Well, at least this is something off the trodden path. August Enna (1859-1939) was a Danish composer of Italian ancestry. He studied with (e.g.) Gade, and enjoyed some moderate success in his time; cpo has already given us his short opera The Match Girl (yes, the H.C. Andersen tale) and a disc of orchestral works, and Enna was primarily an opera composer (fourteen operas and eleven operettas) so I guess it would be impossible to assess Enna’s contribution to music without having a look at one of his full-length operas, and I am, in the end, grateful for cpo for making the effort. It is a pity that the music isn’t more interesting than it is.
Stylistically Enna’s music is rooted in mainstream European romantic and late-romantic trends – there is quite a bit of Wagner, but few traces of anything discernibly Nordic in the music (except, perhaps, for some of the melodic material, which at least sounds inspired by Danish folk songs). Heisse Liebe is an opera in two acts written in 1900-01, and although it contains some singable thematic material, the style is very anonymous. A more serious drawback is the complete lack of dramatic tension or suspense in the music; it does sound as if the composer actually tries to create a narrative structure with the music, but fails, and the result is episodic and musically meandering. The thematic material is not particularly distinguished, but at least there are some nice, lyrical passages, though even these are not helped by Enna’s often rather airless scoring. Things are slightly better in the second act, which at least contains some passionate music (as you would expect from the title of the work), but the cumulative dramatic impact is still missing.
In short, this is a set for the specialist (although I am unsure which specialists that would be). At least it receives overall fine performances here; Lothar Odinius is particularly impressive, but Johanna Stojkovic as Arota is certainly not bad – better in the more lyrical passages than the more dramatic ones, perhaps, but she imbues her character with life and spirit. Alfred Kim is appropriately heroic, and the smaller roles are overall fairly to well sung. As far as I can tell there is nothing wrong with the contributions of the NDR Chor and NDR Radiophilharmonie under Hermann Bäumer either; the lack of dramatic tension is surely primarily Enna’s fault, though I am not always sure the performances help. In any case, the recorded sound is fine, and the booklet notes very good. However, I really cannot, in the end, muster too much enthusiasm for this one.