Born in Scotland, which she represented at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Lee Bisset studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and the National Opera Studio, before joining the Young Singers’ Programme at English National Opera.
She has established a firm relationship with Longborough Festival Opera, where she has sung the title roles in Jenufa, Katya Kabanova and Tosca, Tatyana Eugene Onegin, Gutrune Götterdämmerung, Freia Das Rheingold, Isolde Tristan und Isolde and Sieglinde Die Walküre.
Her UK engagements have further included Leonore Fidelio, Lady Macbeth Macbeth and Senta Der fliegende Holländer for the Dorset Opera Festival, Yaroslavna Prince Igor for Chelsea Opera Group, the title role in Jenufa for Scottish Opera, the title role in Tosca for Northern Ireland Opera and Third Norn Götterdämmerung and Freia Das Rheingold for Opera North. For the Royal Opera, London, she has covered Katerina Ismailova Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Senta Der fliegende Holländer.
International engagements have included the title role in Tosca for Opera Memphis and Opera Omaha, Minnie La Fanciulla del West for Opera Omaha, Senta Der fliegende Holländer for the Ópera de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Sieglinde Die Walküre at the Ópera São Paulo, as well as concerts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
Conductors with whom she has worked include Jessica Cottis, Mikhail Agrest, David Angus, Nisa Bareza, Andrew Bisantz, Jeremy Carnall, Nicholas Chalmers, Sir Andrew Davis, Kevin John Edusei, Richard Farnes, Edward Gardner, Anthony Legge, Luiz Malheiro, Anthony Negus, Peter Robinson, David Stern, Stuart Stratford, Phillip Thomas, Willie Waters and Christopher Willis.
Her return to Longborough Festival Opera in 2017 saw her acclaimed “as an overwhelming and richly luminous Isolde” (The Times), whilst other recent engagements have included Chimène Le Cid for the 2018 Dorset Opera Festival,Third Norn Götterdämmerung and Sieglinde Die Walküre for Opera North, Isolde Tristan und Isoldeat the Konzert Theater Bern, Gerhilde Die Walküre at the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 at the Teatro Real, Madrid, Mahler Symphony No. 8 and Sibelius Songs with the Orchestra of Opera North, the première performances of Piet Swerts’ Symphony of Trees with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra (now available on Phaedra CD) and a Wagner Concert at the Theatro São Pedro, Brazil.
Recent engagements have included her debut with the Royal Opera, London, as Liza The Queen of Spades, Brünnhilde Siegfried for The Mastersingers and Sieglinde Die Walküre with The Orchestra of the Music Makers, Singapore.
Engagements confirmed post COVID-19 include Brünnhilde in Longborough Festival Opera’s new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
A feature interview appears in the July / August 2020 edition of Opera Now.
Please note that this biography is not to be used for programmes. Current information is available on request.
Yaroslavna: Prince Igor / Chelsea Opera Group
“Lee Bisset’s Yaroslavna offered grand scale indignation…”
“Bisset delivered Yaroslavna’s music of foreboding, longing and righteous fury with bright intensity…”
Leonore: Fidelio / Dorset Opera Festival
“Lee Bisset was a convincing Leonore, full-bodied and red-blooded in voice and character…”
Jenufa / Scottish Opera
“…taking the honours were Lee Bisset’s desperate Jenufa and Peter Wedd’s Laca who gave astonishing performances.”
“Lee Bisset’s Jenufa is dignified, earthy and powerfully sung.”
“Lee Bisset is a captivating Jenufa.”
“Bisset…putting body and soul in to 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.”
“Lee Bisset’s Jenufa – stylishly sung and acted with refreshing honesty – made a sympathetic centerpiece, giving the Scottish soprano a deserved triumph on home territory.”
“The title role was sung by Scottish soprano Lee Bisset, her clear and forthright lyric instrument finding the stamina and range of colors needed to embody Janáček’s long-suffering heroine, whose plight, at its various stages, was charted with skill and imagination.
“Soprano Lee Bisset finds the weight and lyricism necessary for the title role, and proves a considered actor.”
“The music soars when Lee Bisset’s generous-voiced and warm-hearted Jenufa pours out her love for her baby and his feckless father, for her stepmother and, eventually, for the faithful Laca, sung by Peter Wedd, and rises heroically to her moral (and vocal) challenge.”
The Sunday Times
Katya Kabanova / Longborough Festival Opera
“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.”
Chimène: Le Cid / Dorset Opera Festival
“Lee Bisset’s powerful soprano gave some thrilling scenes as Chimène…her violent condemnation and curse at the end of Act 2, voice soaring with rage, was the highlight of the evening.”
“Lee Bisset’s accomplished account of Chimène…”
“Lee Bisset’s impassioned Chimène…”
“Lee Bisset responds with a Chimène of passion and authority.”
Minnie: La Fanciulla del West / Opera Omaha
“As played by dramatic soprano Lee Bisset of Scotland, Minnie was pretty hard for the audience to resist as well. 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.”
“Scottish soprano Lee Bisset made her Opera Omaha debut with her vivacious, ardent Minnie. Bisset’s clear, vibrant voice managed Puccini’s broad ascending lines radiantly.”
Liza: The Queen of Spades / Royal Opera, London
“(Lee) Bisset made a sympathetic and generously sung Liza…she knows how to cut through without compromising on quality of sound, and she delivered her Act 3 ‘Midnight’ Aria powerfully and ardently.”
Third Norn: Götterdämmerung / Opera North 2014
“The Norns and the three Rhinemaidens… were resplendent: I can’t help singling out Lee Bisset’s phenomenal Third Norn.”
Isolde: Tristan und Isolde / Longborough Festival Opera 2017
“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.“
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.”
“By not getting in the way, 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. On first-night Wedd’s singing was heroic and tireless, and the final Act must count as this already-superb Wagner-tenor’s finest achievement, on top of which he delivers Tristan’s madness with a truly distressing realism. 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.”
“Lee Bisset’s Isolde is remarkable, so beautifully expressive and vocally powerful.”
“As well as proving the most engaging and subtle of actors, Lee Bisset is vocally brilliant, with a soprano that can display sensitivity, restraint, strength and power while still always achieving a sense of overarching unity.”
“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.”
“The most important change of cast is the Isolde of Lee Bisset. Two years ago (her predecessor) was powerful and passionate, sometimes almost too loud, but 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.”
“Lee Bisset is an overwhelming and richly luminous Isolde, taking us from death-filled desires to feverish love with stamina and insight.”
“I fear that I will run short of compliments for the two title characters. Lee Bisset, who debuted in the second cast in 2015, 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 pulled off something that (her predecessor) had previously been unable to manage – 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.”
Upiór w operze
“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…”
Seen and Heard International
“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.”
The Wagner Society
Sieglinde: Die Walküre / Longborough Festival Opera 2010
“Lee Bisset is revelatory, her rich and luminous sound ideally suited to Wagner and always compelling.“
“Bisset was a revelation, her mesmerising voice fired by a passion and vitality that were overwhelming.”
“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 until the end of the last opera, were only two highlights of a notable interpretation.”
“Lee Bisset’s Sieglinde blossomed in her Act 2 Mad Scene.”
“Lee Bisset is a revelation as Sieglinde. Ardent in voice, as strong in her exultant final outburst as in her rapturous Act I love scene, she alone seems totally on top of her role’s vocal and dramatic challenges.”
“Bisset’s very attractive and slender Sieglinde is brilliantly sung.”
What’s On Stage
Sieglinde: Die Walküre / Longborough Festival Opera 2013
“…a beautifully poised Sieglinde in Lee Bissett (already a touching, interesting Freia in Rheingold).”
The Arts Desk
“Special mention goes to Lee Bisset, who didn’t just act the role of Sieglinde, nor just sing it (beautifully); she was Sieglinde brought to life.”
“Lee Bissett proved a complex and unforgettable Sieglinde, devastating in her final utterance of the ‘redemption’ theme.”
Sieglinde: Die Walküre / Opera North
“The singing was very fine but, as in Das Rheingold, one performance stood out. 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.”
“Lee Bisset, whose unforced vocal range and committed characterisation produced the most all-round compelling Sieglinde I have heard since the great Helga Dernesch.”
“Lee Bisset was an excellent Sieglinde, with a soprano that demonstrated a beautiful tone, even when her voice was at its most full and anguished. She also proved an extremely expressive actor…”
“Lee Bisset’s ravishing soprano blazed beautifully.”
“Lee Bisset was a passionate, eloquent Sieglinde…”
“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 complete Sieglinde ‘in the flesh’, perhaps because I have not heard one.”
“…both looked the part and sang with searing passion…”
Seen and Heard International
“…her characterisation radiant and warmly felt.”
“Lee Bisset’s stunningly lyrical Sieglinde — a repressed woman set free, psychologically and sexually…”
Wagner Concert / Theatro São Pedro
“Lee Basset’s ability to move so rapidly from the supernaturally heightened emotion of Isolde to the subtle complexities of Kundry’s malevolence and guilt was very impressive.”
Sieglinde: Die Walküre / Orchestra of the Music Makers, Singapore
“…the radiantly expressive Scottish soprano Lee Bisset, whose acting is one of the best I’ve ever seen on the operatic stage. Vulnerable and feminine, yet vocally sumptuous and infallible, she had had me hanging on to her every phrase, with “Du bist der Lenz’ a slow blossom that ravished the ears.”
The Flying Inkpot
Swerts A Symphony of Trees
Flanders Symphony Orchestra / David Angus
Phaedra CD PH 92098