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Singer Lise Davidsen on her Tiny Desk experience


Soprano Lise Davidsen is no stranger to stepping out of her comfort zone. The Norwegian opera singer is best known for lending her voice to the works of Wagner and Strauss, but recently she took on Italian opera, starring in a production of Verdi's "La Forza Del Destino" at the Met in New York. And she took on another challenge a few weeks ago, performing at a much more intimate venue than the Met stage, the Tiny Desk here at NPR.


LISE DAVIDSEN: (Singing in non-English language).

DETROW: Well, Lise Davidsen, thanks for being here.

DAVIDSEN: Thank you so much for having me.

DETROW: You've done solo recitals at the Met now. You've performed at Carnegie Hall. How does the Tiny Desk fit into all of that?

DAVIDSEN: (Laughter) Well, I was really honored to be asked to be here and to come here to do this thing that so many people have done, and it's so incredibly popular. And there was time in between two shows at the Met, so then I came here.

DETROW: Are there any differences performing in an office compared to in an opera hall?

DAVIDSEN: Well, I guess the personal aspect - it's a much more private thing, I think. It's a - you get to see me and maybe get to know me a bit differently or different sides. And of course, the acoustics are very different from what I'm used to, and the pianist playing an upright piano and all those things. But it has a charm, and I thought the audience was very like - they were prepped, they'd done it before. So it's a very, very nice thing to do.

DETROW: One of my favorite things about Tiny Desk Concerts is, you know, sometimes when we're on deadline and can't go to the concert, you'll hear bits and pieces of the concert, you know, around the corner or down the hall or even on a different floor. And I feel like when you were hitting those high notes, the entire building probably heard them.


DAVIDSEN: Yeah. I was wondering, you know, the "Ave Maria," which was, like, the first one - it's so quiet, so intimate and proper sort of opera aria, and then that is hard for us in a way, to find the right feeling of it with the audience and sort of gather people out of their work and say, hey, this is where we are now.


DAVIDSEN: And of course, then towards the end, with the high C's, like, OK, I don't know how this would go. I'm just going to give it all and hope for the best.


DAVIDSEN: (Singing in non-English language).

DETROW: What does it feel like to hit that perfect high note at the peak of a performance? I mean, it's something that so few people in the world can do, and you just did it for all of us. And you do it on the stage night after night, and it's just incomprehensible for so many people. What does it feel like?

DAVIDSEN: Yeah. No, there is some joy when it's done, I must say, relief. It's like, we did it again, even though I done it over and over again, and I do it in my warm-up room every day, checking that it's there before I go on stage. But I would say joy, maybe, after you're done, and you manage it. There's just sort of this relief, like, OK, onto the next.



DAVIDSEN: (Singing in non-English language).

DETROW: The last thing I want to ask is - I imagine there are a lot of people watching this Tiny Desk or listening to this segment who maybe have not exposed themselves that much to opera, or maybe find it intimidating. What would you tell somebody who wants to know more but doesn't know where to start or doesn't know how to even begin to...

DAVIDSEN: Yeah, I think it's sad that it's intimidating.


DAVIDSEN: But I completely understand because it's something you don't know. And it's also going into a concert hall or an opera, and you think, well, I don't know what's going on.


DAVIDSEN: So then it's a big step to actually go and buy the ticket and go in. I would say maybe read up and listen a bit, but also just give it a chance, give it this one time and not expect your world to be turned upside down. Go for a shortish one and then give it a try because I think if you're in the room, that's when, for me, you are somewhat rewarded for going there. And it has to start, I think, with hearing it live in the room because that is in the way the magic of this classical music and this nonamplified music that we do. And if you just have a couple of minutes where you - you know, you put your phone away, there's 500 to 3,000 people with you all focusing on that and - yeah, then I think you will understand more of it. But it's OK not to know it. It's OK not to know what it's all about and who's singing. I mean, that's for us to tell you.


DAVIDSEN: (Singing in non-English language).


DETROW: Lise Davidsen, thank you so much.

DAVIDSEN: Thank you for having me.


DAVIDSEN: (Vocalizing).


DETROW: You can watch Lise Davidsen's Tiny Desk Concert at npr.org/tinydesk.


DAVIDSEN: (Singing in non-English language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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