Opera in three acts by Karol Szymanowski
Libretto by Karol Szymanowski, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz
Sung in Polish with German surtitles
Premiere on 23 July 2009, Festival Theatre
King Roger by Karol Szymanowski (premiered in 1926) is a masterpiece of Polish music which shows the clash of early Christian asceticism with the joyous affirmation of life characteristic of late antiquity as an essential human conflict.
King Roger reigns over Sicily, but both his realm and the Church are facing an unknown threat: a mysterious shepherd is roaming the land and preaching a religion of sensuality and love. Though he strives for just legislation and religious ethics, Roger is himself scarcely able to resist the seductive power of the shepherd's gospel of sensual pleasure, happiness and freedom. Ultimately he will strip Roger of everything – his wife, his kingdom and his power. Nevertheless Roger experiences spiritual rebirth as a result of the encounter.
The opera King Roger sprang from Karol Szymanowski's (1882-1937) fascination with the culture of the Mediterranean, to which he travelled a number of times between 1911 and 1914. A melting pot of very different peoples and religions, the region also seemed to him to be a place of homoerotic freedom.
The confluence of the Christian, Arabic and ancient pagan worlds is evocatively suggested in Szymanowski's King Roger by the exquisite wealth of colour in the orchestration, the sensuous harmonies and a number of oriental-sounding melodies. King Roger oscillates between Byzantine plainsong, impressionistic tone colour, Arabic-style melisma, late Romantic pathos and highly expressive vocal writing.
Co-production with the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
26 July 2009 – 11.00 a.m.
1 August 2009 – 11.00 a.m.
3 August 2009 – 7.30 p.m.
Duration: 1 1⁄2 hours
Introductory talk in the Festival Theatre will be start one hour before performance
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