The Albanian soprano who’s been compared to Callas talks about Violetta, the evils of false-marketing and why Zazà made her cry.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to in Albania?

Folk music was part of the culture. Every occasion in our family – weddings or holidays – it was folk or popular music, always. That was the what I grew up with. So not classical music at all.

Ermonela Jaho, photo by Fadil Berisha

What inspired you then to sing opera?

I started to sing when I was six-years old with other children. The first time I listened to opera was when I was 13 or 14. I had to grow and I wanted to start in music school so it was important to know about classical music. In this case I had to audition singing a romanza. The first opera I saw live was Traviata– in Albanian! From the first sound, I fell in love immediately. It was like falling in love at first sight, but with listening. I thought, “This is my way that I have to follow.” Oh my God, it was like a dream!...