Coast Salish mezzo soprano Rose-Ellen Nichols performed the role of the Native Mother in the November 2017 world première production of Missing by Marie Clements and Brian Current, a co-commission and co-production with POV and City Opera Vancouver. She will return in 2919 to reprise the role in performances in Victoria, Regina, and Prince George.
Rose-Ellen received her masters in opera from the University of British Columbia. Since then she has performed in Canada and Europe, including City Opera Vancouver, Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, and in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland.
Rose-Ellen made a name for herself when she premiered in the title role of Pauline, a chamber opera with libretto by Margaret Atwood and music by Tobin Stokes, produced by City Opera Vancouver in 2014. She has also been involved in the première of several other operas, as Antonia Wolf in Lloyd Burritt’s The Dream Healer; Fadila in Arthur Bachmann’s What Brought Us Here; Rebecca / Red Cedar in Veda Hille’s Jack Pine.
Her roles include Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, Dido in Dido and Aenaes, Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Polinesso in Ariodante, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, Filipievna and Olga in Eugene Onegin, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Mrs. Todd in Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief, and Soprano 3 in The Lost Operas of Mozart.
The Native Mother (of the Native Girl) is not a large role, but it is significant as sung with forthright gravitas by mezzo-soprano Rose-Ellen Nichols. In her keening, she voices not only her own mourning, but also a universal anguish, acting as the emotional beacon the other searching souls turn to for their bearing.
Robert Jordan, Opera Canada, Review of Missing, Pacific Opera Victoria and City Opera Vancouver, 2017
Mezzo-soprano Rose-Ellen Nichols … so fully inhabits the legendary character in this marathon role that viewers will simply believe that she is Pauline Johnson.
It is not just that she is Coast Salish, though she told the Straight that allows her a deep bond with the half-Mohawk, turn-of-the-last-century poet-performer who she is playing. She is also endowed with a rich, varied mezzo that finds a deep patina in its lower register and yet a firm grip on the top range…
… it’s Nichols who emerges as the star here. She makes it hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
Janet Smith, The Georgia Straight, review of Pauline, 2014
The title role is brought to life with depth and intensity by Rose-Ellen Nichols. Her dark mezzo voice has a husky quality that modulates effectively in the various dream sequences; she has the presence and the communicative power to make the part truly hers.
David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun, review of Pauline, 2014