Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
lennygoran
Posts: 14898
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by lennygoran » Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:30 am

I'm not familiar with Lise Davidsen. Regards, Len

Do you believe in destiny? For the soprano Lise Davidsen, it’s not really a choice. Since her success in 2015 at three of the most important singing competitions — Queen Sonja, Operalia and Belvedere (at the last two she won three prizes at each contest) — the opera world has not just been convinced that Davidsen is the Next Big Thing, but also that her star will shine specifically in the most arduous music in the repertoire.

The 6ft 2in Norwegian singer announced on the stage of the Royal Opera House, where the Operalia finals were held, that hers was a Wagner voice, and she did so with Elisabeth’s opening aria from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The Times critic reporting the event cautioned: “She has a striking voice with a beautiful gleam and serious heft, but, at 28, she is a mere babe in Wagnerian terms.”

Davidsen is now 32, if not a babe then certainly still babyish for Wagner. Yet as she admitted when we met in London just before her debut as Elisabeth at the Wagner festival in Bayreuth (which has since won her rave reviews), with a Wagner/Strauss album for Decca under her belt and a performance coming up at the BBC Proms, the clock is already ticking.

“It’s like two ladders,” she says of those big Wagner and Strauss roles. “There are the smaller roles, and then you enter the next ladder, with the bigger ones. So, I guess now I’m at the beginning of the big ladder, beginning with Elisabeth.”

It took a little time for Davidsen to get to grips with just how much her voice could do. First she was a mezzo-soprano, thinking that she would primarily sing baroque concert music. When she moved on to postgraduate studies in Copenhagen, her teacher had a different view. “She said it was like unwrapping a package, a voice that needed to open completely. Maybe people always felt the voice was big, but it wasn’t so clear as when I moved to opera and the soprano repertoire.”

Then came the competition victories and debuts thick and fast. Her first “second ladder” role was probably the heroine in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos in 2017 at Glyndebourne, but when Davidsen made her Royal Opera House stage debut in Wagner’s Ring cycle in autumn 2018, she chose three “first ladder” roles, Freya, Ortlinde and Third Norn. “I loved that. And maybe it was nice not to be at the centre.”

However, if Davidsen is plotting a course that to a certain extent has been arranged, the American soprano Christine Goerke has had a different experience. The Metropolitan Opera’s reigning Brünnhilde, Goerke has an impressive double whammy this summer in the UK, with Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung at the Edinburgh International Festival this month and a “Wagner Night” at the Proms in September. It has just been announced that she will perform Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung in Bayreuth next year — and, guess what, Davidsen will be Sieglinde in Die Walküre in the same cycle (second ladder, up a rung).

Had you told Goerke these roles lay in the stars when she was Davidsen’s age, however, she would have laughed in your face, or maybe cried. In her early thirties she went through a profound vocal crisis, abandoned most of what she knew about singing and ended up deep in debt while she tried to rebuild her career.

“I thought I had broken my voice, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Goerke told me down the line from New York. “I very nearly quit. But I didn’t realise it wasn’t a huge problem. It was a change.” In short, there had been an upgrade: the voice was bigger, perhaps less flexible for Mozart or Handel, but ready for the big hitters in Wagner and Strauss.

So she went back to the drawing board, covering other singers in the sorts of parts Davidsen is performing now. Goerke never actually got to sing that many of them. “By the time I had advanced out of understudying, I was ready to step into the next level.” Cast in the supporting role of Chrysothemis in Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the opera house that had hired her asked her to take the main part instead, another Everest of a role. “They said, ‘Either you switch roles or you stand down because we can’t find someone to match you.’ So it all happened a bit sooner than I was hoping.”

Davidsen understands that this is the lot of the Wagner singer. “I hope I’ll be able to climb the ladder the way I want to — getting to sing all those roles before my vocal cords say, ‘No, I can’t do this!’ ” Does she find it frustrating to already be asked when she is going to get round to her first Isoldes and Brünnhildes? “When an audience member says, ‘When are you going to sing Brünnhilde?’ I do understand that. It’s normal. And if someone told me to sing Brünnhilde tomorrow, technically, of course, I could sing it — once! But I can’t sing it day after day, show after show, with the adrenaline pumping. That’s when it becomes about knowing your voice and knowing how much it can actually do.”

Plus, says Davidsen, “if you do a big role too soon, that’s all you’re asked to do again and again”. And there is huge pressure — not least financial — to step up to those high-calorie, high-fee, high-danger roles. “I’m extremely lucky because I don’t have to say yes — I know I’ll get other options — but I have colleagues who have to say yes, for whom it’s not so easy to say, ‘Well, vocally I’m not ready yet.’ So I have promised myself that I will follow my voice, not the expectations and needs of others.”

Goerke has forthright views on what makes a real Wagner voice, and what gives it longevity. Hint: it’s not decibels. “Well, do you want to hear someone screaming at you for five hours? You cannot survive [Wagner’s] orchestration unless you have enough volume to ride the wave, but that’s not what’s impressive. It’s about paying attention. When those composers give you an opportunity to whisper, you take it. In order to make the big moments have impact, the smaller moments have to have as much impact.”

The two sopranos have yet to share a stage, although it’s a mouthwatering prospect. Goerke first heard Davidsen sing in Toronto, tipped off by a tenor friend. “She opened her mouth and I giggled out loud. That is one of the most exciting sounds I have heard in recent memory. I wandered up to her and said something ridiculous like, ‘Please give me time to put my children through college before you take over all of my roles!’ ” What does destiny have in store for her Wagnerian heiress, then? “I hope to God she has the right people around her,” says Goerke. “Because I want to hear that voice for a long time.”


https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/lise ... -tgcgdwm7s

maestrob
Posts: 6320
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by maestrob » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:13 am

Never heard Lise Davidsen until now. I'm glad she's in the pipeline. Good luck to her. As for Christine Goerke, those of us who watch PBS will get a chance to hear her Walkure Brunnhilde on this coming Sunday at 1 PM on PBS. Looking forward to that! :D

John F
Posts: 20806
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by John F » Fri Aug 02, 2019 1:49 pm

Indeed, it's not about decibels. One of the greatest Brünnhildes, some say the greatest, was loud enough when necessary, but that wasn't what made her special. I'm talking about Frida Leider.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLJvn0N8ZUo

Lauritz Melchior--Siegfried
Frida Leider--Brünnhilde
Herbert Janssen--Gunther
Ludwig Weber/Emanuel List--Hagen
Maria Nezadal--Gutrune
Thomas Beecham--conductor
Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
London Philharmonic Orchestra
May 14 & 29, 1936

EMI recorded this and more in two performances hoping to publish it, but all that made it onto commercial 78s was Hagen's two big numbers sung by Ludwig Weber.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrPLaF_GsrI
John Francis

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:51 pm

Sydney Morning Herald review of Davidsen's debut album. She is a special talent.

WAGNER/STRAUSS (Decca)
4.5 Stars
Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs is one of the incomparable song cycles in the soprano’s repertoire, and I am not sure that Lise Davidsen is wise to have ventured here in her debut CD, titled simply by her name. It is the relatively weak link in an otherwise superb CD. Few first CDs have generated such excitement – she became the first soprano to debut at No. 1 in the classical chart in Britain, while Gramophone called her one of the greatest vocal talents to have emerged in decades. In highest praise, she matches her late Norwegian compatriot, Kirsten Flagstad, for power and purity. The album has two arias from Wagner’s Tannhauser, one from Strauss’s Ariadne, and several Strauss songs, all sung splendidly. It is easy to see why Davidsen is considered the next great Wagnerian soprano: a huge voice that cuts through the orchestra with impeccable control and purity, amazing richness and evenness throughout the register, allied with sensitivity and shape. But in the Four Last Songs, she faces intense competition from the greatest sopranos of the past 70 years, and I find her a little cool in these achingly lovely songs of farewell. Superb accompaniment from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia.

maestrob
Posts: 6320
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by maestrob » Sat Aug 03, 2019 10:40 am

Flagstad also struggled with the tessitura of Strauss's Four Last Songs, even though she premiered them. Strauss wrote the songs for a different kind of voice: Lucia Popp and Gundula Janowitz are my two favorites. Flagstad was better in Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder, which were written for her voice type. I look forward to hearing Davidsen's recording: thanks, Barney, for the review.

John F
Posts: 20806
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by John F » Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:01 am

Strauss himself wanted Flagstad to premiere the Four Last Songs, and she did, though he didn't live to hear it. But for me the ideal performance is on a 1953 Decca recording by Lisa Della Casa with the Vienna Philhamonic conducted by Karl Böhm.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2n4065TDk4
John Francis

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:24 pm

I treasure all three of those versions, with della Casa perhaps my top also. Popp and Janowitz (do you prefer with Karajan or Haitink?) are wonderful. Also of course Schwarzkopf and Kiri te Kanawa. What do people think of Jessye Norman - it's another that is right up there for me,though I haven't listened for years. But I know some think the voice is too big. Are there any recordings of Flagstad in this work?

John F
Posts: 20806
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by John F » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:25 pm

Jessye Norman is one of a kind. She made her professional debut as Elisabeth in "Tannhäuser" and has always insisted that she's a soprano, but to my ears her vocal color and comfortable range are mezzo-soprano or lower. I haven't heard her recordng of the Strauss.

Thanks to the Maharajah of Mysore, we have a recording of Flagstad and Furtwängler (and Dennis Brain!), made for him by Walter Legge and recently published by Testament. It's usually billed as the premiere but I've read knowledgeable commentary that it's the dress rehearsal.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuwWq3JCLy8

It's a pity, and it's strange, that EMI didn't make a studio recording, but they didn't. Nor is there any other recording of the songs with Flagstad and orchestra, though the Kirsten Flagstad Archive at the performing arts library includes "September" and "Im Abendrot" recorded in 1954 with piano accompaniment by Waldemar Alme.
John Francis

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:12 pm

Many thanks, John. I will listen to this today.

maestrob
Posts: 6320
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by maestrob » Sun Aug 04, 2019 10:49 am

barney wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:24 pm
I treasure all three of those versions, with della Casa perhaps my top also. Popp and Janowitz (do you prefer with Karajan or Haitink?) are wonderful. Also of course Schwarzkopf and Kiri te Kanawa. What do people think of Jessye Norman - it's another that is right up there for me,though I haven't listened for years. But I know some think the voice is too big. Are there any recordings of Flagstad in this work?
Actually, gentlemen, there is a recording of a 1952 Flagstad concert that includes the Strauss (just three years after the premiere you posted above, John), and it's in excellent sound with the Berlin Opera Orchestra led by none other than Georges Sebastian, on audite (a 2 disc set), still available on CD:


Image



One can hear Flagstad struggling with the tessitura of the Strauss songs, something that Jessye Norman has no trouble with. Norman's recording is with Kurt Masur, and includes other orchestral songs by R. Strauss. IMHO, it's OK, but not up to the standards set by Janowitz/HVK (which is my preferred version of her two recordings), or Lucia Popp. I do wish Norman had had a better conductor: I love her voice: she had the longest line of any Sieglinde I've ever heard.


Image

John F
Posts: 20806
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by John F » Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:48 am

Ah so! I had no idea (obviously).
John Francis

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:33 pm

The YouTube clip John posted was fascinating. You could hear many felicities and a beautiful voice, but I think Brian is right about the tessitura. Also the orchestra was really swoopy and soupy, though how much that is just the recording I can't tell.
So the version Brian just posted is the one to keep an eye out for. Wasn't Pauline (Strauss's wife) a high soprano? And he wrote a lot with her in mind - but probably not these songs.

maestrob
Posts: 6320
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by maestrob » Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:23 am

barney wrote:
Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:33 pm
The YouTube clip John posted was fascinating. You could hear many felicities and a beautiful voice, but I think Brian is right about the tessitura. Also the orchestra was really swoopy and soupy, though how much that is just the recording I can't tell.
So the version Brian just posted is the one to keep an eye out for. Wasn't Pauline (Strauss's wife) a high soprano? And he wrote a lot with her in mind - but probably not these songs.
My guess (and it's purely speculation) is that Strauss indeed wrote his songs with Pauline in mind, judging by how they fit in, say, Lucia Popp's voice. Flagstad was indeed famous, so Strauss was glad to have her premiere his work, but he wasn't there to hear it, and I suspect he would have been disappointed. The entire 1949 concert was released in poor sound on a cassette during the 1970's, and is indeed disappointing. Flagstad was obviously a Wagnerian soprano with a comfort zone that lay lower: witness her obvious fit in the other repertoire in the 1952 Berlin concert: an excerpt from Elektra, Isolde's Liebestod and the wonderful Wesedonck Lieder. Why this 1952 recording was held back for so long (It was released only in 2010) is a mystery to me, but it was well worth the wait!

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:22 pm

Lise Davidsen is also so strong, secure and noble in the lower register that she would be a natural mezzo. But that's not where the glamour is, and she is quite capable of the soprano roles.

maestrob
Posts: 6320
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by maestrob » Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:52 am

barney wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:22 pm
Lise Davidsen is also so strong, secure and noble in the lower register that she would be a natural mezzo. But that's not where the glamour is, and she is quite capable of the soprano roles.
OK, Barney, you've persuaded me. I'll be ordering Davidsen's disc soon! :D

barney
Posts: 3253
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Lise Davidsen and Christine Goerke on how to make a career in Wagner

Post by barney » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:29 pm

Good decision, Brian. You won't regret it. I look forward to hearing what you think. :D

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 42 guests