Ilkka Kuusisto (b. 1933) is a versatile figure in Finnish musical life: a composer, conductor and arts administrator. The son of composer Taneli Kuusisto, he studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Aarre Merikanto, Nils Eric Fougstedt and others. He was the publishing director of Fazer Music in 1981–84 and director of the Finnish National Opera in 1984–92. As a choral conductor, he has led many choirs, including Laulu-Miehet and the Finnish Radio Chorus.
Kuusisto's compositions range from jazz and film music to vocal music and operas. They retain a tonal basis, and the melodic quality is enhanced by a homophonic accompanying texture. Kuusisto also displays a keen sense of humour in works such as the Moomin Opera (1974). In his five-act opera Sota valosta (The Battle for the Sun, 1980) he combines themes from the national epic, the Kalevala, and uses archaic elements borrowed from medieval and folk music. Jääkäri Ståhl (Ensign Ståhl, 1981), drawing widely on Ostrobothnian minor-key melodies, is, according to Kuusisto, a more direct ‘folk opera’. Other popular operas include Gabriel, tule takaisin! (Gabriel, come back!, 1998) and Nainen kuin jäätynyt samppanja (1999).
Fennica Gehrman publishes several Kuusisto's works and administers his operas.