Juha Kotilainen made his debut at the Finnish National Opera in 1986 as Dandini (Rossini’s La Cenerentola) and has performed ever since at the house singing such roles as Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Jussi (The Ostrobotnians), Marcello (La Bohème), Mamoud (The Death of Klinghoffer), Gunther (Götterdämmerung) and Rambaldo (La Rondine). His other roles at the FNO include Mandryka (Arabella), Il Barone di Trombonok (Il Viaggio a Reims), von Faninal (Der Rosenkavalier), Geronte di Ravoir (Manon Lescaut), Escamillo (Carmen) and Stárek the Mill foreman (Jenufa).
Kotilainen has performed also regularly at Savonlinna Opera Festival in such roles as Alfio (Cavalleria Rusticana), in the title role in Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi and in Aulis Sallinen’s Horseman. Other major roles have been Tamerlano (Tamerlano), Figaro (Barber of Seville), Count Tomsky (The Queen of Spades), Tonio (I Pagliacci) and in the title role in Leevi Madetoja’s Juha.
In 1990’s Juha Kotilainen was engaged at the Aalto Theatre in Essen. He has frequently made guest appearances in many European opera houses in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain. In 1999-2000 Juha Kotilainen was engaged to the Théàtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels for the role of Antigonus and later for the leading role in Philippe Doesmans’ opera Wintermärchen.
Juha Kotilainen’s repertoire also include solo songs from classical lieder to contemporary music, and bass and baritone solo parts in major church music works. He has appeared in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Mass in B minor and Haydn’s Creation under Peter Schreier, Harry Christophers, Helmut Rilling, Juha-Pekka Saraste and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Kotilainen has sung Schubert’s Winterreise e.g. in Tokyo and he has performed in many European festivals in the Netherlands, Austria and Italy. In recent years Juha Kotilainen has premiered a number of Finnish contemporary operas, among them Jani Sivén’s Abelard & Heloise (2008), Timo-Juhani Kyllönen’s Kuninkaiden kirja (Cadiz 2009), Olli Kortekangas’ Isän tyttö (Savonlinna Opera Festival 2007, FNO 2009), Ilkka Kuusisto’s Taipaleenjoki (Ilmajoki Opera Festival 2010-12), Kimmo Hakola’s La Fenice (Savonlinna Opera Festival 2012) and Timo-Juhani Kyllönen’s The Seal (Savonlinna Opera Festival 2013) Olli Kortekangas’ Veljeni vartija (Tampere opera 2018).
Kotilainen performed the baritone part at the world premiere in 2012 of pianist-composer Olli Mustonen’s first Symphony’s with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, and later with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra in Moscow as well as with the Symphony Orchestra of Melbourne.