When 34-year-old soprano Lise Davidsen made her Montreal debut last October as the title character in Orchestre Métropolitain’s opera in concert version of Beethoven’s Fidelio, audiences were awestruck by the ability of her voice to effortlessly fill the Maison Symphonique. Her voice was two sizes larger than most of the other casts, including many notable local singers. It’s a generational talent reminding me of live encounters with soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and the late tenor Salvatore Licitra.
Comparisons are inevitable with her fellow great Norwegan soprano Kirsten Flagstad, whose international career spanned the 1930s and 1940s, and was the greatest Wagnerian soprano of all time. In her biography, Flagstad confessed that her voice doubled in size following the birth of her only child. Eventually, she rose from minor soprano to Wagnerian fame in her 30s. Davidsen was an alto, content with a life singing Bach and choral music before her teacher in grad school suggested she learn “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhauser, a Wagnerian soprano aria, and a complete change of her Fach (voice type).
That aria became her signature tune carrying her to impressive victories at the 2015 Operalia (ahead of CMIM second prize winner Hye Sang Park) and the 2015 Queen Sonja Competition. One can still hear those performances, but the magnitude of her voice in the hall doesn’t necessarily translate.
It’s also with “Dich, teure Halle” that Davidsen opened her recital on Aug. 29 as part of the Met Stars at Home series. Her program included arias from Wagner, Verdi, Strauss and Puccini, all sung with poise and feeling. Art songs were interspersed in the program beginning with a set of Grieg and Sibelius to showcase her Scandinavian roots. A set of Richard Strauss lieder included “Ruhe, meine Seele!,” “Cäcilie,” and “Morgen!” all performed with a good legato line, although I would have liked more rubato in “Morgen!” especially on the words “still” and “langsam.”
Davidsen added commentary several times during the recital, which showed she is well-spoken and quite poised, and has a fine way of engaging with the virtual audience. She concluded the recital with lighter fare in three English songs/arias, including “When I have sung my song to you,” a signature tune of the immortal American soprano Rosa Ponselle, another of the great voices in history. Pianist James Baillieu was a perfect companion.
The Lise Davidsen in Oslo recital was a great way to experience her artistry. The recital is still available on pay-per-view for $20 USD until Sept. 9 at www.metopera.org. The sound and audio quality were top notch. Hopefully, audiences will be able to see Davidsen in person to have the full experience once the pandemic is over.
- “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser
- “Allmächt’ge Jungfrau” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser
- “Ved Rondane,” Op. 33, No. 9 by Edvard Grieg
- “En Svane,” Op. 25, No. 2 by Edvard Grieg
- “Våren,” Op. 33, No. 2 by Edvard Grieg
- “Morrò, ma prima in grazia” from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera
- “Säf, säf, susa,” Op. 36 by Jean Sibelius
- “Var det en dröm?” Op. 37 by Jean Sibelius
- “Es gibt ein Reich” from R. Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos
- “Ruhe, meine Seele!” Op. 27, No. 1 by Richard Strauss
- “Cäcilie,” Op. 27, No. 2 by Richard Strauss
- “Heimliche Aufforderung,” Op. 27, No. 3 by Richard Strauss
- “Morgen!” Op. 27, No. 4 by Richard Strauss
- “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut
- “Johnny” by Benjamin Britten
- “Heia, heia, in den Bergen ist mein Heimatland” from Kálmán’s Die Csárdásfürstin
- “O lovely night!” by Landon Ronald
- “When I have sung my song to you” by Ernest Charles
- “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady
The Met Stars Live at Home continues. See metopera.org