Artist of the Week 26 Qs for Rosemary Thomson

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

The Artist of the Week is Canadian conductor and  Opera Kelowna Music Director, Rosemary Thomson. Rose is currently preparing for Opera Kelowna’s upcoming production of Wreckonciliation, co-created by Indigenous Artists Marion Newman, Melody Courage & Yvette Nolan, running March 14-16 (info and tickets here).

Rose’s conducting began with training from Hans Graf, Boris Brott and Bramwell Tovey, and for four seasons she was the Assistant Conductor to Richard Bradshaw at the Canadian Opera Company. She has guest conducted for numerous opera companies, including Tapestry Opera for the world premiere of Shanawdithit where she was nominated for a 2019 Dora Award for Music Direction, Vancouver Opera in their production of H.M.S. Pinafore, and Pomegranate  for the Canadian Opera Company. Committed equally to her music and to the community it serves, Rose serves as a Regional Director for the Canadian Music Centre and sits on the Advocacy and EDI committee with Orchestras Canada. She also is an integral part of the Women in Musical Leadership initiative, a program run by Tapestry Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

This week we sat down with Rose to talk about who inspires her, what her first opera experience was like, and the best advice she ever received from one of her mentors, Boris Brott. Read on to find out more.

Drink of choice?
Gin and Tonic

Favourite place?
Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho Park – I met my husband there and got married.


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If you weren’t a conductor, you’d be ___?
A midwife.

Top 3 favourite composers
Beethoven , Ravel , Joceyn Morlock.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing that has happened to you on stage?
I had just received a huge bouquet (which meant I couldn’t see my feet) at the end of my final show as Chorus Master with the Calgary Philharmonic. As I turned to leave the stage my heel caught one of the soloists’ water glass. It sailed out into the audience and smashed to smithereens. 2000 people stopped clapping immediately. I gave an awkward curtsey, called out “mazel tov” and left the stage.

What’s your favourite orchestral instrument? Why?
Cello. I play cello. It has such versatility and so closely resembles the human voice.

 What’s your favourite thing about singing with an orchestra?
I love conducting voices and orchestra, the marriage of text and music, voices and instruments and the collaborative nature of working with the whole creative team.

Which role do you wish you could sing, but is not in your voice type?
Forester in Vixen especially the final aria.

Coffee or tea?
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

 What was the first opera you ever saw?
I sang in Amahl and the Night Visitors when I was seven , but my first audience experience was La Boheme at a COC student dress rehearsal when I was 11. I sobbed the whole way home on the bus and was totally hooked.

Are there more musicians in your family? If yes, who and what do they play/sing?
My parents met singing in a choir, my sister Elspeth Thomson plays in the Hamilton Phillharmonic. My kids grew up playing music and my youngest son is studying jazz bass at Capilano University. My husband plays guitar and bass.

What’s your favourite mind-calming practice? ex. Yoga/running/meditation
Yin Yoga.

What’s your favourite movie?
Toss up between The Princess Bride and 5th Element

What’s your favourite non-classical band?

What’s the best thing about being an opera artist?
The wonderful community of colleagues who become lifelong friends.

Are you a cat person or dog person?
Dog person.

What book are you reading at the moment?
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
A spa facial.

 Which colour best symbolises your personality?

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Save all of your bad reviews and wallpaper your bathroom with them. (Boris Brott)

If you could be stuck in an elevator with one person, who would it be?
Nadia Boulanger

Who has been inspiring you lately?
Opera Kelowna’s Managing Director, Brianna Wells. She has a unique ability to be both a long term strategic planner and a daily detail person and she is a joy to work with.

As a performer, have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve?
Definitely not. I hope to keep striving and growing as a performer until I literally can’t conduct any longer.

When was the first time you cried at the opera?
See the answer to a previous question!

What does it mean to be brave with music?
Finding your own interpretation through the score instead of doing what you hear on recordings. When you commit to your own interpretation I think it speaks to the audience with authenticity.

Does performing in different locations impact your performance?
Absolutely, the size of the hall, the quality of the acoustic can have a profound effect on choices including tempi, balance
and pacing.


©Glenna Turnbull.
©Alexa Grace Photography


Opera Kelowna

March 14 – 16


PERFORMER: Csetwke Fortier

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rosemary Thomson

Ten years after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, institutions across the country have, in varying ways, responded to the 94 calls for action therein. What kinds of change are we experiencing as individuals as a result of all this work? What opportunities, and what burdens, have we created as a result of this process?

Wreckonciliation is a musical response to the last decade of learning, striving, and failing to reckon with Canada’s colonial past. Mezzo soprano Marion Newman, of Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations with English, Irish and Scottish heritage; Métis soprano Melody Courage, and director Yvette Nolan (Algonquin), have teamed up with Opera Kelowna for an evening that upends expectations and invites everyone to take up the joy, and the work, of building a better future together.

Where do we begin? With the well-known genre of a talk show, of course. For folks that have laughed and sung along with the likes of Jimmy Fallon, the performance will be familiar in its rhythm of banter, and playfulness. Underpinning the wit is an exploration of how traditional Indigenous musics can walk alongside operatic traditions in ways that might inspire us all.

Marion Newman and Melody Courage take centre stage as co-hosts of the first episode of their cheeky new talk show, “Wreckonciliation.” With their (surprise) guests, they tackle issues of the day with wit and compassion. Together, they explore what ‘reconciliation’ has come to stand for, not only in terms of new learning and opportunities, but in sometimes officious, and occasionally unwelcome ways as well. They weave together the deeply serious and fully comical, and they break into song whenever the words are not enough.

The show features well-loved, and soon-to-be classics, crafted by Ian Cusson, Gabriel Fauré, Marion Newman, Gustav Mahler, Yvette Nolan & Dean Burry, Jacques Offenbach, and many others. The music will cycle through elemental themes of water, fire, air, and earth as a means of musically grounding a conversation in the heart of what makes living possible for us all.

Everyone is welcome! This unique evening begins at the door: audience members are invited to visit art installations related to the performance throughout the Rotary Centre for the Arts. Prior to the performance, Artistic Director Rosemary Thomson will host a pre-show talk with invited guests. Following a welcome from Syilx/Okanagan artists, the performance will take place in the Mary Irwin Theatre. Music will be performed in languages of their composition and translations will be provided. Following our ‘talk show’ experience, guests are invited to join the company and the artists in the RCA atrium for discussion and celebration, complete with food from Kekuli Cafe!

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