Young Tenor Makes Toronto Debut in ‘Thaïs’
Life is an adventure for Adam Fisher. At the age of 31, the young tenor is brimming with enthusiasm.
From modelling to commercial auditions to a love of cooking and music, Fisher is exploring different sides of his character and career. On the one hand, he dreams of singing opera and acting on television and in film; on the other hand, he has hopes of journeying on a motorcycle to explore the natural beauty of the West Coast.
Having moved to Toronto only a few months ago, the Vancouver native misses the ocean and forest where he grew up, yet he is also ready to embrace the opportunities offered by his adopted city. On Sunday afternoon, Fisher is set to make his Toronto debut with Opera in Concert’s production of Massenet’s “Thaïs”.
One of Massenet’s most beautiful works, the 19th century opera talks of love, faith, and redemption against the backdrop of Egypt under Byzantine rule. It is the story of the beautiful courtesan Thaïs who is approached by Athanaël, a zealous monk who attempts to convert her to Christianity.
While she first mocks his words, she soon realizes she can find in God the unconditional love she had been seeking. The monk on the other hand, who had also led a worldly life before taking the vow, finds his faith tested when he is seduced by Thaïs’s charms.
Fisher plays the role of Nicias, Thaïs’s hedonistic lover. He is “best described as a man who lives his life in the pursuit of pleasure,” Fisher says. Although a rather superficial character, Nicias loves Thaïs enough to respect her decision to leave her former life.
In the production, Fisher is reunited with soprano Laura Whalen, who plays Thaïs, and baritone James Westman, who plays Athanaël. The artists performed together in Calgary Opera’s 2011 production of “The Inventor.”
“They’re both top-notch professionals,” says Fisher, adding that he was looking forward to working with them again.
He also praised Opera in Concert’s decision to present the beautiful but little-performed opera. He explained that the role of the soprano is particularly difficult as it’s both technically and emotionally demanding.
“They’re not growing ‘Thaïs’ sopranos on trees anymore,” says Fisher, noting that in the 20th century, Renée Fleming was the soprano best known for her interpretation of the character.
He commended Whalen for taking the part. “I know her voice very well and I’m looking forward to hearing her sing it,” he says.
Preparing for the Opera
Fisher advises anyone who is planning to see an opera—especially those who have not seen one before—to do some research in advance, get to know the story, the composer and the music, and find something that can resonate with them.
He compared this to the research one does when going to see a movie, which may include watching the trailer, as well as learning about the story and the cast.
He explains that when one grasps how the music serves the drama, it is much easier to understand the characters’ emotions. He gave the example of the famous meditation piece in “Thaïs” which, other than being a fine piece of music, narrates the emotional journey that the courtesan goes through, culminating in a decision to take on a life of reverence for God.
“It’s her inner dialogue working itself out; it’s the choice she makes to make that shift. Quite beautiful,” he says.
According to Fisher, audience engagement in the performance is also instrumental in a successful production, allowing for a musical dialogue.
“An audience is just as much a part of the show as the orchestra is—it fuels the performance. Having a great audience can really energize a performance,” he says.