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Opera in 3 acts
Libretto by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz and the composer
First performed 1926, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
This production first seen June 2 2019
Sung in Polish with German & English surtitles
Introduction (on video, in German) will appear here and on YouTube shortly before opening night
How could the powers of chaos and order, reason and desire be combined in a creative way? These questions dogged the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's life and work. Although he is regarded as a key figure of 20th century music, his works are not often performed. In Król Roger, his only opera, Szymanowski used the times of the Norman King Roger II's reign as the framework for a symbolic story: Roger ruled over several, very different cultures. His authority is questioned by an unknown shepherd, a mixture of earth-spirit, wandering preacher and God. He seduces the people, and then Queen Roxana, with his talk of a young god. Opposites, contradictions and despair shape the King's inner journey. There is no dramatic development in a conventional sense until the very end of the work, when Roger comes face to face with his downfall and dedicates himself to the sunlight and life.
The music in King Roger is dazzling, with overwhelming moments drawing a fascinating psychogram of the title character. Szymanowski's opera is a vision of a lost human being who, in the end, becomes one with himself through self-knowledge.