Wednesday 5 June 2019

Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen launches her debut CD

James Baillieu and Lise Davidsen at Home House (Photo Dominic Nicholls)
James Baillieu and Lise Davidsen at Home House (Photo Dominic Nicholls)
The young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen has been causing some excitement in the opera world as she explores the lyric dramatic repertoire, demonstrating the type and calibre of voice which only comes rarely in each generation. She made her UK debut at a Rosenblatt Recital at Wigmore Hall in 2017 [see Ruth's review], and she was Ariadne in Glyndebourne's 2017 revival of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos [see Claire Seymour's review on Opera Today]. Davidsen will be back in the UK later this year when she joins Jonas Kaufmann in Covent Garden's new production of Beethoven's Fidelio.

But before then, she is releasing her first CD on DECCA, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, performing arias from Wagner's Tannhauser and Richard Strauss songs including the Four Last Songs.

Last night (3 June 2019), there was a launch event for the disc at Home House in Portman Square, when Lise Davidsen was joined by pianist James Baillieu (her regular partner, he was the pianist at that 2017 Rosenblatt Recital) to sing Elisabeth's prayer 'Allmacht'ge Jungfrau!' from Tannhauser, 'Cacilie' and 'Ruhe, meine Seele' from Richard Strauss' Vier Lieder Op. 27, and 'Beim Schlafengehen' from Vier letzte Lieder. It was a privilege and a thrill to be able to hear Davidsen performing at such close quarters, she has a remarkable voice and in the Q&A with Edward Seckerson afterwards, it was clear that Davidsen has a clear understanding of both her voice and the care needed in its development (she is only 32).

Lise Davidsen and Edward Seckerson at Home House (Photo Dominic Nicholls)
Lise Davidsen and Edward Seckerson at Home House
(Photo Dominic Nicholls)
Davidsen comes from a small town in Norway and grew up playing the guitar and wanting to be Joni Mitchell or Eva Cassidy. A high school her voice was noticed and she was advised to study solo singing rather than being in a choir, and a teacher suggested she look at 'Dido's Lament' from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. This would be her first exposure to opera; she looked for a recording in the library and ended up listening to Kirsten Flagstad singing it and was blown away. She did not hear her first live opera until she was 19, Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.

At first she identified as a mezzo-soprano, and studied as one for three years. She loved the baroque repertoire, but a teacher said that she was a soprano. Her initial reaction was 'no that isn't going to happen' but in fact it felt right, and she simply went with what the voice told her. Her singing teacher advised her to listen to bigger voices, such as Birgit Nilsson, as that was where her voice would go.

She is clearly planning her future repertoire with care, taking good advice about roles, as a former mezzo-soprano her voice takes a slightly different path to sopranos who approach the dramatic repertoire from a lighter soprano perspective (Kirsten Flagstad sang operetta and lyric roles for over a decade before moving to heavier ones).

Davidsen will be singing Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhauser at Bayreuth this Summer.

Lise Davidsen's recital on DECCA is out now. Available from Amazon.

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