This ravishing production from Covent Garden, recorded in May, 2015, certainly takes its cues from Freud... The score is a stunner, alternately sensual and sumptuous, with dissonant eruptions. It can sometimes overwhelm with its exotic, anointed quality, which makes it seem obvious, but it is certainly one of a kind. It requires, of course, a cast willing to learn Polish, and for that alone we should praise this production – it sometimesRead more sounds as if it has no vowels. I suspect it would not have come to be were it not for Polish-born Mariusz Kwiecien, a remarkable singing actor in foreign languages and now even more remarkable in the comfort of his own. Roger is a veritable garden of uncertainties and hungers, and Kwiecien’s acting and singing give us each doubt, each fear, each unresolved bit of passion. His voice is in wonderful shape as well–a highly placed, bright baritone.
There are subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese, and Korean and bonus features including explanations by Pappano and Holten – as well as a blow-by-blow documentary. King Roger is not an oddity or a rarity–it’s a major part of the operatic canon and this is an ideal way to get to know it.
King Roger, Op. 46by Karol Szymanowski Performer:
Georgia Jarman (Soprano),
Mariusz Kwiecien (Baritone),
Saimir Pirgu (Tenor)
Royal Opera House Orchestra,
Royal Opera Chorus
Period: 20th Century Written: 1918-1924; Poland
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Impressive staging of a master-workDecember 31, 2015By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"Karol Szymanowskis opera Król Roger (King Roger) was written in the period 1918-1924, and received its premiere performance in Warsaw in 1926. The work is a skillful blend of psychological, political and religious themes, but its a personal testament as well. In this complex master-work of the operatic stage the composer presents lifelong philosophical musings, and his own sexual longings, in an idealized Mediterranean setting common to northern European artists since Goethe and Schumann. The opera is full of multicultural references and effects, with an unusually broad range of influences apparent in its libretto (by the composer and his cousin Jaros?aw Iwaszkiewicz) and the music itself. Some that occur to me, or have been suggested in my reading, are Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater and Thomas Mann on the literary side; Stravinskys early ballets and Wagners Tristan and Parsifal on the musical side; and Euripedes Bacchantes (Szymanowskis explicit model) and Shakespeares Hamlet, The Tempest and King Lear on the dramatic side. The over-arching philosophical structure comes, of course, from Nietschzes dichotomy between the reasonable Apollonian and the instinctive Dionysian natures of humans and Gods. Finally, the religious ecosystem of the opera is a syncretistic mixture of Eastern Mystery rites, ancient and Byzantine Greek and ancient and Catholic Roman faiths, with Muslim influences from the Sicilian locale. As Pater put it in Marius the Epicurean, A blending of all the religions of the ancient world had been accomplished. All of this might come crashing down in an eclectic heap were it not for Szymanowskis extraordinarily cogent libretto and his arresting sound world and musical development. Even then, there are lots of ways a production of King Roger could founder, from problems with the cast, chorus, orchestra, production conception or stage design. Luckily, all of those components are top drawer in this excellent recent Royal Opera House Covent Garden production headed by Director Kasper Holten. The principals are especially good. Kim Begley is very effective as Rogers advisor, part Tom Hagen consigliere, part Sigmund Freud therapist. Georgia Jarman is always sexy as the Queen, though often slightly demented, and shes great in Roxanas big second act aria - the most sensuous 20th century music for soprano until Villa-Loboss 5th Bachianas Brasileiras. Salmir Pirgu is a delightful Shepherd, coming on full-charismatic guru, then pulling back as a detached, cynical con-man. In the final scene he channels the Commendatore from Don Giovannni, calling the protagonist to a different kind of end. As the dramaturg John Lloyd Davies points out in his excellent liner note essay, the work is very much about the titular character, and this production of King Roger is blessed with the gifted singer and actor Mariusz Kwiecie?, who presented a similarly tortured main character in the Royal Operas superb recent production of Don Giovanni (another collaboration with Holten.) Every bit of the Kings doubts and enthusiasms, his longings and hesitations, is projected on Kwiecie?s face or through his voice. The entire production is exceptional, from Holtens concept to the stage and lighting design and choreography. The singing (and acting) of the chorus is strong, as is the playing of the Royal Opera House Orchestra under Antonio Pappano. The Opus Arte presentation makes full use of the audio and visual capabilities of Blu ray and includes fascinating special features, most interestingly an audio commentary by Holten and Pappano. This is a demonstration disc in so many ways, and most importantly a demonstration of the enduring dramatic and intellectual power of opera."Report Abuse