Sissel launches US tour

In support of her latest album "My Heart", Sissel embarks on a US tour next week.

Sissel Kyrkjebų (www.sissel.net)

Sissel’s upcoming 14-date US tour takes her to a number of venues from east to west in support of her recently released “My Heart” album.

“My Heart” saw its U.S. release in March to critical acclaim. Sissel’s whirlwind career, with worldwide album sales topping 8 million, at last has landed triumphantly in the U.S., where her self-titled Decca debut album last year won her new fans and inspired a PBS special. So successful was the program that Sissel will tour the U.S. coast-to-coast in April and May, in an unprecedented partnership with PBS and Norwegian Coastal Voyage, which has scheduled encore broadcasts during the March 2004 pledge drive. The tour begins April 20 in Troy, NY., and ends in mid-May with two concerts in St. Louis. Sissel is a platinum-selling artist in her native Norway, where the world discovered her during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.

“My Heart” deftly mingles fresh new pop songs with classical melodies and operatic arias, all transformed by Sissel’s limpid, sparkling vocals. “My new album is me, in a real sense,” Sissel says, “and I think you have to listen to it to understand what I mean.” Labels – classical, pop, folk – don’t tell you much about Sissel. Her voice has the smooth, soaring grace of a classical diva, but her singing adds a direct, crystal-clear yet haunting expressiveness that is uniquely hers.

Sissel widens the perspective and flexes her gentle but remarkable artistic range on My Heart. Backed by the sumptuous sound of the London Symphony Orchestra, she galvanizes melodies that range from Baroque opera (“Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s Rinaldo) and Romantic opera (“O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and “Mon coeur s’ouvre ą ta voix” from Saint-Saėns’ Samson and Delilah) to the tango flavor of “Oblivion,” and introduces the inspiring, anthem-like “You Raise Me Up” and “Wait a While,” a new song from Jon Lord, one of the original members of the legendary rock group Deep Purple.

At home in Scandinavia, Sissel has been a household name for years, with her albums going gold and platinum in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. (With its December release, My Heart immediately charted in Denmark, as well as Norway.) Critics reach for superlatives in describing Sissel’s artistry. Associated Press called her voice “pure, effortless,” and the Boston Globe called it “a glorious voice.” With the release of her first album, the New York Post predicted, “Sissel is about to hit the big time here in the States.” No less an authority than operatic superstar Plįcido Domingo marveled at her “pure, beautiful sound.”

“I like music that I think is beautiful, music that touches me,” Sissel said, on the release of her first Decca album. “When the music touches me, I want to do it.” Still, she adds, “as an artist, I’m changing all the time.” In the decade since she emerged on the international scene, Sissel has made records with opera stars Domingo (with whom she sang the official song of the Lillehammer Olympic Games) and Bryn Terfel, and duetted with pop sensation Josh Groban. She is a favorite of Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains, and she has joined the venerable Irish band on an album and in a memorable Carnegie Hall concert. Of course, hundreds of millions of filmgoers know Sissel’s voice from her ethereal solos that haunt James Horner’s Oscar-winning score Titanic, the most successful film ever made. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “It’s a good bet that when legions of filmgoers, including the teenaged Titaniacs, leave the movie theater, it’s the evocative vocals of Norway’s Sissel … that linger in their minds and hearts.”

One of the great classical arias Sissel recreates on My Heart is Delilah’s epic seduction of Samson from Saint-Saėns’ operatic telling of the Biblical tale, “Mon coeur s’ouvre ą ta voix.” The aria’s opening line translates as, “My heart opens to your voice as the flowers open to the morning’s kisses!” The words, floating on a meltingly beautiful melody, take on a new, intimate radiance in Sissel’s transformation of the aria. Her heart is pure music, it seems, and My Heart is the beguiling proof of that.

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