Valentina Stadler Mezzo-soprano, Germany «I heard opera for the first time at the age of 10, and was immediately drawn to it. It seemed to me a wonderful and natural form to express myself and my feelings.» What inspired you to become a singer? My mum says I already sang all the time as a small child, and at about the age of 5 I would sing myself to sleep with self-invented adventure stories. I heard opera for the first time at the age of 10, and was immediately drawn to it. It seemed to me a wonderful and natural form to express myself and my feelings. I kind of felt at home immediately. After I got my first CD of Maria Callas at the age of 13, I was sure I would want to become an opera singer. What’s your dream role and why? My two dream roles are Octavian, from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier and Charlotte from Massenet's Werther. Octavian, because I love pants roles and the challenge of it; it is a beautiful, fun role and has such heavenly touching music. I also have a special memory of seeing the opera for the first time in a golden hour at the MET in New York with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham, and crying my heart out. Charlotte, because I feel drawn deeply to the music and the character. It really touches my soul and I feel close to it. Who is your favourite singer and why? Super hard to pick just one, but since I am a mezzo, I will pick a mezzo. It is Dame Janet Baker. Her dedication, seriousness, musicality, colours - her whole artistry - is an eternal inspiration to me. Her point of view of what it means to be an artist, which agrees a lot with Maria Callas, is something we rarely find in the world today. Through their hard work and preparation magic can happen when they sing, and it is a healing experience. I can't imagine anything more wonderful and important. What do you hope to achieve by participating in The Queen Sonja International Music Competition? I hope to be able to present myself in the best way, and to recall my preparation in the moments on stage so that I can make music, which is what it should be all about. Tell us something surprising or unexpected about yourself! I love tattoos, since it is also an ancient tradition of a lot of cultures, and have a few myself I also love oldtimer cars and racing with them! Is there anything else you would like to tell us, which might be interesting to the public? I had the opportunity to visit Edvard Grieg's home at the lake in Bergen once and sing in the small hall with the piano in front of the lake view. What a beautiful country and what a great composer!