Lise Davidsen: Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi review – exciting opera star burnishes her star quality

Davidsen’s supple soprano is bright and full, especially in Beethoven’s Leonore, and her attention to detail is thrilling

There’s no hint of difficult second album about Lise Davidsen’s new recording, made with the London Philharmonic and the conductor Mark Elder during last summer’s lull in lockdown. If her Wagner and Strauss disc two years ago confirmed her position as a rising star of extraordinary potential, this consolidates it.

Lise Davidsen: Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi album cover
Lise Davidsen: Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi album cover Photograph: Publicity image

As a programme it feels like a bit of a grab bag, albeit an enjoyable one. She starts with the big aria for Beethoven’s Leonore, the role in which she was making a big impression at the Royal Opera last year as lockdown began, and her joyous, uncertain yet undaunted heroine is exactly who you would want to be rescued by. There’s great work from the LPO’s horns here, too.

Davidsen’s soprano has a brighter gleam and greater expansiveness than that of any other singer to have emerged on to the opera scene in the last decade. She’s not a singer to signpost every moodswing; listen closely, though, and her attention to detail and to the colour of her sound is telling – and in Santuzza’s aria from Cavalleria Rusticana she proves she can wear her heart on her sleeve when she needs to. Her aria from Cherubini’s opera Medea (there are five composers here, not just the three in the album’s title), brings an electric, fast-vibrating tone conveying barely controlled agitation; Desdemona’s prayer, from Verdi’s Otello, is beautifully controlled, its simple radiance hiding disquiet just underneath. The orchestra switches styles expertly.

Arguably, Davidsen leaves the best for last: Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, five songs that are basically studies for an opera that many feel she was born to sing, Tristan und Isolde. She sounds vibrant and utterly focused, throwing out glorious high notes in Schmerzen, catching the pregnant, humid stillness at the heart of Im Treibhaus. Davidsen’s voice may be big but it doesn’t hold you at a distance; it draws you in.

This week’s other pick

Chère Nuit, a wide-ranging exploration of French song that showcases another fast-rising soprano, finds Louise Alder on glowing form, equalled in expression all the way by pianist Joseph Middleton. Their programme ranges beyond the obvious, from gorgeously lyrical songs by Pauline Viardot and Cécile Chaminade to the long-spun melody of the title song, by Alfred Bachelet, and cabaret-ish numbers by Poulenc and Maurice Yvain. But it’s Messiaen’s Trois Mélodies and four songs by Debussy that find them at their spellbinding best, Alder’s voice gauzy, supple and irresistible.


Erica Jeal

The GuardianTramp

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