Since winning Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition four years ago, 32-year-old Norwegian lyric soprano Lise Davidsen has taken the classical music world by storm. ‘It’s been a long time since a singer has generated as much buzz,’ wrote Gramophone in its review of her debut album for Decca. Released on 31 May 2019, her recordings of music by Strauss and Wagner inspired the magazine to declare that ‘she is one of the greatest vocal talents to have emerged in recent years, if not decades’.
Lise Davidsen signed an exclusive contract with Decca in May 2018. Soon afterwards she joined forces with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen to record Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs for the label, together with orchestral songs by the same composer and Elisabeth’s arias from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The album also includes a majestic interpretation of “Es gibt ein Reich” from Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
Blessed as she is with a voice of exceptional richness and warmth, and rare musical sensitivity and emotional honesty, it’s no surprise that Davidsen is in such high demand. A flood of invitations followed her debut at the 2017 Glyndebourne Festival in the title-role of Ariadne auf Naxos, propelled by superlative reviews. “One of those ‘I was there’ moments,” commented The Times (London). Her career gathered momentum the following year with an equally remarkable performance in Verdi’s Requiem at the BBC Proms, a selection of Strauss songs with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko for her first appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival, and her debut at the Royal Opera House, where she played various supporting roles in the Ring cycle.
Davidsen will make her Bayreuth Festival debut in July 2019 as Elisabeth in a new staging of Tannhäuser. She gave her first performance of the role at Opernhaus Zürich in March and explored it for a second time at the Bayerische Staatsoper in May. Her summer schedule also includes a return to the BBC Proms in August to sing the Four Last Songs in company with the Philharmonia and Salonen.
Other landmark dates are set to follow throughout the 2019–20 season, starting in November with her debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. She turns to Wagner’s Sieglinde in the new year for concert performances of Act I of Die Walküre with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Fabio Luisi, before sharing the stage with Jonas Kaufmann in Beethoven’s Fidelio in her first leading role at the Royal Opera House.
Lise Davidsen was born in the small rural town of Stokke in February 1987. She began playing guitar and singing during her early teens, modelling herself on Joni Mitchell and, above all, Eva Cassidy. Although she sang as a mezzo-soprano in local choirs, she was persuaded to become a soprano after enrolling at the Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen. “The voice has its own way of telling you … You have to follow it,” she recalls.
After graduating from the Grieg Academy in 2010, Davidsen studied at the Royal Opera Academy in Copenhagen and made her first appearances with the Royal Danish Opera. She made her international breakthrough in July 2015 with victory at Operalia, prompting Plácido Domingo to praise her “phenomenal, dramatic” voice, and went on to win first prize in Norway’s Queen Sonja Competition the following month. In 2018 she was named Gramophone’s Young Artist of the Year, adding to a collection of prestigious awards that includes a Léonie Sonning Talent Prize and the 2018 Queen Ingrid Prize.