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Profile: Thomas Oliemans, singer

What 3 things might people be surprised to learn about you?
As a teenager, I almost decided to study physics. I still find the subject fascinating, however my talents obviously lie elsewhere – all’s well that ends well!
I am a great lover of detective novels. My interest started as a boy with Agatha Christie, later I read a lot of Georges Simenon and Conan Doyle and I’m now discovering Ian Rankin and his Inspector Rebus.
I’ve had a brief fling with tap-dancing on an absolutely recreational level. Unfortunately, lack of time and too much travelling have prevented me from getting any better


If you weren't an opera singer, what would be your ideal job?
In music preferably: maybe coaching or playing piano in a bar. I’d like to try my hand at conducting, although my wife who is a conductor assures me that I don’t have the patience for it! If I couldn’t work in music, I would like to do something involving other languages or reading as I’m interested in German literature.


What has been your most memorable experience while performing?
The first time I performed Schubert’s Winterreise was in a care home for the elderly. Most of the audience were bed-ridden, had severe difficulties communicating and many were suffering from various forms of dementia. During the performance, however, some were able to hum softly along with many of the songs. It was a moving example of how deeply music is instilled in our minds and our hearts.

 What has been your favourite role to date? Are there any still on your wish list that you would like to sing?
It’s difficult to choose my favourite between three great Mozart roles: Papageno, Don Giovanni and now as a very high newcomer: Figaro. A few future dream roles would be Eugene Onegin, Rodrigo from Verdi’s Don Carlo and Billy Budd.


How do you prepare during the day before going on stage?
I try to have a nice relaxed day, usually comprising a good warm lunch and an overload of daytime television, which here in Britain means a lot of Diagnosis Murder, Jessica Fletcher, Antiques Roadshow or one of those inevitable property programmes. I like to get to the theatre early then, after a bit of vocal warm-up, I take a stroll across the stage before the auditorium opens.


Where is your favourite place to be in the world?
Since becoming a father, ‘home’ is my favourite place more than ever. To me, home is being with my family, wherever they are.

What do you like to do when you're not singing?
I love normal family life. Waking up too early, getting an energetic three-year-old dressed and off to school, playing in the park. In between, I like to read, watch movies, study and go shopping for groceries.


What do you love about being an opera singer?
I love that I am able to immerse myself in the rich tradition and culture of opera and have the opportunity to share that with so many different people in so many different places over the world. Working hard with an inspiring group of singers, musicians, artists and crew to bring a great work of art to an audience really is an incredible joy.


This is your 2nd time performing with Scottish Opera – where are your favourite places to hang out while rehearsing in Glasgow?

I love Fratelli Sarti´s on Bathstreet. During this visit to Scotland I have also discovered ´Cup´ on Byres Road, who do great tea, with home baked scones and terrific cupcakes and sandwiches. I also like the Hillhead Bookclub on Vinicombe Street. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not absolutely ideal for quiet reading: the light is quite dim and the music quite loud but the Pacman games machines and the ping-pong table are a real treat!