Enna, August


Composer and violinist; born in Denmark. He was of mixed parentage, his grandfather, an Italian soldier in Napoleon's army, having married a German woman and settled in Denmark. When he was ten years old the family moved to Copenhagen, where the boy, August, attended the free schools and learned to play the piano without a teacher. At seventeen he received a few lessons from mediocre teachers in theory and violin, but persisted in solitary study of harmony and instrumentation. He desired to enter the Copenhagen Orchestra, but not being competent to play in this joined a little traveling orchestra on a trip to Finland. At the end of a six months' tour he returned to Copenhagen, and composed an operetta, The Village Tale, which was given in several small theatres. During this time he eked out his living by playing for dancing lessons, often improvising his own music, and teaching piano at about twelve cents a lesson. In 1883 he became conductor for a small troupe, writing the music for their performances and composing several overtures. His present income enabled him to publish some songs and piano-music, an orchestral suite, and a symphony. This latter attracted the attention of Gade, who aided Enna in securing the Ancker scholarship for composers, enabling him to study a year in Germany. Shortly after he wrote an opera, The Witch, which was produced at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen with a success unprecedented among Danish composers. His next opera, Cleopatra, was not so immediately popular, but rose into high favor the succeeding year. Still greater was the success of Aucassin and Nicolette, given at Copenhagen in 1896 and in Hamburg in 1897. Besides these larger works, he has published a violin concerto in D major and other smaller compositions. Of recent years he has given much attention to the fairy opera, drawing his material for librettos from the tales of the well-known Hans Christian Andersen. The Little Matchgirl, one of these, has been successful in the principal European countries, as well as Denmark, Enna being the only Danish operatic composer know  outside of his own country. Yet, in common with a number of greater composers, his life was for years a series of all but overwhelming struggles with poverty, it being said that one opera was lost through his having been forced to use the manuscript for fuel.