Deborah Voigt, 51, made her debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1991 and is now one of the company’s star sopranos.
What was your earliest ambition?
As a very young person I was ambitious; I wanted to be a brain surgeon.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
State school, which we call public; then a private college as a musical education major. That was very short-lived, the fact that I was a bad student caught up with me. I worked as a computer operator for a while. I had continued taking voice lessons and a teacher sat me down and said: “You have an amazing gift, you should be doing something with it.” So I went back to school, to a California state university.
Who is your mentor?
Jane Paul, my voice teacher at university.
How physically fit are you?
Given the length and difficulty of the roles I sing I’m in very good shape.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
You can have all the ambition in the world, but if you don’t have talent it won’t happen.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
No. And I’ve no desire to.
How politically committed are you?
I’m very political with respect to social issues, but when we get to debating taxes and things like that my eyes glass over.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do, it’s perhaps a bigger one than I would like.
I have a condominium on the beach in Florida but spend most of my time in Manhattan and travelling, so I rent a flat in New York City.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I am a bit of a spa maven. I was considerably heavier in my younger days and spas are not tailored to 300lb women. So now I find myself being scrubbed, rubbed and oiled as often as I can.
In what place are you happiest?
I’m very happy curled up in bed with my little dog.
What ambitions do you still have?
I would like to do more television – I think I have an untapped talent for that. That’s a pretty big dream.
What drives you on?
I feel an enormous responsibility for what I have been given. I don’t feel these things are random, I am a very faith-faced, believing-in-God sort of woman and I believe the gift I have came from him. That means having to push ahead when maybe you would rather not.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I’ve been able to keep my career and my voice in play for 20-plus years. A 10-year run is considered good for an opera singer.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
I never thought I would be single.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
I imagine she’d be star-struck and a little afraid. I thought I would be singing in a few concerts and teaching high school choral music.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Probably go into mental therapy or psychiatry. I’m fascinated by how our brains work.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
I do. I believe our lives are our own.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes. I would find it very hard to go through this life if I didn’t.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
‘La Traviata’, hosted by Deborah Voigt, part of The Met: Live in HD series, is broadcast across 1,700 cinemas in 54 countries on April 14; www.metopera.org/liveinhd