The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

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lennygoran
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The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:35 am

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The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Lise Davidsen, who made a widely hailed company debut last season, won’t be back in the fall as planned. But she is giving a live recital this weekend.

By Joshua Barone

Aug. 28, 2020

The Metropolitan Opera placed a big bet on the young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, casting her in five productions far into the future before she had even sung her first note in New York.

Maybe it was a safe bet: By the time Ms. Davidsen made her debut with the company last fall, at just 32, she was already one of the fastest-rising singers in the world, collecting competition prizes and performing on opera’s great stages. But the Met was a new challenge, a house that’s prone to hype and acoustically unforgiving for smaller voices; it’s quickly clear who thrives there, and who does not.

It took all of one entrance in Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” to brush off any fears about her future with the Met. The voice I heard was awe-inspiring in its power, an electric flash that filled the cavernous theater with its radiance; even when quieter, controlled and delicate, its softness was nonetheless focused, penetrating the sounds of her fellow singers and the orchestra as if carried by beams of light.

In Ms. Davidsen, the Met had found its newest star. And fans wouldn’t need to wait long for her to return. The plan was for her to sing Leonore in Beethoven’s “Fidelio” this fall. But, in what has become a template story, it was canceled — along with everything else there until New Year’s Eve, at the earliest — because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As it happens, Leonore was Ms. Davidsen’s final role, at the Royal Opera House in London, before her schedule was virtually erased. Now it isn’t clear when or if she will bring it to the Met; like the company itself, she won’t be back in the house any time soon.



But on Saturday, she will be reunited with the Met — not in New York, but from Oslo — for the latest installment of its Met Stars Live in Concert series. These pandemic-born, small-screen performances, livestreamed in high definition with the audio quality of a studio album, have so far featured fan favorites like Renée Fleming and Jonas Kaufmann in unconventional, yet often beautiful, spaces. No exception, Ms. Davidsen’s will be broadcast from the Oscarshall palace, the museum and summer residence of the Norwegian royal family.


I joined Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, and veterans of the company’s Live in HD cinema broadcasts, for a technical rehearsal on Thursday, at All Mobile Studios in Chelsea. Everyone was screened at the door with a temperature check and questionnaire; they shouted camera cues through masks. Afterward, I spoke with Ms. Davidsen on Zoom. By then, it was 10 p.m. in Oslo. Yet even following the run-through, with abrupt stops and starts that can be jarring for any artist, she was patient and gracious — never the proud diva you might expect for someone in her position.

We talked about her Met program — which charts an unlikely journey from Wagner to cabaret, operetta and Broadway, with the pianist James Baillieu — and about how it comes between rehearsals for “Die Walküre” at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, a large-scale production that seems unfathomable in a time when many houses remain closed. I also wanted to hear from her about what it meant, as an erstwhile singer-songwriter from a small town, to be performing in a palace belonging to Queen Sonja of Norway, who last year flew to New York just to see her at the Met.

When I brought up the subject, Ms. Davidsen laughed and said, “This scarf I’m wearing is actually a gift from the queen.”



She recalled a conversation with the queen the day before — which she acknowledged is strange to say — in which she was told that her life is a fairy tale. “I was like, ‘You’re right,’” Ms. Davidsen said. “I’m talking to the queen as if we know each other; I’m doing this concert for the Met. For me it’s all about the concert and making it good, but I can forget how special that is.”

Her Met recital begins with “Dich, Teure Halle,” from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” which she sang for competitions and her first solo album, as well as a declarative entrance at Bayreuth last summer. The music is a greeting; and at the palace in Oslo, it’s an introduction to the recital’s small yet ornate, wood-finished space, lit from behind by Scandinavian twilight and decorated with 19th-century paintings. (It’s actually the dining room.)


On Thursday, Ms. Davidsen didn’t appear to shrink her voice, treating the room as if it were the Met, while Mr. Baillieu matched her with the grandeur of Liszt’s Wagner transcriptions. These are sensitive musicians, though, and they followed “Tannhäuser” with smaller, rending songs by Grieg and Sibelius, as well as Richard Strauss.



After an excerpt from Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” the program shifts from Italian opera to Britten’s “Johnny,” from the composer’s “Cabaret Songs” written with W.H. Auden; it’s comparatively more playful, with comedic glissandos and an extreme depth of range that reveals Ms. Davidsen’s past as a mezzo-soprano. She closed with “I Could Have Danced All Night,” which I mentioned was also sung by Birgit Nilsson, the Swedish titan of opera, to whom she’s been compared — a coincidence, Ms. Davidsen said.

She wants you to think of the concert’s cabaret-like turn as a program encore. “You can’t really lighten up my repertoire,” Ms. Davidsen said. “I wanted to light up the mood a little bit. I also feel that in some recitals and opera, I never get to show this other side. I don’t need to; I don’t have this cabaret kind of woman hidden, and it’s not a peek or preview into my future. But this is fun, and different.”

It’s different, too, for Ms. Davidsen to simply be busy. She sang in two livestreamed concerts in Norway this spring and has been at work on her second album, but has otherwise been away from the stage since the Royal’s “Fidelio,” which completed its run several days after houses closed elsewhere. I asked what it was like to perform as the industry was coming to a halt, and whether she had been afraid.

What she described seemed a world away from pandemic precautions as we now know them. As “Fidelio” was opening, using hand sanitizer was seen as more important than wearing a mask. And on the day of the final rehearsal, she woke up feeling fatigued, and unable to push very hard at the gym. Then she lost her senses of smell and taste. At the time, that wasn’t a widely known symptom, and she thought that she was tired because of stress. Her illness never got any worse, so she slept and, undaunted, sang on opening night. Only later did she realize she probably had Covid-19; indeed, she eventually tested positive for antibodies.

The protocols for Wagner’s “Die Walküre” in Berlin are exponentially more vigilant. Ms. Davidsen said she is tested every morning; results come by noon or 1 p.m., then the company rehearses from 2 to 9. She doesn’t otherwise venture outside except for essentials. Inside the Deutsche Oper, both the cast and crew members are required to wear masks.

Ms. Davidsen couldn’t give away much about this “Ring” cycle, an eagerly anticipated new production by Stefan Herheim, in which she is singing Sieglinde. “All I can say is that it’s a very different Sieglinde from what I expected,” she said.

If this “Walküre” is particularly mysterious, it’s because “Das Rheingold,” the opera that precedes it in the cycle, was planned for June but canceled. It’s like tuning into a new TV show halfway through a season and relying on a recap to figure out what’s going on — which adds a layer of difficulty to an already fraught production, the most ambitious opera staging since the pandemic began. To make matters worse, a recent rehearsal was canceled because of a heat wave. “I couldn’t think,” Ms. Davidsen said, “it was so hot.”

“But we’re happy we can work,” she quickly added. “The fact that we get to be there is better than anything.”


Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern, then available on demand for 12 days; metopera.org.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/arts ... opera.html

maestrob
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Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by maestrob » Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:39 am

Lise Davidsen is indeed a star in the making. Her debut CD (which I bought when it was issued) can be heard on amazon, along with a recent (10/19) Der Freischutz.

I wasn't so taken with her Four Last Songs, which didn't quite suit her tessitura, but she was quite extraordinary in the rest of the album. YMMV, of course.

At any rate, she's the real deal.

Thanks, Len! :)
Last edited by maestrob on Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

maestrob
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Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by maestrob » Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:43 am

Got this from Opera Wire:
Lise Davidsen continues the Metropolitan Opera’s “Met Stars Live in Concert” series on August 29, 2020.The event, which will begin at 1 p.m. ET, will feature the rising star live from the Royal Oscarshall Palace in Oslo, where the soprano sang after winning Norway’s Queen Sonja Competition in 2015.

barney
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Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by barney » Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:13 pm

maestrob wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:39 am
Lise Davidsen is indeed a star in the making. Her debut CD (which I bought when it was issued) can be heard on amazon, along with a recent (10/19) Der Freischutz.

I wasn't so taken with her Four Last Songs, which didn't quite suit her tessitura, but she was quite extraordinary in the rest of the album. YMMV, of course.

At any rate, she's the real deal.

Thanks, Len! :)
Precisely what I said in the Sydney Morning Herald, Brian, except the YMMV, as I'm not sure what that is. She has the potential to be one of the all-time greats, and she seems to have the temperament too, so far as we can tell from this distance.

lennygoran
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Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by lennygoran » Sun Aug 30, 2020 6:28 am

barney wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:13 pm
except the YMMV, as I'm not sure what that is.
Barney I didn't know either. Regards, Len

Your Mileage May Vary
YMMV is an abbreviation for “Your Mileage May Vary.” Basically, it means one person's experience with a product may be different from another's. YMMV is often used in online forums to describe credit cards…

barney
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by barney » Sun Aug 30, 2020 5:54 pm

I suppose it's shorter than de gustibus non est disputandum, but much less elegant! :D
Thanks for researching, Len.

maestrob
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Re: The Met Opera’s Newest Star Returns, on the Small Screen

Post by maestrob » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:06 am

Finally got the chance to watch/hear Lise Davidsen's online recital yesterday. Wanted to think about it overnight before I posted comments, and a friend asked me by email this morning what were my thoughts, so here goes:

I thought the whole event was quite worthy of the MET. Also, she is very sweet, and I'm glad they allowed her personality to come through.

Her singing was quite good. She has the power to convey all the drama necessary in the big moments, yet she has also the vocal sensitivity to bring out the more delicate passages. Interestingly, her tessitura is very much like her former compatriot, Flagstad, yet I sense that right now Lise's voice is quite a bit lighter. Flagstad premiered Strauss's Four Last Songs in 1949 (I had a recording on cassette of that concert, but it's long gone!), and later sang them in a 1952 concert which was also recorded in very good sound and has been issued on CD, which I'm so glad to have (See below.). In that recording, if you compare it to Davidsen's debut disc, you can hear that both singers struggle with the tessitura of the songs in a similar way.

OTOH, in this recital, her repertoire was carefully chosen to highlight the strengths in her instrument, and she floated some lovely high notes that I hadn't heard her do before. She was born to sing Strauss songs for sure, at least the ones she chose. Perhaps there will be a Marschallin in her future? My only quibble was with her pianist, who really faded into the background and was not quite a full partner with her. He also took her off the high note in Caecelia, which should blossom, but he didn't give her enough time to do that.

The English language set was quite successful. Her slight European accent worked in English to give her an appropriate set of British vowels, even in "I could Have Danced All Night."

All-in-all, a worthy effort, and the surroundings were beautiful. I thought her brief encounter with the Queen was quite touching. Davidsen seems more comfortable with where she is in life now, and that's really necessary if she is to have the career she deserves. I remember that feeling myself when I was performing in Carnegie Hall: it seems like you've finally come home.

IOW, I liked the recital, and the presentation as well. She's the real deal!

Quiery: Did anyone else here watch this? Also a reminder: Joyce DiDonato's online presentation is coming up this Saturday also from the MET. Don't miss it!

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