Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Dacapo
WORKS: Belisa
PERFORMER: Eir Inderhaug, Sten Byriel, Marianne Rørholm, Anne Margrethe Dahl, Lise-Lotte Nielsen, Elisabeth Halling; Ars Nova, Odense SO/Tamás Vetö, Bo Lundbye (electronics)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.226013
The first sounds of Poul Rovsing Olsen’s Belisa lead one to expect a piece of relatively mild Sixties modernism – worthy, perhaps, but definitely on the dry side. But then comes Belisa’s first aria, and suddenly we’re closer to the perfumed exoticism of Szymanowski. Belisa keeps on switching styles like this right to the end, but the effect is not of confused eclecticism, but of something alive and subtle, with a quietly wicked sense of humour. This shifting of styles matches the strange ambiguity of the opera’s action. Sometimes the characters are puppet-like; but just when one has accepted that, and settled back to enjoy some amusing semi-human grotesquerie, they suddenly reveal all-too-human pathos. And the anti-hero Don Perlimpin’s bizarre self-murder at the end isn’t really suicide, but a disturbing, thought-provoking comment on male sexual paranoia. Olsen’s score keeps up the dramatic momentum impressively in the hands of conductor Tamás Vetö, and the Odense Symphony Orchestra makes much of the opera’s strange, dream-like moods. The cast, too, is generally excellent, especially Eir Inderhaug as Belisa. Only Sten Byriel’s Don Perlimplin fails to sound completely involved, though his is still a very secure and musical performance. It’s all well recorded too. Recommended. Stephen Johnson