Known by only her first name Sissel, she is considered one of the world's top crossover sopranos. Sissel's musical style runs the gamut from pop recordings and folk songs, to classical vocals and operatic arias.
She possesses a "crystalline" voice and wide vocal range, sweeping down from mezzo-soprano notes, in arias such as Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix from Saint-Saëns's opera Samson et Dalila, to the F natural above soprano C. She sings mainly in English and Norwegian, but has also sung songs in Swedish, Danish, Gaelic, Italian, French, Russian, Icelandic, Faeroese, German, Neapolitan, Māori, Japanese and Latin.
In 1983, she appeared for the first time on Norwegian TV with the song "Evergreen" in the children's program Halvsju. In 1984 Sissel appeared in the sing-along program Syng med Oss ('Sing with us') together with a children's choir. The first Norwegian song she sang with this choir was the Norwegian folk tune "Ung Åslaug."
In May 1986, Sissel performed during the intermission of the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Grieg Hall in her home town of Bergen. That same year, her first album, Sissel, was released and sold more than 400,000 copies, making it the best selling album in Norway at that time.
In 1987, her Christmas album Glade Jul was released. It contained several traditional Christmas carols and it broke her previous record for best-selling album in Norway. This album still holds the record. Upon its release, it sold more than 600,000 copies in a country with a population of less than five million: to date, it has sold approximately a million copies. In Sweden, a Swedish language version was released, called Stilla Natt. That year Sissel was invited to represent Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest 1987, but she
In the fall of 1988, Sissel moved to Oslo for a short period to play the role of Maria von Trapp in the Norwegian version of The Sound of Music. This production set box office records and was seen by over 110,000 people.
Sissel recorded the audio dub of the character Princess Ariel for the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish versions of the 1989 Disney movie The Little Mermaid.
She is well known for singing the "Olympic Hymn" (Hymne Olympique) at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway; for duets with Plácido Domingo, Charles Aznavour, José Carreras, Neil Sedaka, Warren G, Brian May, Bryn Terfel, Josh Groban, Diana Krall, Russell Watson and The Chieftains; and her participation on the Titanic film soundtrack.
Sissel received her first U.S. Grammy nominations on December 6, 2007 for a collaboration with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Spirit of the Season, a collection of songs from the choir’s 2006 Christmas concert featuring Norwegian recording artist Sissel and the orchestra at Temple Square, was nominated for the Best Classical Crossover Album of the Year, as well as Best Engineered Classical Album.
On November 15, 2010, Sissel released a new album in Scandinavia called Til Deg (For You), recorded in ABBA's Polar Studios in Stockholm, Nidaros Studios in Trondheim, and in Nashville. The album presents five songs sung in Swedish, three in Norwegian and two in English, including a Norwegian translation of Victoria Shaw's song "Never Alone," titled "Velkommen hjem," and a Swedish cover of Alisson Krauss' song "Ghost In This House," called "Levande död." Sissel has collaborated with Mikael Wiehe, Espen Lind, and Py Bäckman on the new album.
Sissel's combined solo record sales (not including soundtracks and other albums to which she contributed) amount to 10 million albums sold, most of them in Norway, a country with 4.7 million people. Her albums have also sold well in Sweden, Denmark and Japan. Together with Odd Nordstoga, they are the only Norwegian artists to have an album go 11 times platinum in album sales for their album "Strålande jul" (Glorious Christmas).
The first name 'Sissel' is a Norwegian variant of 'Cecilia'. This first name has become popular after the martydom of Saint Cecilia, who is the patron saint of church music according to the Catholic Church.