Bror Magnus Tødenes, Dénise Beck, Johan Reuter, Stephen Milling , Hanne Fischer; Danish National Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt
Dacapo 6.200007 (CD/SACD) 186:07 mins (3 discs)
Forget Widow Twanky and the feckless Wishee Washee. This is a Danish version of the story taken direct from the 1001 Nights in a premiere recording of the revised 1902 version of Horneman’s opera.
Aladdin often seems more about flying a flag for Danish music than the rescuing of a lost masterpiece. The libretto is dramatically flawed, telling when it should be showing, as Aladdin, besotted with the Sultan’s daughter Gulnare, eventually gets the girl and the throne with a little help from the genie of the lamp in thwarting the wicked sorcerer Noureddin.
The principal characters refuse to come to life while the music is a compendium of 19th-century Romanticism from Mendelsssohn to Wagner. Horneman drops leitmotifs like calling cards through the four acts, but rarely develops them symphonically, although he is a skilled orchestrator. Oddly, there’s not a hint musically of the Orient in what is essentially an Eastern Story.
All credit, then, to Michael Schønwandt conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and to his cast for playing and singing their socks off. As Aladdin, Bror Magnus Tødenes has the heft of a Siegfried. While his Princess, Dénise Beck, makes the most of her Act III aria, the best comes from Hanne Fischer as Aladdin’s mother Morgiane, who, alas, is gone by the end of Act II. The villainous Noureddin, Johan Reuter, is entirely implausible when he sees the errors of his ways. It’s not his fault but the libretto’s. A few ‘Look behind you’s’ might have helped.