Maya Yahav Gour Mezzo-soprano, Israel "Prior to discovering opera I was a jazz singer and toured big jazz festivals around the world." What inspired you to become a singer? As a young girl, I found that music was a way to communicate with others on a deeper emotional level than in any other language. Music played in my head from morning till evening, and I couldn't really resist it; it was just there, a part of me. At the age of 20, after participating in other musically inflected forms of art like ballet and jazz, I discovered opera. Immediately, I was taken in by the world of opera and wanted to learn more – everything – about it. That was the beginning of a long affair. What’s your dream role and why? One of my dream roles is one which I have already sung and hope to perform many more times: Angelina in La Cenerentola. The characters in Rossini’s operas leave so much room for the performer's interpretation, and this creative freedom has always drawn me to his characters. I've always admired Angelina’s strength and compassion, and feel awed by her capacity for empathy and forgiveness towards those who’ve wronged her. This is something our society is acutely lacking in and could perhaps learn from and be inspired by. Who is your favourite singer and why? Thats a tough one! I will have to go with Tatiana Troyanos. Her ability to translate raw, unadulterated emotion to music is exceedingly rare, and of course her voice is beyond gorgeous. What do you hope to achieve by participating in The Queen Sonja International Music Competition? I am very excited to get the opportunity to sing for such a great jury! This is my first year trying out competitions and I would love to be able to create music and think about the process of music-making, even though it will be a in competition-setting. Tell us something surprising or unexpected about yourself! I did not discover opera until pretty late, at the age of 19 and a half. Prior to that I was a jazz singer and toured big jazz festivals around the world. I also played jazz upright bass.