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Hakon Børresen - The Royal Guest

Kiberg, Andersen, Paevatalu
Odense S. O./Veto

Da Capo: 8226020 [TT: 79 mins]

An unpretentious one-act opera which is resolutely anti-progressive for its time (1919) but, because of its exemplary craftsmanship, insinuates itself into one's affections as it proceeds.

Hakon Børresen
(1976-1954) was a disciple of Svendsen, and this is a parable about a stranger bringing fantasy and new life into a tired marriage. The Royal Guest , commissioned for 'a triple bill with a couple of ballets', long held a place in the national repertoire and tops the list of the most frequently performed Danish opera ever.

It is a conversation piece for three main characters, their creators continuing in the roles for decades. There are no real arias, though moments of heightened emotion flower into more elaborated vocal lines. What makes it an operatic experiment to take seriously and enjoy 90 years on is the deft orchestration, which is a joy throughout.

The recorded performance is lovingly produced, with full texts and translations (I find the Nordic languages delightful to hear sung, and easy to follow with parallel English words) and the historical notes are themselves interesting and comprehensive.

The Royal Guest would make a splendid double-bill with
Sir Lennox
Berkeley's The Dinner Engagement, which has a not unrelated plot.

Anne Collins, Jean Rigby, Roderick Williams, Yvonne Kenny, Claire Rutter, Jean Rigby, Robin Leggate City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
Chandos: CHAN10219 [60 mins]


© Peter Grahame Woolf