Five Minutes with...Opera Superstar Lise Davidsen

Words by
Lise Davidsen

6th February 2023

International opera superstar Lisa Davidsen has been described as “one-in-a-million voice” by Sir Antonio Pappano Music Director at The Royal Opera House. The 35-year-old Norwegian soprano is garnering 5 star reviews everywhere she goes. Here, SPHERE catches up with opera’s most un-divaish Diva, as she stars as Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House.

I started classical training properly at university, but even then it wasn’t something I thought I could do for a living…I didn’t picture myself as an opera singer, I just loved singing.  I say this all the time, but if it were not for the Norwegian education system, I would never be a singer. My parents could not afford the education, so the state paid. After five years of studying I realised I would do whatever it took to do this all the time. I consider myself very lucky that I ended up where I am today. 

My mum works as a caretaker for people with mental and physical disabilities, and my dad is an electrician… so I don’t come from a musical family, and didn’t visit opera until the age of 19, but I chose to embrace this universe because it gave me a chance to express feelings and emotions in a way I haven’t done before. I love the fact I can be someone else for a while on stage.

Lise Davidsen
Lise Davidsen

I’m singing Elisabeth in Tannhäuser at The Royal Opera House opera until February 16th, and preparing to sing Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at The Met in New York in March… I love the Marschallin. It a heartbreaking role to play since she has to give away the man she loves to a younger woman, but she is also very strong. And yes, the music is extraordinary.

As a lifestyle, being an opera singer is…  a lot of travel, and new Airbnbs or apartments for every city. A lot of opera houses send out the schedule on a daily basis - sometimes for the week, but then it can change again every day - and that leaves very little freedom to plan or do private things. But it’s a choice of course, and I’m happy and grateful I get to sing in all these amazing houses with a very high level. 

Lise Davidsen in Tannhäuser
Lise as Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser at the the Royal Opera House until

When I’m not singing, you’ll find me…in my hometown Stokke, in Norway with my family. 

If I wasn’t an opera singer I think I would be… working with people one way or the other.. maybe a nurse.

The best meal I’ve ever eaten in London… the lentil and goats curd salad at St. John Bread and Wine and the mozzarella at the River Café. 

The highlight of my career so far has to be... my debuts at the Wagner festival in Bayreuth and at the Met in 2019. And my record deal with Decca.  

Lise Davidsen album
Lise Davidsen with Leif Ove Andsnes, Grieg, with Decca.

To do my job, I can’t do specially made earplugs that take the noise level down 10 decibels so I can practice everywhere. That way the room I’m in won’t affect the way I listen too much - a bathroom can have lot of sound - and a tiny practice room can have none.

The book I last read.. is Jo Nesbø’s “Killing Moon”, [released in the UK in May]. I’ve always been a fan of Harry Hole, and I listen to Tusvik og Tønne and Aftenpodden every week, two very different podcasts., one about everything and one covering the latest news.

My guiltiest pleasure is…Netflix and Norwegian Melkesjokolade.

The next thing on my mind is… the answer is, always, music!