Ahead of her appearances with the SSO, the mezzo talks big girl roles, speaking German, and the pleasures of the recital.

You’ve said in interviews that you didn’t grow up in a particularly operatic household, and hadn’t seen many operas before you travelled to New York to forge your career. Did that give you a particular perspective on the business of singing?

I think it gave me a particular opportunity to approach things from a very fresh, naive perspective. I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about how Cherubino, for example, “should” be played. I could just start fresh from the words and the music, since I’d never actually seen it done before.

Roles like Iphigénie and Didon marked a turning point in your career. How did it feel stepping away from pants roles and into big, dramatic title roles?

When I turned about 40, we decided it was time to start doing “big girl” parts. First of all, you can’t sing ingénue (boy or girl!) parts forever, and so meatier parts became more interesting. I think, when it follows the arc of your life, it’s a good match. You grow up, so your roles grow up too. It was a great...