Lars Møller (baritone), Magnus Vigilius (tenor), Jens Bové (bass), Ruslana Koval, Elsebeth Dreisig, Kirsten Grønfeldt (soprano); Danish National Opera Chorus; Odense Symphony/Joachim Gustafsson
Dacapo 8.226708-09 111:20 mins (2 discs)
Once Denmark’s most famous operatic composer, August Enna (1859-1939) is now far from a household name, but this impressive new recording of his 1893 opera Kleopatra makes a firm case for a fresh revival of his music. Enna’s lush and ‘hyper-romantic’ style (as the disc’s helpful sleeve notes aptly put it) meant his Wagnerian works were soon to fall out of fashion after the composer’s death, and his scores have largely gathered dust ever since. Sparked by the enthusiasm of their German artistic director, Philipp Kochheim, the Danish National Opera have however breathed new life into Enna’s Kleopatra some 122 years since it was last performed, bringing us this excellent new rendition of what turns out to be a very fine opera indeed.
With a libretto by the Danish playwright Einar Christiansen, the opera tells of a conspiracy hatched by Prince Harmaki to murder Queen Kleopatra and overthrow her rule. Harmaki is however overwhelmed by Kleopatra’s beauty and a knotty love triangle (which includes Kleopatra’s maid, Charmion) thus ensues. Enna’s score is gloriously rich, with echoes of Strauss’s tone poems and Wagner’s Tannhäuser particularly.
The Odense Symphony Orchestra is on excellent form and conductor Joachim Gustafsson allows Enna’s complex score to breathe but never sag. The cast is excellent, with standout performances from Danish soprano Elsebeth Dreisig as the eponymous queen and Ukrainian soprano Ruslana Koval, who brings diamond-like clarity of tone to the role of Charmion.
Beautifully recorded and presented, this is an altogether commendable new release.