Raising the Stakes

Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, one of the opera world’s most sensational young talents, first came to international attention in 2015, when she won top honors at several major vocal competitions. Since then, she has made a series of important debuts and earned raves for her powerful performances of Wagner and Strauss heroines in Vienna, London, and Bayreuth. This month, she begins what will be an ongoing relationship with the Met, making her company debut as Lisa in The Queen of Spades, Tchaikovsky’s gripping drama of gambling, love, and obsession. Davidsen recently spoke with the Met’s Jay Goodwin about her dizzying rise.   

Is it true that you started your career as a mezzo-soprano?        

Yes, as a student, and then singing Baroque music as an alto in the Norwegian Soloists Choir. I was extremely surprised when my teacher in Copenhagen told me I was actually a soprano, and it felt like a huge change because it was part of my identity—but I realized later that it was just the development of my voice. And I think my experience as a mezzo has given some extra colors and more natural depth to my soprano voice, so I’m very happy now that it happened the way it did.   

Your last few years have been a whirlwind, with debuts at major opera houses around the world one after another.                

It’s been overwhelming, but it’s also a dream come true—though it comes with a lot of pressure and expectations. I am trying as much as I can to focus on the fact that I actually get to do what I love, in all of these great houses and with absolutely amazing colleagues, who make me better. 

What is your prior experience of the Met? Have you ever visited?          

This will be the first time I set foot in the building. I visited New York about ten years ago, and I have a picture of me standing and singing outside, but I never got to go in. Now, I actually get to sing on the stage, where there is so much history. It’s such a big moment for me.  

How would you describe Lisa, your character in The Queen of Spades?

It’s a great role, and I love that she’s a very strong woman. She gives everything she has for her love, for her passion. This idea of living and loving like that, of being there fully and giving one hundred percent of yourself, is how I would like to live.         

For people who don’t know the opera, how would you persuade them that it’s something they should see?      

It’s a very human story that questions what’s more important—money or love? Which power will we let control us? And if you still don’t think that that’s worth seeing, then just listen to five seconds of the amazing music, and you’ll figure it out.

Jay Goodwin is the Met’s Editorial Director.