Karita Mattila

Known as the 'Finnish Venus', Mattila is a stage animal whose performances carry conviction unsurpassed in the opera house today.

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.

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John Allison.

In her own words: ‘You know what they say about artists: if we weren’t artists, we’d be psychopaths!’

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Greatest recording: Sibelius Songs Ondine 856-2