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The brightest star of the Finnish rock scene, the soprano singer known as Tarja has become one of the most well known Finnish faces in the world of music.  The path lying ahead of Tarja Soile Susanna Turunen-Cabuli certainly could never have been guessed from its humble origins. She was born on August 17th, 1977 in the tiny Finnish village of Puhos, near to the town of Kitee, the middle child amongst two brothers; a green-eyed Karelian girl from a village of five hundred inhabitants.  Music marked her life from the very beginning. Her parents would humorously reminisce that Tarja had begun to sing even before she learned how to walk, and were fond of retelling her fearless exploits climbing up tables at family parties to perform for indulgent relatives… sometimes with rather inventive lyrics. It was clear that drama and limelight were things that Tarja already understood very well – unsurprisingly, it did not take her long to realize her calling.
Tarja started her musical studies at the age of six, and continued them in a musical institute in her home town until she moved to picturesque Savonlinna at fifteen, where, paying her own rent and existing on a meagre diet, she attended the Senior Secondary School of Art and Music. There she was the first student to pass all singing exams with top grades in the college's history – an achievement that elicited tears from both student and teachers alike! The next step in her education was to apply to the prestigious Sibelius Academy of Kuopio city, specializing in church music and classical singing. As well as developing her vocal technique, she was forced to study piano seriously, not merely as a hobby, and the gruelling practice finally paid off with a certificate of perfect marks at the end of the year. She even picked up skills such as playing the organ and choir directing – though it is rare to hear her admit to it these days. A few months after being accepted at the Academy, she was invited to record three songs for an acoustic project. Her acceptance breathed life into a band that would change her outlook on music entirely.

Nightwish began as an acoustic mood project hatched around the embers of a campfire – gentle, ambient music composed to the strum of a guitar. However, the bombastic, majestic timbre of Tarja's voice overpowered the other instruments, and soon the acoustic guitar was being replaced with an electric one, and drums were brought into the mix. The band's first demo-tape was enough to get them a recording deal with Spinefarm Records. In 1997, they released their debut album, 'Angels Fall First'. The reaction of listeners and media alike was unbelievably positive, and Nightwish were soon performing their first live shows. From then on, Nightwish was a serious occupation – gradually, Tarja's studies were swept away with the band's success, and her keen motivation for her scholarly pursuits was cast into turmoil. Despite sacrificing her studies, the young woman showed an admirable determination to make time for her other commitments. That summer she sang as part of the Savonlinna Opera Festival choir, switching from the riffs of Nightwish to the melodies of Verdi and Wagner.

Their debut was followed in 1998 by Nightwish's breakthrough album, the platinum selling 'Oceanborn', which carried the band away from the shores of Finland, and into international fame.

In May 2000, Nightwish released their third album, 'Wishmaster', which immediately rose to the charts all over the world and went platinum in Finland in a matter of weeks. It featured a bombastic choir and an altogether bigger, bolder sound: the symphonic, trademark style Nightwish is recognised by today.
Before making their next album, the band released a mini-CD, 'Over the Hills And Far Away', which achieved double platinum status in their home country. After the EP, the band started working on their fourth full-length studio album, 'Century Child', but while the musicians were recording and writing the album, Tarja decided to go one step forward with her vocal studies by enrolling in the Music University of Karlsruhe in Germany.

Although the studying schedule in Karlsruhe was very tight, Tarja managed to find time not only to record her vocals for 'Century Child', but also to record vocals for the Argentinean bassist Beto Vazquez's album 'Infinity' and for Anssi Tikanmäki's album 'Perinteinen Pop-Levy'.

'Century Child', was released in the spring of 2002 and was followed by the massive 'World Tour Of The Century' which was three months long. Exhausted from the tour, Nightwish chose to take a long break to give its members some time of their own. Unfamiliar with the concept of rest, Tarja went back to Karlsruhe before the end of the year to continue her studies.

 Following the supposed relaxation period, Nightwish jumped into the 'Summer Of Innocence' tour, beginning in June 2003. The experience left its mark on 14 countries and 400.000 enraptured pairs of eyes. In the fall of that year, a documentary, 'End Of Innocence', was released, charting the band's journey from simple school friends in Kitee to their formidable position atop the charts, cresting the waves of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

Nightwish started recording a brand new studio album and after Tarja had recorded her parts, she travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to offer a one-month singing course to trained musicians.
The lull between the album release and the beginning of the tour gave Tarja time to fit in a second tour with her classical friends from Karlsruhe: 'Noche Escandinava II'. They flew to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Romania in a second tour that was equally successful as the first. As a memory of this tour, the performance in Buenos Aires was recorded and released as a limited souvenir CD for fans.

2004, the busiest year for Tarja so far, was the first milestone of her fledgling solo career, culminating in a long-planned seasonal project, an EP called 'Yhden Enkelin Unelma' (One Angel's Dream), that featured different versions of two traditional Finnish Christmas carols known to Tarja from childhood, 'En Etsi Valtaa, Loistoa' and 'Kun Joulu On'. It sold platinum in Finland, the single becoming a winter favourite of popular radio stations.
Their next Nightwish album, 'Once', was the band's biggest success yet – it hit the number one spot in five countries, reached triple platinum in Finland and triple Gold in Germany, and took Tarja to uncountable photo sessions, press conferences and interviews worldwide. The upcoming world tour was expected to be the biggest so far for any Finnish act.

The last show of the tour took place on October 21st, 2005 in Helsinki's Hartwall Arena. It was to be an extended performance, with extensive costume changes from Tarja. The entire show was recorded for the purpose of another live DVD. After the final bow she was handed a letter by her band mates that dismissed her from the band. The DVD was titled 'End of an Era'.

A media storm surrounded Tarja for a considerable time after the split. Nightwish was one of the first metal bands to utilise a female lead vocalist, and one of the pioneers of the so-called 'opera-metal' sub-genre thanks to Tarja. Critics and fans from all over the world had praised Tarja's "Valkyrian" vocals regardless of her inexperience in the field of metal music. Her unique voice and classical technique adapted to metal music was a milestone in the history of metal, and the genre was blossoming. The decision to continue in that direction was instinctive.

2006 found Tarja participating in many projects, guest-starring in the Swedish 'SPIN-The Musical' and Robert Wells' 'Rhapsody in Rock', where she sang a diverse range of songs, from classical to 1960s rock. In July of that year, Tarja performed again at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, but this time as a soloist, together with the famous Finnish tenor Raimo Sirkiä and the Symphonic Orchestra of Kuopio conducted by Maestro Riku Niemi in two sold out concerts. These crossover concerts, covering pieces from “Rusalka” to "Proud Mary", were praised by the audience and critics alike.

Tarja dedicated the whole of 2007 to working on her long awaited first solo album. Well, almost – she still found time to record vocals for Nuclear Blast's anniversary album 'Into the Light', appearing on a single song called 'In the Picture', and took part in MTV3's 50th Anniversary Gala Concert together with other famous Finnish Artists, to an audience of diplomats and Finnish politicians including president Tarja Halonen.

Nobody quite knew the nature Tarja's musical firstborn would take until the day of its release. Even when that day arrived in November 2007, Tarja's debut was not an easy album to classify. Nine years in the world of metal had left their mark, and so too the symphonic elements could be found, yet it was not exclusively a metal album. Tarja introduced new sounds, new moods, reaching across into the landscapes of ambience and pop to lend hues to her palette.
'My Winter Storm' was released internationally in more than 80 countries on November 16th, 2007 by Universal Music, and achieved its first gold record on the very first day in her homeland, Finland, soon reaching the top of the charts. The commercial success didn't take long: Tarja's first album reached gold status in Hungary, Czech Republic and Germany and platinum in Finland and in Russia.
At the end of the year, having been nominated for both an Echo Award as Best Newcomer and an Emma for Best Finnish Artist, she kicked off the promotion for her new album with a warm up tour across Europe followed by a world tour.
Before her world tour had even finished, Tarja had already filled her well of inspiration for the next album. Three years had taught her many lessons; she had grown a lot, and not only musically; there was a shift in her attitude as well. If she had stepped back in some of the decisions regarding 'My Winter Storm', now she fought for her freedom – and fought hard. Unable to find the producer she wanted, Tarja demonstrated her indomitable, gritty resolve once again, and simply produced the new album by herself. It was a hugely challenging responsibility, but she had already proven herself a Spartan in every other aspect of her career, and showed the same level of dedication in her new role.   Before the release of the album, there was time for a very special concert in Hungary. Backed by a full orchestra and choir, Tarja performed at Miskolc Opera Festival, to fans traveling from all over the world. In this resplendent setting, amongst old songs and classical arias, she treated her listeners to a glimpse of what was to come, playing a small selection of songs from the upcoming album, which was finally released on September 1st 2010, titled 'What Lies Beneath'. It was Tarja herself who best described the transformation from 'My Winter Storm'. “If those were the first steps, with 'What Lies Beneath' I learned to run.”  
In 'What Lies Beneath', the influences reached further, with allusions to Baroque and classic rock, and novel, experimental embellishments – double drums, Turkish chanting, and a star-studded list of guest appearances all contributed to raise 'What Lies Beneath' to a whole new level. The riffs were more aggressive; the hooks were catchier; the theme was darker. Through 'What Lies Beneath', Tarja explored the twilight zone of human nature, approaching the subject of her songs unflinchingly.  After the album release, the tour kicked off for real. In July, she became the first woman to appear on an apartment building in the town of Kavarna, Bulgaria - the latest in a line of portraits featuring rock artists such as Klaus Meine, Billy Idol, and Ronnie James Dio. In November, she was given the chance to mine a new fan base, as support for the king of shock rock himself – Alice Cooper. After storming Europe (not forgetting to slow down in December with her usual Christmas concerts in Finland), Tarja set off to reconquer South America in early 2011.

2012 saw the 'What Lies Beneath' world tour finally draw to a close, and Tarja disappearing into the studio with a new album already up her sleeve. To shorten the wait, she had planned a live DVD of her own, this one an ambitious undertaking filmed with no less than ten HD cameras, over the course of two full length concerts that took place in the majestic El Circulo Theatre in Rosario, Argentina. A throwback to her classical roots, the DVD was aptly titled, 'Act I'.
“Those two nights in Rosario were truly magical to me personally. I was excited to finally film and record my first live rock DVD. This DVD shows you how great is my relationship with my fans. They have been extremely supportive throughout the years and on this release they play a big role.” Tarja made only one promise about her upcoming album, set for release in 2013: it would be sure to surprise.  That statement was perhaps less of a novelty than she hoped. The unruly girl from a rural village who grew into the only artist you could possibly expect to find singing in a rock club one night, and a cathedral the next… surprising her listeners is one thing Tarja Turunen has always been rather good at. This story will certainly be continued.