Prediction: the 2020s will see Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen become as big a name in the great opera houses of Europe and America as Nina Stemme. If I were a betting man, based on Davidsen’s excellent London recital debut, I’d feel a comfortable wager had been made. The Rosenblatt Recitals have a history of bringing fresh talent to London audiences, often before major house debuts at Covent Garden, and part of the thrill is speculating who will be stars. Davidsen is not, of course, entirely unknown to opera enthusiasts, having won three prizes at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia just two years ago, but the chance to hear her at greater length and in a different setting was a treat. Her programme with the ever-reliable James Baillieu was an interesting selection of pieces that ranged from Cherubini to Grieg; all valid choices, but the order occasionally seemed a little scattergun.

Lise Davidsen © Jonathan Rose
Lise Davidsen
© Jonathan Rose

No discussion of Davidsen’s voice can be had without approaching the sheer size of the voice. It’s a huge instrument, easily big enough to fill a large opera house comfortably. Some singers at Wigmore Hall have struggled to adjust their voices accordingly; Davidsen was clearly doing that, but even so there were times when the volume was a little too much for comfort. Lung capacity and breath control is obviously good – the amount crammed into a single breath in pieces like “Wie nahte mir der Schlummer” from Der Freitschütz was impressive. Registers were well integrated – a lush and resonant bottom against a bright and incisive top. Davidsen opened with four of Grieg's songs, the best of which were “Ein Traum” and “Zur Rosenzeit” which showed a nice sense of line and a solid musicality.

Stepping away from the fjords and into mythical Corinth, Davidsen gave an incandescent “Dei tuoi figli la madre” from Cherubini’s Medea, which she will be singing at Wexford in the autumn. Forceful and impassioned, it was perhaps a little lacking in nuance, but she captured an appealing classical tone. Davidsen’s high notes, generously deployed here, are formidable beasts which are unleashed without apparent strain or effort. This was the best of the four Italian arias given; “Morrò, ma prima in grazia” from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera was well delivered, but her “La mamma morta” was surprisingly underwhelming and lacked that rawness, that feeling of being on the edge, that the best interpreters can inject. “Voi lo sapete, o mamma” was better, but I’m not convinced that the verismo period is the most obvious fit for her at present.

James Baillieu and Lise Davidsen at Wigmore Hall © Jonathan Rose
James Baillieu and Lise Davidsen at Wigmore Hall
© Jonathan Rose

Four of Strauss’ songs unsurprisingly were on the menu and these were delicately treated; a warm and earnest Zueignung, an evocative Ruhe, meine Seele! where Davidsen’s fine lower register was excellently deployed and an unrestrained Cäcile. Only a Morgen! that lacked ardency offered any disappointment. A welcome exploration of Sibelius proved to be the highlight of the song side of the programme: Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte was given with fiery intensity and a flair for dramatic narrative, while Säv, säv, susa gave Davidsen the best opportunity to exhibit her ability to shade her voice to the text. The standout, though, were the two German arias: “Wie nahte mir der Schlummer” showed the sheer flexibility of the voice, easily dealing with the aria’s leaps – in tone and delivery a fine assumption which brought Agathe to life. The final aria was “Gebet der Elisabeth”, an aristocratic yet simultaneously virginal reading that seethed with holy passion. Diction was very strong and there was again a sense that she was inhabiting the character through her attention to Wagner’s text. An encore of “Dich, teure Halle” confirmed her potential to be one of the great Wagnerian sopranos in the making.