The Cardiff Singer of the World competition may have had its hits and misses, but it could hardly have got off to a better or more prophetic start than by making Mattila its first-ever winner in 1983. Though Mattila is now instantly recognisable from her striking stage presence and Nordic-tinged voice, she took her career slowly and wisely, shying away from parts that might have damaged her voice, and it was as a Mozartian that she became famous. The turning point was Chrysothemis in Elektra, Strauss’s drama of obsessive family vengeance, at Salzburg just over a decade ago. Having discovered her penchant for roles into which she can throw herself – Wagner, Strauss, Verdi, Puccini and JanáΩek all feature in her repertoire – Mattila combines physical and vocal glamour in equal measure to make her the diva of our day.
In her own words: ‘You know what they say about artists: if we weren’t artists, we’d be psychopaths!’
Greatest recording: Sibelius Songs Ondine 856-2