James Caraher, Conductor
Opera conductor, James Caraher consistently continues to wow his audiences and critics with impressive productions. Critics set him apart with accolades for his deliberate attention to ensemble casting and collaboration between all performers – in the pit and on stage. Praise for his Flying Dutchman sums up the success of his collaborative philosophy: “The real stars of this production, however, were Caraher and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra…the Indianapolis Opera artistic director had his players and singers integrated and balanced to near perfection.”
Often referred to as “the singers’ conductor,” Caraher is a master at holding all the reins of the many forces of grand opera while seemingly able to clearly communicate his musical desires with each performer. American Record Guide gave him this credit for The Ballad of Baby Doe: “Caraher led a gently, effective accompaniment, with careful regard for the needs of his singers.” And, Opera News posted that “The Indianapolis Symphony responded to Caraher’s every wish” in Indianapolis Opera’s production of Macbeth.
James Caraher conducting the Indianapolis Opera
Caraher first realized his fondness for opera while a rehearsal accompanist for Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, New York. From there he moved to The Syracuse Opera Company as assistant music director and chorus master, ending his first season at the podium with a performance of Rigoletto. With this showing of talent and poise, the young Caraher was promoted to music director and principal conductor. He held this position until 1988, when a partnership between Syracuse Opera and Indianapolis Opera enabled him to expand his horizons to include the title and duties of music director for Indianapolis Opera. For several seasons, he assumed the additional responsibility of music director for Opera Memphis. His tenure as artistic director and principal conductor of Indianapolis Opera has been one of growing success for the company and their audiences.
In 2001, Caraher participated in a joint production of Porgy and Bess for the Indianapolis Opera and Opera Company of Philadelphia. The sold-out production was proclaimed by The Philadelphia Inquirer as “one of the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s great triumphs of music and stagecraft.”
Caraher frequently serves as guest conductor for other symphonies and opera companies and has lent his talents to Opera Company of Philadelphia, Kentucky Opera, Opera Memphis, Buffalo Opera and Nashville Opera. He devotes much of his time to the development of young singers by directing the Indianapolis Opera Ensemble, the Indianapolis Opera Young Artist Program. In addition to symphonic literature and opera, Caraher enjoys conducting musical theater and ballet, and is an active vocal coach and accompanist.
In 1988, Caraher was honored by his alma mater, Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, with the Hamilton College Alumni Medal for significant contributions to the performing arts. In 2004, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his conducting debut, he was given the honor of being declared a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana’s most prestigious civic award, by then Governor Joe Kernan, and made a Distinguished Citizen of the City of Indianapolis by Mayor Bart Peterson.
Caraher’s recent seasons with the Indianapolis Opera include performances of The Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, The Crucible, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Pearl Fishers, The Merry Widow, The Marriage of Figaro, Turandot and Faust. Also, he has arranged and produced two audiotapes for children. The first was a collection of safety songs called Play It Safe, and the second, Peace Is For Everyone, was a commission by the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife, Denise, and his two children, Paige and Patrick.
After 33 years as Music and Artistic Director of Indianapolis Opera, Maestro Caraher now spends his time as a free-lance conductor, recital accompanist, and vocal coach. Also, he is now on the faculty of the University of Indianapolis as adjunct professor of operatic studies, and is Visiting Music Director for the opera program at Butler University. He will return to Lakeland, Florida, in January for the 13th consecutive year to conduct the Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata.