Spotlight on: Adam Fisher Photo: Veronika Roux.

Spotlight on: Adam Fisher

Jenna Simeonov

Equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking, Canadian tenor Adam Fisher most recently sang the role of Father Alexander in Tapestry Opera’s world premiere production of Oksana G.. With a unexpected past as a heavy metal drummer and a strong connection to music theatre and pop singers, Fisher brings a refreshing energy to the stage that seems fuelled by curiosity for the stage in its broadest sense.

Fisher heads next to Los Angeles, to sing the title role in Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar with the LA Philharmonic. He talks about lesser-known corners of history, dream roles, and the difference between singing that’s “flashy” versus “connected”.

Why do you sing?

I sing because it is so f&$%ing fun (and incredibly challenging and rewarding)!

Before I started singing I was a drummer in a heavy metal band. Most of my means of musical expression came through complex drums patterns and writing flashy drum fills. However, it came to a screeching halt before the first semester of music college when the band suddenly broke up while recording our second album. My introduction to the vocal arts came during this period of change and uncertainty in my life. I was in music history class and heard Mahler’s “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”. The passion and message of that music resonated in me. I’d never been moved quite that way by a piece of music before.

I then dedicated my time to learn how to express that to others and move them as much as I was moved that day. In a nutshell, I love the challenge that music offers you as a performer. Always asking myself, where is the core of the song and how do I tell that story to the audience?

Adam Fisher (Pedrillo) in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Opera Atelier. Photo: Bruce Zinger.

What does “good singing” mean to you?

It’s all about connection to the music. My favourite singers are always the ones who sing from their core and are connected to the message of the music. Flashy singing is great in the same way a chocolate bar is great, it’s a fast and heavy hit of sweetness that gets you high for a short period of time. But if it doesn’t come from an honest place, it inevitably loses its appeal to me and I crave something richer. In my opinion, tenors that do this really well are Jonas Kaufmann, Neil Shicoff, Domingo, Pavarotti, and on the non classical side, Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Mathew Bellamy from Muse, and James Blake.

What should singers do more of? What should they do less of?

Take care of yourself. Your physical and emotional health are so important to surviving in this business. Whether you’re on the road, pushing through a challenging role, or developing your technique through those times when nothing seems to work, taking time unwind will help you in spades.

For me, exercise and the outdoors has always been cathartic. Getting outside for a bike ride or weight training during a contract is such a great release for me. It’s kinda like meditation and gives me a place to let out all the baggage built up from the process of creating art.

Adam Fisher (Father Alexander) with Natalya Gennadi (Oksana) in rehearsal for Oksana G., Tapestry Opera. Photo courtesy of Tapestry Opera.

What do you enjoy about portraying a well-known historical figure like Caesar, but telling a lesser-known story about him in Young Caesar?

I enjoy portraying complex characters onstage. The process of tackling subject matter that’s currently facing discrimination as well as a very interesting story of Caesar that the general public doesn’t really know, challenges me through my characterization to merge opera, theatre and a pertinent message for the audience.

A young Gaius Julius Caesar was sent to collect tribute from King Nicomedes, and there Gaius found in the King a mentor, a friend and by many accounts, a lover. This story was used against him politically throughout his career in Rome and even though homosexuality was common among the wealthy and other affluent members of society, the church had harsh judgmental power and influence among the populace of Rome.

Exploring this side of his character is very interesting to me. Finding how to approach the idea of sexual identity and how much society needs to label people. In my opinion, if Gaius were alive today, he would be labeled a bisexual and possibly endure similar scrutiny if he were running for public office.

Adam Fisher (Lysander) with John Brancy (Demetrius) and Lauren Segal (Hermia) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pacific Opera Victora. Photo: David Cooper.

Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?

My dream/bucket list roles are Candide (Candide), Rodolfo (La bohème), Siegmund (Die Walkure), and a concept show where modern rock, heavy metal and pop songs are arranged for orchestra and singers. Kinda like Across the Universe with songs you can head bang to. :)

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