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Dacapo - Danmarks Nationale Musikantologi

Format:  DVD

Katalognummer:  2.110408

Stregkode:  747313540853

Udgivelsesmåned:  Apr 2010

Periode:  21. århundrede


Bo Holten: Livlægens besøg

21 November 2011  Gramophone
David Fanning

A prize-winning novel is adapted for the opera stage It is the age of Enlightenment but not yet of Revolution. Denmark has a teenage king, Christian VII, a troubled soul who prefers the fantasy frolics of court life to contemplating the harsh realities of his country, and the attentions of his mistress to those of his Queen (Caroline Mathilde, youngest sister of England's George III). Into this power vacuum, and eventually into his marital bed, comes a German physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, with admirable reformist plans for his adopted country but also a fatal political naivety that leads, thanks also to his affair with Caroline Mathilde, to his downfall, torture and execution.

Per Olov Enquist's prize-winning novel of 1999 has been acclaimed for its dream-like elegance and avoidance of cliché. Those qualities are also prominent in the opera - Bo Holten's sixth - for which the Swedish novelist wrote the libretto. It was a considerable success on its Copenhagen premiere in 2009 and this excellently produced DVD brings it to a broader public. The cast, led by Johan Reuter as the Physician and Gert Henning-Jensen as the King, are uniformly strong and the staging is simple, effective and largely gimmick-free. Holten himself conducts with unobtrusive authority. Apart from some close-ups of sweaty faces and very occasional drifting off-mic, the filming leaves nothing to be desired.

Holten has gone to great lengths to achieve diversity of style without shallow opportunism and, more practically, to ensure that the voices are not swamped. His idiom - related to Strauss in its lyricism, to Stravinsky in its occasional touches of parody or grotesque and to late Nielsen in its undertone of austerity - is direct and accessible without ever straying into banality. Most striking of all, to me, is Struensee's monologue near the end of Act 1, where he senses his mission, and the music superbly articulates the mixture of noble intent and unease. This passage raised hopes - not entirely fulfilled - that the tragic denouement of Act 2 would build on it and clinch the drama. For all his subtlety and intelligence, Holten lacks the melodramatic edge of Peter Maxwell Davies (whose 1991 full-length ballet Caroline Mathilde, also composed for Copenhagen, presents parts of the same story). However, Holten has produced a serious, thought-provoking drama and as such it is not to be underestimated.

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