From taking direction to giving direction: Constance Fisher, opera stage director #tbt

Constance Fisher, known to all who worked with her as Connie, began her musical studies at the RCMT with Alberto Guerrero (piano), and Weldon Kilburn and Irene Jessner (voice), as well as with Herman Geiger-Torel at the opera school there. She made her debut in 1957 with the Opera Festival of Toronto (later COC) as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel. A member of the COC until 1966, she sang Musetta in La Bohème (1963) and, in touring productions, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte (1963) and Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus (1964, 1965), among other roles.

Under the guidance of Herman Geiger-Torel and Boris Goldovsky, Ms. Fisher entered the field of stage direction as Assistant Director for both of these men and later as Stage Director and Instructor at the Banff School of Fine Arts.

In the 1967-68 season she made her directorial debut with the COC with a production of La Bohème and subsequently directed Barber of Seville, Tosca, and new productions of Il Tabarro and L’Heure Espagnol for the COC.

At the Banff School of Fine Arts she produced Orpheus in the Underworld, Madama Butterfly, Così fan tutte and Hansel and Gretel. Across Canada she directed for the Edmonton Opera Association (Die Fledermaus and Mikado), the Southern Alberta Opera Association (Die Fledermaus and the Barber of Seville), and the Manitoba Opera Association (Die Fledermaus).

Connie Fisher joined the Faculty of Music’s Opera Division staff in 1971 as a stage director and instructor, and then was designated divisional coordinator of the opera division in 1978. She was succeeded in 1983 by Michael Albano, who had begun as stage director in 1977. Albano and Fisher became associate coordinators of the division in 1987.

UofT Opera Production of Elixir of Love, January 1975,
UofT directorial debut of Constance Fisher

Her productions at the Faculty of Music include Elixir of Love, The Crucible (Canadian premiere), Don Giovanni, Orpheus in the Underworld, La Perichole, Katya Kabanova (Canadian premiere), Dialogues of the Carmelites, L’Oca delCairo, Gianni Schicchi, Sir John in Love (North American premiere), Albert Herring, and Cambiale di Matrimonio (Canadian premiere).

Quite a few of her productions were conducted by her husband W. James Craig who, in 1971, became head coach and conductor for the Opera Division. He had been a coach and conductor previously, 1958-64. In 1976, Craig became musical director for the Opera Division, and remained in the position in 1990.

James Craig in rehearsal, photo by Andrew Oxenham

Tonight is opening night of the Opera Division’s production of Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, conducted by alumnus Russell Braun and directed by Michael Albano.

While his career as a baritone performing on stages around the world continues, our Resident Operatic Performance Specialist Russell Braun makes his second appearance as a conductor with U of T.

UofT Opera Production of Patience, March 1990 with Valdine Anderson and Russell Braun

Article by Alexandra Brennan.