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Lise Davidsen (soprano)
Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder
rec. 2020, London and Watford, England. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as downloaded from digital press preview
Lise Davidsen is a young Norwegian soprano and at present
one of the most exciting voices on the planet. Born in 1987 she burst
onto the operatic scene after winning the Operalia competition, in London
in 2015, with a towering performance of Wagner’s ‘Dich Teure
Halle’ from Tannhäuser. Few, if any, young operatic artists
have won so many prizes or been so critically acclaimed as Lise Davidsen.
Reviewing her Decca debut album, featuring Strauss’s Four
Last Songs, Hugo Shirley wrote in Gramophone: ‘this
album only reinforces the fact that she [Davidsen] is one of the greatest
vocal talents to have emerged in recent years, if not decades.’
(Decca 4834883: Recording of the Month – review – review – review).
I quote the sentence because I think that it summarises the grandeur
of her voice.
To stamp Davidsen’s voice as extraordinary is in her case almost
an understatement. Her voice is indeed extraordinary but one quickly
runs out of adjectives to qualify it. It is powerful, lavish, dramatic,
sensitive, warm, cutting edge … and I could go on. Perhaps it
is best to simply state her voice is unique, dazzling and potent, vigorous
and flexible all at the same time – a one-in-a-generation voice,
as captured in the booklet introduction to this recital. Her high notes
are a true powerhouse. Her singing sounds fearless and indomitable,
in one word heroic. With a remarkable, magnetic presence, a warm smile
and glittering eyes she stands 1.88 metres tall and dominates the stage
completely. Singing appears uncomplicated for her. She simply opens
her mouth and sings, as if talking to a friend while walking in the
Lise Davidsen is a force of nature and whenever she performs –
be it Verdi, Beethoven, Mascagni or Wagner (to name just a few composers)
– she impresses. Her voice takes you by surprise and overwhelms
you, sends shivers down your spine and makes your skin gain goosebumps.
I have watched and heard her live on the stage of the Royal Opera House
in Beethoven’s Fidelio and in a recital that was part
of the Met Opera Stars Live in Concert Series. I also listened to her
first recording (her debut album, featuring Strauss’s Four
Last Songs). In all instances she is magnificent every step of
the way. The present download is her second album and no exception to
what I say above. It will also be launched as a CD on 26th
Davidsen starts the recital with Beethoven. First Leonora’s aria
‘Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?’ from Fidelio.
A challenging piece that suits her voice, allowing her rich tone to
really come into its own. She negotiates it beautifully and it flows
naturally, compelling and mighty, without a glitch. The second piece,
‘Ah! perfido’, a concert scene and aria for soprano and
orchestra on a text by Pietro Metastasio, was written when Beethoven
was working on the first version of Fidelio. Davidsen is equally
impressive in this piece which again is an excellent vehicle for her
Beethoven is followed by an aria from Luigi Cherubini’s Medea,
a role Davidsen sang in 2017 at the Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland.
She delivers the aria with fluid quality and is as splendid as ever.
After Medea comes the poignantly beautiful Santuzza’s
aria ‘Voi lo sapete, o mamma’from Mascagni’s
Cavalleria rusticana. Joined by mezzo Rosalind Plowright as
Lucia, Davidsen gives one of the finest performances of this piece that
I have ever heard. It is not just the sheer power of her voice and magnificent
high notes, it is also the heart-breaking drama, the sadness, the character’s
desperation that come across and hit you. It’s remarkable; visceral
in its intensity.
Davidsen says in the booklet notes that the present recital is ‘an
album designed to take me from one place to the next.’ So there
are the roles she has already sung and the parts that she sees herself
tackle in the next five years. She states that although she knows she
will eventually become a Wagnerian she doesn’t wish to be pigeonholed
too early in her career. These are the reasons for the pieces she chose
to interpret next. First two Verdi arias, both prayers but very different
in nature: ‘Pace, pace mio Dio!’ from La forza del destino
and ‘Ave Maria, piena di grazia’ from Otello. Her
singing, her technique and interpretation are, as always, remarkable
to say the least. The level of sentiment and the expression of emotion
are simply sublime, especially in the exquisite ‘Ave Maria’
from Otello. Davidsen achieves the right balance of tenderness
and sorrow. There’s heartache and we feel it; we know this woman
is aware she will die soon. And so, after Verdi, we come to the end
of this glittering recital with Wagner’s marvellous Wesendonck-Lieder.
Needless to say that Lise Davidsen excels. Her performance is excruciatingly
beautiful both in the interpretation and the technical merit.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sir Mark Elder
do an outstanding job of accompanying Davidsen’s musical and singing
prowess. They seem to relish the opportunity of performing with an artist
of her calibre and this joyful rapport is hearable, making it an elegant
and exceptional experience.
I must say that I loved this recital. I have long been an admirer of
Davidsen’s singing and the present recording does not disappoint.
It is every bit as admirable as any of her live performances that I
had the privilege to see and hear. The album is a good concept, neatly
and attractively packaged. The booklet contains an introduction and
the texts to all pieces in the original, with translations in English,
French and/or German depending on the singing language. I have listened
to the download via the Bluetooth device in my computer connected to
my Hi-Fi system and the sound is especially clear and powerful, giving
you the impression Davidsen and the orchestra are in the room with you.
Possibly the next best thing to a live on stage recital. I also listened
to it once on my computer and once on my smart phone. It is still very
good but it lacks the power and thrill of the Bluetooth via the Hi-Fi.
As mentioned earlier, the CD of this download will be launched on 26th
March. Whether on disc or download will depend on one’s preference,
but this recital is one to buy, cherish and enjoy repeatedly. I for
one don’t think I’ll easily tire of listening to Lise Davidsen’s
extraordinary, dazzling, vibrant and beautiful voice.
Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?,from Fidelio
(final version 1814) [7:22]
Ah! perfido, Scene and Aria for soprano and orchestra (1796) [12:05]
“Ah! perfido, spergiuro…” (Allegro
con brio) [3:20]
“Per pieta, non dirmi addio!” (Adagio)
“Ah crudel! tu vuoi ch’io mora!”
(Allegro assai) [4:33] Luigi CHERUBINI (1760–1842)
Dei tuoi figli la madre,from Medea (1797)
[4:17] Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Voi lo sapete, o mamma, from Cavalleria rusticana (1890) [6:49]
with Rosalind Plowright (mezzo) as Lucia Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Pace, pace mio Dio!, from La forza del destino (1862, revised
version 1869) [5:53]
Ave Maria, piena di grazia, from Otello (1887) [5:39] Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
5 Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme “Wesendonck-Lieder”, Text
by Mathilde Wesendonck
I. Der Engel [3:09] with solo violin by Pieter Schoeman
II. Stehe still! [3:52]
III. Im Treibhaus [6:16]
IV. Schmerzen [2:26]
V. Träume [4:58]