September 2011

AfriClassical Features One World Symphony Baritone Martin Fisher

Martin Fisher performs in One World Symphony’s season opener in all-Verdi program as Don Carlo in La Forza del Destino in September 2011. Previously, Mr. Fisher was a featured soloist with One World Symphony in Saint-Saens’s Samson et Dalila as Grand Prêtre.

Read the feature at AfriClassical > >


Are any of your family members musicians? If so, what do they do? Any family rituals/routines, talents you’d like to tell us?
In our family, I’m often compared to my late Uncle Thomas, who had a booming baritone voice and sang solo in his church in Philadelphia. While no members of my family are pursuing musical careers, music has be an integral part of our lives.  My brother and sister-in-law sing in church as soloists, my father sang chorus in the Navy, my uncle sang chorus in opera companies, and I’ve a cousin who can play just about any instrument. His aunt (mine by marriage) was the late-great gospel singer Ethel Waters.  

What made you decide to become a musician?
My late Uncle James introduced me to classical music and my mother made sure my siblings and I were exposed to the fine arts very early on, so I was first open to the idea. I was lucky enough, thanks to Mom, to be able to go on a choir tour to Japan in my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I had a solo while on tour in Japan, which you can imagine was an exhilarating experience for an impressionable eighteen year-old.  I decided to take voice lessons thereafter.

What was the most recent book you’ve read?
Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s a great read.

When you make some free time, how do you relax?
I relax by working and dining out, going dancing or to theater, fixing things with my huge toolbox, and visiting my many nieces and nephews. I’d like to buy a motorcycle. Right now, however, I’m in the middle of trying to purchase my first home so that really takes up any free time I have.

Which is your favorite destination you have visited and why?
I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Italy and Tel Aviv, for completely different reasons. I love exploring the countryside in Italy and finding some family-owned restaurant nestled in a remote corner of a village. Tel Aviv, being right on the Mediterranean, has amazing beaches, and there’s an incredible, almost palpable electricity in the air at night.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’d like to go to Egypt right at this very minute, with all the rapid changes taking place.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Look both ways before crossing the street.

What do you feel is multicultural awareness and how does it affect our work environment and community at large?
Well, I’m named after Dr. King, so I have some very specific feelings about multicultural awareness and how it affects the community at large. I believe artists and musicians have always been on the leading edge of multicultural shifts, with exchanges and influences on one another’s work which eventually becomes part of the vernacular. One World Symphony is a beacon championing this ideal of a more perfect union. Just think of the name “One World.” You have a Korea- American conductor, an African-American soloist, and a host of musicians literally from everywhere performing some of the greatest music ever composed by a giant, the Italian Verdi, who by the way, had an amazing career in Paris.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
A father. 

Why would you recommend our public to attend One World Symphony’s Verdi Night on September 18 and 19, 2011 in New York City?
This is some of the most exciting music ever written by the one of the most important operatic composers in history. This is Verdi as the height of his powers and One World Symphony brings the concert right to the audience, not on some distant giant stage. It’s absolutely thrilling. 

Can you please tell us about which roles you are performing in One World Symphony’s season opener? What makes some of them special and what are you looking forward to the most when you will be performing Verdi with One World Symphony?
My largest role is that of Don Carlo in La Forza del Destino. This character is a man driven to the brink of insanity with vengeance over the death of his father, yes, but tragically more so out his sense of honor.

We’ll be performing one of the signature tenor-baritone duets from all of opera. This particular duet has been lionized by such historic performers as Corelli and Bastianini, Tucker and Merrill, Domingo and Milnes. When you sing this music, you feel the power and weight of all that history marching alongside you, like your own personal force of destiny.    

We’ll also be encouraging the audience to join us in singing the chorus “Va, pensiero” from Nabucco. In the opera, it is sung by a chorus of exiled Hebrew slaves. Verdi composed this chorus not long after the death of his wife and daughter. The last line, “t’ispiri il Signore un concento che ne infonda al patire virtù” translates “may the Lord inspire you a harmony of voices which may instill virtue to suffering.” There is indeed a great deal of suffering in our nation today, with high unemployment, but I also believe this line is particularly poignant to New Yorkers as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  “Va, pensiero” is an anthem of hope, and it is our profound hope that the audience will lend us their voices in this song of courage, community, virtue and ultimately, triumph.

American baritone Martin Fisher can be heard on the album Barrelhouse to Broadway, which won a 2008 Grammy Award for Best Producer. Fisher returns to One World Symphony after previously performing the role of Grand Prêtre (Samson et Dalila) in 2006.  Other highlights include a 2010 debut at The Kennedy Center as Jissa (Amanjaku and Urikohime), a Carnegie Hall debut in 2009 as a Finalist in the Accadia Competition for Operatic Voice, a New York City Opera appearance in 2007 (Margaret Garner), and 2006 Alice Tully Hall debut in the American premiere of Kurofune. Fisher’s repertoire includes Escamillo (Carmen), Valentin (Faust), Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor), Marcello (La Bohème), Sharpless (Madama Butterfly), Tonio (i Pagliacci), Scarpia (Tosca), Germont (La Traviata), Amonasro (Aïda), Miller (Luisa Miller), Count di Luna (il Trovatore), and the title role in Rigoletto. He was a 2009 Finalist in The International Violetta DuPont Competition.