Greatest Norwegian sopranos of all time

Over the last few centuries Norway has produced more than its fair share of world-class sopranos and mezzos. Here are six of its finest exports...

Kirsten Flagstad is one of norway's best ever sopranos
Published: January 19, 2022 at 9:29 am
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Eva Nansen (1858-1907)

Norwegian soprano Ingrid Bjoner (1927 - 2006) of the Bavarian State Opera takes the role of the Empress in Richard Strauss's opera 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, 22nd August 1964. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born Eva Sars, she made her operatic debut in 1881 before enjoying a career as a song recitalist and giving the premiere of Grieg’s Haugtussa. A major campaigner for women’s participation in winter sports, she married the celebrated explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

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Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962)

One of the world’s greatest sopranos , Flagstad shot to fame with her 1935 New York Met debut as Sieglinde in Die Walküre. Wagner remained at the core of her repertoire, though not exclusively so; in 1950 Flagstad gave the world premiere of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Her statue looks over Oslo Opera House.

Ingrid Bjoner (1927-2006)

Born to a farming family in Kråkstad, Bjoner (left) initially trained as a pharmacist before her vocal talent was recognised. Like Flagstad, she specialised in Wagner and Strauss.

Solveig Kringelborn (b1963)

A lyric soprano, Kringlebotn (to use the Norwegian spelling) leapt to fame in 1991 with her BBC Proms debut singing the premiere of Lutosławski’s Chantefleurs et Chantefables. She has since distinguished herself in opera.

Mari Eriksmoen (b1983)

Another lyric soprano, Eriksmoen has been compared to the late Lucia Popp for the quality and intelligence of her singing. Her new album, reviewed p76, includes Britten’s Les illuminations.

Lise Davidsen (b1987)

Critics on multiple continents have hailed Lise Davidsen as the next great Wagnerian soprano, whose clarion, multi-hued voice can soar above the densest orchestrations and fill 3,500-seat halls.

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Photos by Getty Images

Authors

Jeremy PoundDeputy Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Jeremy Pound is currently BBC Music Magazine’s Deputy Editor, a role he has held since 2004. Before that, he was the features editor of Classic CD magazine, and has written for a colourful array of publications ranging from Music Teacher to History Revealed, Total Football and Environment Action; in 2018, he edited and co-wrote The King’s Singers: Gold 50th anniversary book.

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