Lee Bisset made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden singing the role of Liza in Stefan Herheim’s production of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades in January and February 2019.
On Friday and Saturday, September 15th and 16th, 2017, Lee Bisset was the soprano soloist in the world premiere of Piet Swerts' A Symphony of Trees in Ypres' St. Martin's Cathedral, with the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen (Flanders Symphony Orchestra) conducted by David Angus, and tenor soloist Thomas Blondelle. The piece commemorates the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres and fifty years since the performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in the same cathedral.
Longborough Festival Opera's Tristan und Isolde received outstanding reviews.
"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
"Lee Bisset … turned out to be the Isolde of my dreams, finished in every inch, felt to the very depths. This is one of those singers who rivet one’s attention from their first entrance onstage, engage the listener not only with perfect mastery of their part, but also with an accurate feel for the words and fantastic acting. Bisset … to show Isolde as an equal partner to Tristan, a strong woman aware from the outset of her feelings, with which she initially fights as fiercely as she later yields to them. Her dark, expressive, strikingly powerful soprano sparkles with every hue of emotion: it sounded one way in the fiery, furious duet with Brangäne, another way in ecstatic union with Tristan, for whom she had longed for years. … Lee Bisset sang her last monologue in an ecstasy bringing to mind associations with Bernini’s famous sculpture, looking with awe at Tristan’s corpse, frozen like a wax figure."
Dorota Kozińska, Atarod
Lee is currently singing Isolde in "Tristan und Isolde" at Longborough Festival Opera.
Thanks to Kelvin Lim, for these rehearsal photos taken from the orchestra pit.