My Heart, from the Norwegian-born singing sensation Sissel, has an inspiration that is pure and simple. "This is the music that is closest to my heart right now," Sissel says. "I hope people will listen, lean back, relax and enjoy the beauty. I think we've made something very beautiful."
My Heart deftly mingles fresh new pop songs with classical melodies and operatic arias, all transformed by Sissel's limpid, sparkling vocals. "My album is me, in a real sense," Sissel says, "and I think you have to listen to it to understand what I mean." Labels Ð classical, pop, folk Ð 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 a ta voix" from Saint-Saens' Samson and Delilah) to the tango flavor of "Oblivion," and introduces the inspiring, anthem-like "You Raise Me Up" and "Wait a While," a song from Jon Lord, one of the original members of the legendary rock group Deep Purple.
Sissel is a platinum-selling artist in her native Norway, where the world discovered her during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. My Heart made its debut in Norway right at the end of 2003, entering at the top of the pop charts with the new REM and Josh Groban albums.
At home in Scandinavia, Sissel has been a household name for years, with her albums going gold and platinum in Denmark, Sweden and 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 Placido 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-Saens' operatic telling of the Biblical tale, "Mon coeur s'ouvre a 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.