If you are an opera-lover or a culture enthusiast, get yourself to London in early March for Beethoven’s Fidelio, to be sung by Lise Davidsen and Jonas Kaufmann at the Royal Opera House. While Kaufmann is undoubtedly the world’s most sought-after operatic tenor, the primary draw is Davidsen. This newly minted Norwegian soprano possesses what many are calling the most important voice to have emerged in decades, and it could possibly prove to be the most important voice of the century. What makes it so momentous?
The classically trained human voice is a super-conductor of human emotions, and as such it is both the lure and the mania of opera. Fans are constantly on the lookout for a voice whose emotive power is irresistible and overwhelming. Enter Davidsen. She is a true dramatic soprano, with enough resonance and squillo (the ability to cut through an orchestra) to handle even the most taxing Wagnerian roles with ease. Unlike so many other dramatic sopranos, whose piercing sound is the only attribute that qualifies them to sing this repertoire, her voice is not just phenomenally huge and penetrating but also extraordinarily beautiful. It is a voice that wraps itself around you, enfolding you in its warm embrace. As did legendary singers of the past, Davidsen effortlessly rolls out wave after wave of sumptuous sound. The vocal antecedent who comes to mind is another Norwegian, Kirsten Flagstad, whose heyday was before anyone alive can remember.
Lise Davidsen’s classically trained voice is a super-conductor of human emotions.
As Leonora, the steadfast wife who disguises herself as a man (Fidelio) in order to spring her freedom-fighter husband from prison, Davidsen—32, slender, and tall, at over six feet—is sure to embody the role as few have. Add to this the fact that her husband will be sung by Kaufmann and the production conducted by R.O.H.’s brilliant music director, Sir Antonio Pappano, and these performances are certain to be a highlight of the international culture calendar.
If your celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday is not fully satisfied by Fidelio, you can return to London on April 4 to hear Davidsen sing his magnificent concert aria, Ah! Perfido, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Otherwise, Davidsen will return to New York in November to reprise her Leonora at the Metropolitan Opera.
The voices of dramatic sopranos rarely retain their full sheen or freshness for long; like all operatic voices, their beauty is evanescent. Catch Davidsen’s while it is at its majestic peak. —Neal Goren