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November 16 2019
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Karita Mattila as Elsa in a 1996 production of Lohengrin. More than 20 years later, the Finnish singer shows no sign of stopping; she stars in another production of the opera opening November 21 at Munich’s National Theatre.

Karita Mattila has noticed something curious lately. When her rehearsals run longer than those of junior colleagues, they tend to stick around and watch. “It brings to mind when I was a student, doing master classes with the great stars or just being in the audience,” she says. “I remember everything those legends said and did. In the 37 years I’ve been in the business, I’ve had a fantastic number of awesome conductors and directors with whom I’ve learned a lot and achieved wonderful results. So I have a lot to give.”

At a time when a veteran diva might well wish to ease into glamorous semi-retirement—holding court at those master classes and doling out select appearances in opera houses that covet “luxury” casting—Mattila’s foreseeable future looks nothing like that. For the past five years, an assortment of debuts in plum roles have dominated her datebook: Marie, common-law wife to the psychotic antihero of Berg’s Wozzeck; Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus after saving him from the Minotaur, in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos; the imperious Foreign Princess in Dvořák’s poisoned fairy tale Rusalka; the war bride Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre, swept off her feet by her long-lost twin brother; the arch-carpetbagger Leokadja Begbick in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, the savage but tuneful takedown of capitalism by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht …

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