Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
My second singing teacher at Salo Music College. I was 14 or 15. Not particularly sure if I liked music as hobby. Parents were pushing. Opera was in no way on my list of things I liked.
Then came this lovely teacher. Matti Pelo. He understood, had a good sense of psychology, was a good teacher. I started making progress with him.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My two teachers. In the beginning Liisa Linko-Malmio at Sibelius Academy, and since 1984, Vera Rozsa in London.
Later my first agent Diana Mulgan, a wise lady and a perfect manager for this young singer. At the start she concentrated on mostly turning down crazy offers that would have definitely ruined me.
Later still, some conductors and some stage directors who taught me so much.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
“My own own worst enemy”, meaning mostly struggling with myself – confidence and not believing in myself. I have been lucky to have had a lot of support from people around me.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
My 3 favourites will probably always be:
German Arias with Sir Colin Davis with Dresdner Staatskapelle
Four Last Songs (live rec) with Claudio Abbado
My 40th Birthday Recording with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the Finnish Radio Orchestra.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Slavic repertoire feels my stuff, Janáček particularly. Wagner feels right and gives me sheer pleasure to sing it. Also Richard Strauss.
Finnish repertoire remains my speciality: Sibelius, Madetoja, Kuula. Saariaho.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It depends on what is offered to me. Singer needs to work; I need to sing. So I choose from what I am offered. Opera houses of course know my repertoire. So it works smoothly. For example, switching to new roles is possible when the organizers are kept informed about changes I’m making. My management does that.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Oh, there are so many. Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Gulbenkian, Royal Albert Hall, Palais Garnier, Rudolfinum, Tampere-talo. Love my ”home hall” in Naples, Florida; Artis—Naples.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
So many. All concerts with Claudio Abbado. Jiří Bělohlávek.
Maybe my 40th Birthday concert at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. The concerts in my native Finland feel always special. The audience there knows me, has followed my career the longest.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
When I feel I connect with my audience. When I find the ”zone” and the audience comes along. Time stops.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Giving master classes occasionally. Maybe giving private lessons. Coaching young singers.
Maybe still singing the Countess of Pique Dame.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Every day is different. But one thing is above all else: health.
Keeping loving people. Giving love. I feel I have plenty. Gratitude.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
All over the place. (Post divorce state. Temporary, I hope.) Work is my blessing.
In demand by every major opera house and festival, the lyric beauty of Karita Mattila’s voice and her innate sense of theatre set her apart as one of the most sought-after dramatic sopranos in the world today.
(artist photo: Harrison Parrott)