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Lise Davidsen: Tiny Desk Concert

Lise Davidsen performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR Music in Washington, D.C.
Zayrha Rodriguez/NPR
Lise Davidsen performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR Music in Washington, D.C.

I knew we were in for something spectacular when the Norwegian sopranoLise Davidsen came to our Tiny Desk — especially when she could be heard, loud and clear, from far down the hall, warming up in our green room. Once she got to the Desk itself, to rehearse with pianist andMetropolitan Opera assistant conductor Bryan Wagorn, the sublime amplitude of her extraordinary voice rendered the space even tinier.

Davidsen's voice, which is incongruously gigantic and intimate, has beencalled "one-in-a-million." I was completely sold on the hype after only a few seconds of singing. A couple of us reached for tissues to wipe away tears of disbelief. The voice gleams like pure polished silver, powerful enough to surge past massive orchestras and yet capable of paring down to a single silvery strand of tone, perfectly supported to reach the rafters.

It's all the more remarkable since Davidsen was already in her 20s before she saw an opera for the first time. Her warp-speed rise has taken her from a small town in Norway, where she played handball and strummed her guitar, to starring roles at the world's finest stages.

She begins her set with Desdemona's quiet supplication fromVerdi's Otello. It's a prayer for the troubles of the world today, she explains. A moody song of unrequited love by her compatriotEdvard Grieg follows. And, saving the money notes for last, Davidsen closes with a rambunctious czardas from Die Csárdásfürstin. Notice the subtlety of phrasing when she extends the word "Heimatland" beautifully in the opening verse. She caps the aria with an electrifying high C. The audience, appropriately, goes nuts.

With a little luck and scrupulous care for her voice, Davidsen, only 37, is poised for a career we will be talking about for decades to come.


  • Giuseppe Verdi: "Ave Maria" from Otello
  • Edvard Grieg: "Zur Rosenzeit," Op. 48, No. 5  
  • Emmerich Kálmán: "Heia, in den Bergen" from Die Csárdásfürstin


  • Lise Davidsen: soprano
  • Bryan Wagorn: piano


  • Producer: Tom Huizenga
  • Director/Editor: Kara Frame
  • Audio Technical Director: Hannah Gluvna
  • Host/Series Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Videographers: Kara Frame, Pierre Kattar
  • Audio Engineers: Neil Tevault, Josh Newell
  • Production Assistant: Elle Mannion
  • Photographer: Zayrha Rodriguez
  • Tiny Desk Team: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Ashley Pointer, Hazel Cills
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.