owens in the title role, baritone Scott Hendricks as Amonasro and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, Wolf Trap Opera’s 2015 Artist in Residence, as Amneris.

“Over the years, I’ve discarded other people’s perceptions of Ramades, particularly those held by directors because they are never the same,” Mr. Tanner told The Washington Times. “I’ve played him as an Egyptian warrior, an officer in the First World War and even as a Jehovah’s Witness in a German production.”

The graduate of Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School often belted out the national anthem at football games, but he chose truck driving instead of a musical career. Despite graduating from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester and singing his first professional role with the Opera Company of Northern Virginia in the very first staging of Puccini’s “Edgar,” he clung to the security of driving big rigs until a friend suggested a more lucrative opportunity as a bounty hunter.

His size and strength prevailed during some harrowing experiences, but it seemed wise to reconsider the vocal talent he could not ignore.

Mr. Tanner then moved to New York, became a singing waiter and quickly attracted the attention of Santa Fe Opera director Richard Gaddes in New Mexico and Hollywood actor Robert Duvall, who both provided sincere encouragement.

After he spent two summers in Santa Fe as an apprentice with the opera company, Mr. Tanner’s career took flight. He debuted as Samson in “Samson et Dalila” with Washington National Opera in 2004 and made his official Metropolitan Opera debut in 2007.

Kim Pensinger Witman, director of Wolf Trap Opera Company, is responsible for discovering many now-celebrated singers. The company’s schedule this summer includes “The Ghost of Versailles,” “Madama Butterfly” and a concert built around musicals by the Rodgers family. Her inspiration for choosing “Aida” to showcase Wolf Trap Opera alumni was twofold.

“Over the years, we’ve kept in touch with many of our alumni, and we always give a concert during the winter with some of them,” she said. “Many, like Carl, are leaders in their field, so it’s important for the young singers with us this summer to meet some of these seasoned professionals.

“The idea of doing a piece like ‘Aida’ just fell together because Michelle is here this summer as our artist in residence, and Marjorie and Carl just sang together at the Met. The NSO and Washington Chorus make it a big showpiece.”

Mr. Tanner, who shares her enthusiasm, flew back to Washington on Friday from England, where rave reviews for his Samson with Grange Park Opera near Winchester cited his “genuine heldentenor virtues of strength, nobility and beauty of line” and “a Samson of Wagnerian scale that leaves eardrums rattling in the wake of his agony.”

In the coming year, he will be in contact with actor/producer Michael Keaton, who is putting Mr. Tanner’s life story on film, with all the humor, drama and suspense that make it special. The final scene will take place at a 2003 performance of “Turandot” at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, the largest park in New York City, where he made his first unofficial appearance with the Met.

“There must have been 100,000 there,” Mr. Tanner said. “I’d never seen that many people in one place. My parents died before they saw me perform professionally, so in their honor, every time I do a new performance, I put a rose in each of my two comp seats. At that performance, I began the tradition that Michael will capture in the film.”


WHAT: Verdi’s “Aida” in concert

WHERE: Wolf Trap Filene Center, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna, Virginia, 22182

WHEN: Friday, 8:15 p.m.

INFO: Tickets $22 to $75 by calling 877/965-3872 or visiting WolfTrap.org

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