ISOLDE, TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, LONGBOROUGH FESTIVAL OPERA
Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset excelled in the title roles, their obsessive love so quietly erotic you felt almost voyeuristic watching them, their singing tireless, searing, intelligent.
You may think intervals at these opera festival are all chat. It’s a first to come out of Act I, never mind the subsequent two acts, and find everyone dumbfounded. It’s hard to imagine this opera making a more shattering impact.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
This ecstatic opera lives or dies by its lead couple. Their potion-fuelled passion shapes this intimate music-drama; their longings, regrets and dreams make the hours seem like minutes. Lee Bisset is an overwhelming and richly luminous Isolde, taking us from death-filled desires to feverish love with stamina and insight. As her Tristan, Peter Wedd is perhaps initially less distinctive, but never less distinguished, particularly when his brooding lyricism boils over. The electricity between them was palpable.
(Rebecca Franks, The Times)
At Longborough, which this year has revived its 2015 production of Tristan und Isolde, the combination of depth, grandeur and delicacy of emotion are, for once, successfully present, and the result is one of the most exalting experiences I have had in the opera house. The most important change of cast is the Isolde of Lee Bisset. … Bisset has a greater regal presence, a richer tone, and integrates passages that can sound like mere declamation into the overall forward pressure of the drama. She and the Tristan of Peter Wedd make the most convincing couple I have ever seen in this work.
(Michael Tanner, The Spectator)
Isolde is a passionate young girl with a manipulative streak. But what Wagnerian soprano ever troubles to convey such mundane intricacies? At Longborough Lee Bissett does so, and with enormous intelligence and conviction. Not only does she sing with power and control, but from the start she creates, through bodily gesture and mobile facial expression, a vivid image of a young woman who is finding it hard to decide whether she hates or is in love with the man who is escorting her to marry the King of Cornwall. And once she has made up her mind, she conveys equally well the rapture and intensity, and the inevitable doom, of the love in question.
(Stephen Walsh, The Arts Desk)
First among equals was Lee Bisset, a natural Wagnerian who impressed as Sieglinde in Opera North's Ring project, and who here delivered an Isolde that was more than the equal of any you will find on the international stage today. Other singers might have more beautiful voices, but beauty in Wagner comes a poor third to intelligence and emotional engagement with the role. This was a performance with a through line: the icy, passive-aggressive princess of Act 1 was a very different proposition to the woman who sang the “Liebestod” at the finale, and Bisset had the measure of this trajectory, offering reflective truth rather than generalised emotion at every turn.
(Richard Ely, Bachtrack.com)
…the wonderful performances of the singers. Lee Bisset’s Isolde is remarkable, so beautifully expressive and vocally powerful.
…the staging enhances the intensity between the lovers, and with Peter Wedd (who was in the original run) and Lee Bisset you see and hear something quite remarkable unfold, something you know the opera carries but which rarely erupts to such annihilating effect, and it’s not just because they both are easy on the eye … Bisset’s soprano had the penetration, lyricism, range and volume to encompass Isolde’s imperious will and extreme vulnerability in Act One and, with Wedd of course, a sensationally erotic love-duet in the next one; they practically devoured each other, matched by singing of sublime tenderness and volcanic passion.
Wedd and Bisset are inside their roles and the text to a rare degree…
(Peter Reed, Classical Source)
…in her relatively few quieter-than-f passages, Lee Bisset shows that she can sing beautifully, both from chest and head. What we need from both the lovers is not charm, however, but dramatic power and vocal stamina and Bisset and Wedd have plenty of both … But the reason this production is so close to ideal is the acting. I have certainly never seen a better Act II; their erotic business is totally convincing and moving.
They sing it so that you can hear the punctuation, especially the question marks, and their body-language does the rest (and her diction is superb, with every consonant in place). They obey the first law of opera production, which is that your character is always singing to someone else, and that is usually someone, or more than one person, on the stage, and rarely directly to the audience. This means that looking into the eyes of the person or people being sung to is essential. And nowhere is this more vital than in Tristan, where Wagner has written music indicating that Tristan and Isolde should gaze into each other’s eyes. Wedd and Bisset are brilliant at this, at using their body-language to capture and reflect the logic of the music and the libretto. When they do look away from each other, or look at the audience, it always seems to be called for by the drama. Their world-class smooching respects the grammar and logic of the dialogue.
(Paul Levy, Arts Journal)
Sieglinde, Ring Cycle, Opera North
Lee Bisset, whose unforced vocal range and committed characterisation produced the most all-round compelling Sieglinde I have heard since the great Helga Lernesch.
(Martin Kettle, The Guardian)
LeeBisset’s ravishing soprano blazed beautifully. “Schläfst du, Gast?” she whispered to him, dwelling on the opening consonants - and every spine in the house tingled in anticipation.
(Martin Dreyer, Opera Magazine)
Lee Bisset’s Sieglinde, sung with thrilling abandon and acted with urgent emotional directness, … a revelation.
(Hugo Shirley, Financial Times)
Lee Bisset's Sieglinde was sublime, every emotion etched on her face and imparting a truly radiant “O hehrstes Wunder!”. Her soprano has plenty of blade, yet retains incredible beauty, even at full tilt.
(Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack)
Bisset moved from strength to strength and her singing in Acts 2 and Act 3 was electrifying – this was absolutely sensational singing. Having listened to this opera for many years this is one of the best performances I have heard.
(Robert Beattie, Seen and Heard International)
Lee Bisset is transcendent
(Clare Colvin, The Express)
Siegmund’s love for his sister-bride was palpable. And how could it not be, given so fine a performance as we heard from Lee Bisset? For me, she was the star of the show: no mere victim, but a woman with agency, however much circumstances - and bourgeois society -might have repressed her. I cannot instantly recall a more compleat Sieglinde ‘in the flesh’, perhaps because I have not heard one.
(Mark Berry, Opera Today)
Minnie, La fanciulla del West, Opera Omaha
Bisset’s soaring voice was mesmerizing as she sang of her desire to find a love like her parents had and her elation once she found it.
(Bestie Freeman, Omaha World Herald)
Tristan und Isolde, Longborough Festival
Scottish soprano Lee Bisset was as good an Isolde as I have seen, showing us rich and unflagging vocals, a commanding stage presence, sensitive expression and acting, and (above all!) seemingly endless stamina. This is a role that is beyond the reach of most sopranos, and I’m sure that if any casting professionals saw her tonight, she will be in demand to perform it all over the world.
(Ted Marr, The Wagner Society Website)
Lee Bisset’s Isolde was quite exceptional. Lee Bisset has a voice born for Wagner, even if it is possibly a size too big for Longborough. She was totally believable in her emotional journey from the fury and rage over Tristan’s perceived deceit in Act I, through the ecstasy of Act II, to end with her Liebestod over Tristan’s dead body. Throughout she rode the orchestra with effortless power, despite being heavily pregnant - that fact alone made her convincing and compelling performance even more remarkable.
(Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard International)
Jenůfa, Scottish Opera
The music soars when Lee Bisset’s generous-voiced and warm-hearted Jenůfa pours out her love for her baby ... and rises heroically to her moral (and vocal) challenge.
(The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning)
Lee Bisset’s Jenůfa - stylishly sung, and acted with refreshing honesty - made a sympathetic centrepiece, giving the Scottish soprano a deserved triumph on home territory.
(Opera Magazine, Andrew Clark)
The cast is compelling. Lee Bisset’s Jenůfa is dignified, earthy and powerfully sung.
(The Guardian, Kate Mollison)
Bisset, herself 6 months pregnant and putting body and soul into her performance, has a generous pliant voice and an ability to play high drama with cool naturalism. She showed her character’s confusion, pain, resignation and acceptance without ever overstating.
(The Observer, Fiona Maddocks)
Senta, Der fliegende Hollander, Mexico City
The night, however, belonged to the soprano in the role of Senta, for the creation of a character believably entranced to love by the Dutchman even to the point of sacrificing her life to redeem the wandering stranger.
His partner, the Scottish Lee Bisset, sang the role of Senta; a dramatic soprano with a graceful figure and enviable stage presence, a very pleasant voice and enviable volume.
(Mauricio Rabago Palafox, Proceso)
Fidelio, Dorset Opera
Lee Bisset was a convincing Leonore, full-bodied and red-blooded in voice and character.
(Brian Robins, Opera Magazine)
Tosca, Longborough Festival
Not only does she act well, she sings with a passionate radiance of tone that is as thrilling as one could wish, and she knows how to make her soft singing just as seductive, without losing any clarity of diction. Her “Vissi d’arte” showed rare control.
(Michael Kennedy, Opera Magazine)
Musically there are thrills aplenty. Bisset’s soaring soprano inhabits the full gamut of the role’s expressive possibilities: she has fabulous power at the top of her considerable range and her beauty of tone carries her from flirtation to fury, desire to despair. (Jessica Duchen, the Independent)
An extraordinarily sensitive performance from Lee Bisset as Tosca, her body-language so subtle (anyone not concentrating on her face will have missed so much), her vocal delivery rich, confiding, cajoling and magisterial, right to its splendour at her eventual suicide.
(Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post)
Dritte Norn Götterdämmerung Opera North
The Norns and the three Rhinemaidens...were resplendent: I can’t help singling out Lee Bisset’s phenomenal Third Norn.
(Michael Tanner, the Spectator)
Sieglinde, Ring Cycle, Longborough Festival
Performance of the night: soprano Lee Bisset sang and acted as if she was Sieglinde incarnate. She inhabited the role with all her being.
(Opera Now, Year in review)
... the radiant Sieglinde of Lee Bisset, a touching, loyal and courageous portrayal of the most human character in the trilogy. (Opera Magazine)
Lee Bisset proved a complex and unforgettable Sieglinde, devastating in her final utterance of the ‘redemption’ theme.
Eugene Onegin, Opera Project
Given a voice of the calibre and beauty of Lee Bisset’s in the role of Tatyana, the absence of fancy accoutrements would not have mattered anyway. Now that Bisset has entered the realms of Wagner, it remains to be seen how much longer her Tatyana can last, so this was a performance to be savoured as she brought that mix of girlishness and the headlong passion of first love into her body language as well as into her musical interpretation. The tone is full and creamy, yet the voice is so flexible as to make light of the technical demands, and her expressivity in the final scene was heart-rending.
(Opera Magazine, January)
Katya Kabanova, Longborough Festival
Lee Bisset’s wonderful portrayal of Katya, meanwhile, should ensure her entrée into any opera house in the world where this work is being performed. Not since Elena Prokina in 1994 have I experienced the role performed with such overwhelming erotic ecstasy in the singing combined with dramatic intensity. Bisset’s tone is thrilling, accurate and colourfully varied in all registers. She brought tears to the eyes with her childhood remembrances and confession.
(Michael Kennedy Opera Magazine)
Lee Bisset takes touching advantage of this clarity and austerity of approach ... it’s a highly expressive instrument, intelligently used. She controls Katya’s violent changes of mood beautifully: ... disturbingly radiant in recounting her dreams to Varvara.
(The Arts Desk)
Bisset is excruciatingly credible in the part, her body-language so perceptive ... her delivery of Janacek’s unceasingly taxing vocal lines almost cathartic in its unflinching determination as she goes to her suicide.
(The Birmingham Post)
Tosca, Opera Memphis
The choice of the lead performers turns out to have been inspired. Lee Bisset, making her American debut, was amazing as Tosca. She was terrifically expressive, easily handling the demands of the role and supercharging the narrative with her passion. (Jon Sparks, Go Memphis)
Sieglinde, Die Walküre, Teatro Municipal, São Paolo
... Outra surpresa foi o soprano Lee Bisset, sua Sieglinde tem voz quente, dequalidade superior, dramática , ora forte , ora leve e delicada. Tudo de acordo com as necessidades do momento. Belos dotes cênicos.
[Another surprise was the Soprano Lee Bisset. The rich vocal quality that she brought to her Sieglinde was not only dramatic and strong, but also light and delicate when necessary. She has great stage presence.]
(Ali Hassan Ayache, Movimento.com)
Lee Bisset (Sieglinde), soprano escocesa, vive seu personagem com distinção, apesar de alguns floreios que antecipa a vontade de vê-la em uma ópera de Verdi, brilha com sua voz e presença.[Lee Bisset (Sieglinde), Scottish soprano, brings her role to life with distinction, .... which only makes you want to see her in a Verdi opera. She shines both vocally and dramatically.](Blogdepercia.blogspot.com and Bow Art International)
Tosca, Dorset Opera Festival
I haven’t seen many Toscas that were so convincing and absorbing...With a strong, steady voice, plenty of temperament, but also a sly sense of humour in the few places that permit it, she will surely soon be in the world’s leading opera houses.
(Michael Tanner, The Spectator)
Barstow’s superbly controlled and detailed production was hugely impressive from every angle. Lee Bisset...was a pert and beautifully focussed heroine ... Altogether these were performances that, even allowing for the small auditorium and good acoustic, wouldn’t be out of place at Covent Garden.
(Simon Thomas, Whatsonstage.com)
Tosca went like a bomb. The three principals were all completely into and on top of their parts. .... Graziani must be about to hit the big time. So, I’d have thought, must be the Tosca, Lee Bisset, Longborough’s superb, uninhibited Sieglinde last year, and so much more thrilling than many singers we regularly encounter in London.
Sieglinde, Die Walküre, Longborough Festival
Lee Bisset is a revelation as Sieglinde. Ardent in voice, as strong in her exultant final outburst as in her rapturous Act 1 love scene, she alone seems totally on top of her role’s vocal and dramatic challenges.
(Richard Morrison, The Times)
Key to the evening’s success is the passion of the incestuous lovers, twins Siegmund and Sieglinde.... Lee Bisset is revelatory, her rich and luminous sound ideally suited to Wagner and always compelling.
(Rian Evans, The Guardian)
Negus’ conducting here was inspired, but so were the acting and singing of Andrew Rees ....... and of Lee Bisset, whose passionate, vulnerable Sieglinde should ensure that she is soon on the international circuit.
(Michael Tanner, The Spectator)
Act 1 fielded a radiant Sieglinde from Lee Bisset. Her voice had the power for a house twice the size, and she used its passion to moving effect. She was a good actor, too, generating considerable electricity with her brother/lover Siegmund.
(Peter Reed, Sunday Telegraph)
For Lee Bisset and Andrew Rees, as Sieglinde and Siegmund ........ it was a gift, their mutual discoveries playing out with an intimacy and naturalism rarely permitted on an opera stage. Bisset was a revelation, her mesmerising voice fired by a passion and vitality that were overwhelming.
(Nicola Christie, The Independent)
But the outstanding feature is the singing, which would earn plaudits in a larger house. The “star” is the soprano Lee Bisset, whose Sieglinde was a characterisation of considerable power and lyric grace, the text clearly projected. Her ardour in the love music and her thrilling final delivery of the theme, not to be heard again until the end of the last opera, were only two highlights of a notable interpretation.
(Michael Kennedy, Opera Magazine)
Tosca, Northern Ireland Opera
We were fortunate in this respect to have Lee Bisset.... delivering a commanding and sometimes dramatically strident Tosca when viewed close-up like this, but whose powerful voice nonetheless carried all the emotional cry-to-whisper dynamic of a character whose range encompasses lightning switches between jealousy over the model for Cavaradossi’s painting, to love and compassion for the torture he endures while incarcerated, right through to murderous vengeance on the man who would abuse her. Bisset not only made the full force of those verismo emotions felt, she made them credible.
Mimì, La Bohème, English National Opera
Lee Bisset really shone as Mimi, in a totally committed portrayal progressing from shyly flirtatious, through doubt and despair, to reconciliation and death.
(Serena Fenwick, Musical Pointers)
Sublimation, Five:15, Scottish Opera
A tale of submerged memory, this powerful piece was exquisitely played by Lee Bisset as the haunted heroine....... A dark, truly haunting piece, it was the most fully realised of the evening.