Soile Isokoski is a Finnish lyric soprano whose steadily advancing career suddenly elevated after ten years of experience. "Something decisive happened then," she says. "I started feeling that I could make my own contribution to a production as an equal, as no one's protégé or apprentice."
She worked as a church musician in her native Finland, with a solo debut there in 1986. A successful round of competition appearances followed it. She won the Lappeenranta song competition in Finland in 1987, then went on the international circuit. Her second place finish in the 1987 BBC Singer of the World Competition in Cardiff, Wales, was followed by first prizes in 1990 at the Tokyo International Competition and the Elly Ameling Competition.
In 1987, she also received a contract to join the Finnish National Opera. Her first appearance there was as Mimì in Puccini's La bohème in 1987. She became especially noted for her portrayals of Mozart roles. In the meantime, she also appeared as a Lieder singer with her regular accompanist, Marita Viitasalo.
She also appeared during this period at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland in 1992, the Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Music Festival in 1992, and the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1994, and began recording.
She stayed with the Finnish Opera until 1994. She was invited to sing a solo performance at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and was invited to participate in the opening of the remodeled auditorium at Chicago's Symphony Hall, singing a scene from Verdi's Otello with Plácido Domingo, Daniel Barenboim conducting.
Ten years after her debut, she first sang under Claudio Abbado's direction in 1996. It was at this point that her international career began to take off. She attributes this sudden increase in demand for her to the new sense of professional individuality she developed at this time, but also to the fact that by that time her name had "in a certain way a guarantee of quality." She adds, "Maestros discuss a lot of matters among themselves, and that includes singers. … It could just as well have happened that at a decisive moment everything went wrong, and word [would go] around that it wasn't at all a good idea to hire Soile."
The list of star conductors with whom she has worked demonstrates that things went right at those "decisive moments." Her conductors include John Eliot Gardiner, Neeme Järvi, Seiji Ozawa, Barenboim, Andrew Davis, Zubin Mehta, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, Yehudi Menuhin, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Okko Kamu, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Essa-Pekka Salonen. She has sung at major opera houses including the Savonlinna Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and both the Deutsche Oper and Staatsoper of Berlin.
She has a flowing and beautiful lyric voice, which has suited her for the important Mozart roles (Donna Elvira, Pamina, the Countess), Puccini's Mimì and Liù, Agathe in Die Freischütz, Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, and the title role in Halévy's La Juive. Her first Verdi appearance was as Alicia Ford in Falstaff at the Berlin Staatsoper during the 1997-1998 season, and she is carefully branching out towards the roles that mark a dividing line between lyric and dramatic sopranos, such as Eva in Die Meistersinger, Elsa in Lohengrin, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, and a number of Strauss roles, including the Marschallin, Ariadne, the Countess in Capriccio, and Christine in Intermezzo. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2002 as the Countess in Marriage of Figaro.