Meet Lise Davidsen, the Norwegian soprano described as having “a voice in a million”

12 August 2019, 14:15

By Rosie Pentreath

She has been described as having “a voice in a million”, has already released her debut recording, and has been selected to perform at the Bavarian State and Bayreuth Operas – what’s next for the spectacular soprano?

Once in a while, a voice comes along that changes things.

It changes you as a person because you fall in love with the sound and hope to always hear it matched by other artists. It changes your perceptions of what is possible, and what is permissible, for voice. And it changes the music industry in that it raises bars, raises expectations and raises excitement levels in a room.

It’s fair to say that Norwegian soprano, Lise Davidsen, has such a voice.

The Telegraph has called hers “a voice in a million”, and a quick google of “Lise Davidsen review” throws up more rave reviews than we can count.

Lise Davidsen, lyric dramatic soprano
Lise Davidsen, lyric dramatic soprano. Picture: Ray Burmiston / Decca

Who is Lise Davidsen?

Lise Davidsen is a Norwegian lyric soprano who was born in 1987 and grew up in the rural town of Stokke, Norway.

She started singing when she was 15 and, although she at first favoured the guitar, and singing popular, jazz and soul genres, she soon realised the operatic potential of her voice.

She completed her Bachelor’s degree at Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen, and has also graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Music and Opera Academy in Copenhagen.

Award wins at the Queen Sonja competition in Norway, and Plácido Domingo’s Operalia (after which Financial Times called her the “real deal”) soon attracted attention.

The 32-year-old soprano released her debut recording – a gorgeous selection of Wagner and Strauss arias – in May 2019 and it went to No. 1 in the classical music chart.

Read more: Hear soprano Lise Davidsen go from top G sharp to a low B in one awesome phrase >

To date, she has performed at Zürich Opera House, Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne to name just three huge opera venues.

And in the second half of 2019, she will debut at Bayreuth, the opera house established by Richard Wagner.

How many recordings has Lise Davidsen released?

Davidsen released her debut album on Decca in May this year (2019), and said: “I can only hope this recording brings as much pleasure to listeners as it was for us musicians to make.”

She recorded Wagner and Strauss with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and added: “I would like to thank Esa-Pekka, the musicians of the Philharmonia and everyone at Decca for being such great partners who have supported me at every moment. I look forward to this being the start of a wonderful long-term relationship with them.”

For opera recording buffs out there looking for a bit of trivia, Lise Davidsen is the first Scandi artist to sign with Decca Classics since Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) and the first Norwegian singer to join the label since opera royalty Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962).

She has also appeared on recordings of Grieg, Frandsen and Scandinavian composers, including Kaija Saariaho and Per Nørgård.

Lise Davidsen performs at a Yellow Lounge concert in Berlin
Lise Davidsen performs at a Yellow Lounge concert in Berlin. Picture: Getty

What is a lyric dramatic soprano?

On her Instagram and website, Lise Davidsen calls herself a “lyric dramatic soprano”.

While “soprano” refers to her range (and the resulting roles she plays in opera), “lyric” and “dramatic” is a way of referring to the bright and rich timbre, and strength, of her voice, respectively.

Lyric dramatic sopranos are suitable for specific operatic roles, including by Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, Strauss and other late 19th-century composers.

Their voices contrast with those of coloratura sopranos, for example, whose voices are more suited to ornamental Baroque and Classical repertoire.

What performances does Lise Davidsen have coming up?

The second half of 2019 sees Davidsen playing Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser, under the great maestro Valery Gergiev at Bayreuth, and taking on the role of Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades at The Met, among other festivals and concert appearances.

In 2020, Davidsen will play Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Royal Opera House in London.

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