Tenor Granner Hits Tulsa for first La Bohéme in 2015
Lyric tenor Nathan Granner has had a full go of it in his career. From singing at Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Theater Saint Louis to placing as Metropolitan Opera National Council Finalist the young artist was destined for stardom.
Signing with Sony Classical under the auspices of then Label CEO Peter Gelb as one of The American Tenors all but certified he had made it.
But it wasn't all there. Sales of the record went top five in the Crossover charts, but then stalled and flatlined, selling 50 thousand copies. In those days, that was a dismal failure to the major labels and the tenors were sent drifting.
My agent at the time said signing with Sony Classical was going to ruin my opera career. I fired him of course, but in the end he was almost right.
When things were great, Nathan thought about the future and optioned to become knowledgeable about the production side, just to be safe. He became the first artistic director of Musical Theater Heritage, an offshoot of the longtime running NPR show “A Night on the Town,” hosted by George Harter. With George and Best friend Chad Gerlt, Musical Theater Heritage began to produce live radio broadcasts of under-performed musicals and revues and though Nathan has long since moved on, the organization has had a long history in Kansas City as a professional theatrical stalwart.
At the same time Granner had invested his time with some of his talented friends from UMKC Conservatory, especially Guitarist Beau Bledsoe, violinist Christine Brebes and composer Brad Cox.
Together they collaborated with a wide range of artists in the more independent scene of the fine arts. From Jazzers to dancers to visual artists, the small group blossomed into what would become the heyday of the 2000s music and art scene in Kansas City. Granner/Bledsoe, the Simon and Garfunkel of chamber music were formed, Duo Lorca, Tango Lorca, The Brad Cox Ensemble and other acts upon the scene were created then.
Granner/Bledsoe playing obscure classical music from the 16th century to popular art songs of the 19th century started in the cafe’s of Kansas City and ended up touring and concertizing into the heart of Russia, where the duo became a smash hit in one forty five minute set.
But there was very little opera. Nathan continued to write, co-produce and perform wild musical and artistic events, such as “Virk Astroblab Space Cowboy,” the first real-time drama on Facebook, “WeeSmallHours” a post modern jazz/rock song cycle based on the Frank Sinatra record “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, even showing with prestigious organizations like the Handel/Haydn Society he still was finding little operatic work.
While co-founding KCMetropolis.org (Kansas City’s Online Journal of the Arts) his own producing continued as did his work on the stage. Stepping into being a Broadway singer, Granner also excelled. His gritty performances as Anatoly in Chess and Capt. Walker in The Who’s “Tommy” led him to play the role of The Father in Stephen Swartz’ “Children of Eden” a giant production at The Music Hall in Kansas City.
The role was written for me. It was powerful where my voice was powerful, sweet where my voice was sweet and really fit like a glove. We were to do a fundraiser with Swartz. It was going to be awesome, I felt like my career was going to break again.
But success didn’t materialize. The show was a disaster, with the producers missing payments, cancelling the Swartz performance (while the composer was in town) and ultimately cancelling the run three times.
A lucky break got The American Tenors back together for their first national tour. One of the men could not make the tour due to contractual obligations and fellow Kansas Citian, Ben Gulley was brought in to fill the need.
For Nathan and Ben, there was a powerful connection. Nathan’s aunt had introduced The American Tenors to Ben and Nathan had seen Ben’s comeuppance in the theater as a young artist. It was too similar in fact to Nathan’s early career for both of them to ignore.
During the tour Nathan and Ben deciding to go it alone after it was all done and formed the operatic tenor duo Gulley/Granner.
After two and a half years Nathan and Ben have co-produced numerous traditional and contemporary avant garde shows, performing for thousands of people and are just about to release an exciting new album of tenor duets and arias with piano quartet (violin, viola, cello and piano).
Within all of this, a lone phone call from Amarillo, TX came in to offer Granner a role singing William Still and John a Slave in “Never Lost a Passenger,” a children’s opera composed by Susan Kander at Amarillo Opera headed by general director David O’Dell. It was the start of something good. Granner is back for his third production in Amarillo.
Because of his experience singing Tango in Kansas City, he was invited by guitarist and impresario Krzysztof Meisinger to perform in Poland as Payador in Astor Piazzolla’s operita “Maria de Buenos Aires.”
The floodgates opened a little more and Nathan premiered four of six mini operas including playing the parts of Kanye West, a king, a coffee fanatic and a college student with Blackhouse Artist Collective and the next summer a short opera at the Kansas City Fringe Festival as Prospero in Mummer Opera Company’s premiere of “Red Death,” based upon the Edgar Allan Poe short story “Masque of the Red Death.”
This is a career built upon survival and hope and not a lack of talent some really choice help from many people and now Nathan will be setting his foot down as one of the most beloved characters in one the most beloved and most performed operas of all time; Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s “La Bohéme” at Tulsa Opera in the fall of 2015.
Tulsa Opera currently run by Kostis Protopapas was where, as a young artist Granner sang another children’s opera “Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing.”
“Sid was a snake that travelled around the globe trying to play all sorts of music with his only goal in life being able to sing opera. At the very end of the show, the lesson is that Sid had been singing the whole time. I never really thought about it, but I guess I’m Sid.”
Keep singing, Nathan. Keep singing!