The State Magazine
Famous West Virginians
March 3, 1963
Famous West Virginians
Miss Susanne Fisher, now Mrs. Clifford Menz of Council Bluffs, Iowa, was the first West Virginian to sing in the Metropolitan Opera. She made her debut in the title role of "Madame Butterfly" on Dec. 26, 1935.
Born in Sutton August 25, 1903, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Fisher, sent her to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music after she graduated from Sutton High School. Miss Fisher was the first girl in the history of the school to receive three degrees - piano, voice and public school music - at the same commencement.
After teaching school for several years, (without the knowledge of her parents) Miss Fisher went to New York and won a scholarship in the Julliard School of Music. Following her studies there, she was awarded an exchange scholarship to Germany where she studied for five years.
While singing at the Berlin Opera she gave a command performance for Herr Hitler. One clipping said that Hitler was so impressed by the young American singer that he nearly fell out of the box applauding her. She fled to France soon after the Nazis came into power and sang at the Opera Comique. There she was "discovered" by Edward Johnson, manager of the Metropolitan, who had come to Europe to find new singers.
As Miss Fisher said, "It seemed that everywhere I went, political trouble followed in Europe. I was scheduled for a grand tour in Spain when the Spanish revolution broke out and it was cancelled. Then I returned to the United States and everything was wonderful."
During the years she sang in the Metropolitan, West Virginia friends organized listening groups to hear her sing in the Saturday afternoon matinee broadcasts over radio. Her most famous roles included "Madame Butterfly," Mimi in La Boheme," "Manon," and Margaretha in "Faust."
In the spring after her debut. Miss Fisher gave a homecoming concert in Charleston. Her triumphant return filled to overflowing the auditorium where she sang. The telephone company installed a telephone from the stage to the bedside of the singer's mother, who was ill in a distant part of the state, so that Mrs. Fisher could hear her daughter's concert and reception. A formal reception by Governor and Mrs. Kump followed the concert.
Miss Fisher voluntarily gave up her professional work at the Metropolitan at the height of her career to devote her full attention to her husband and two daughters. They moved from New York to the Midwest where they make their permanent home. Mr. Menz, also a former professional singer, left singing to go into the business end of concert work.
Mrs. Menz and her husband are avid baseball fans and attend games in Boston when they go to visit their married daughters.
Submitted by Sarah A. Lucal, 3908 Venable Ave., S.E.
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