WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Szymanowski: King Roger / Hendricks, Pasichnyk, Elder [Blu-ray]

Szymanowski / Katowice / Vso / Elder
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 702904  
Composer:  Karol Szymanowski
Performer:  Scott HendricksOlga PasichnykWill HartmannSorin Coliban,   ... 
Conductor:  Mark Elder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony OrchestraCamerata Silesia SingersBregenz Musikhauptschule Children's Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $34.99
In Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Karol Szymanowski
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

King Roger – Scott Hendricks
Roxana – Olga Pasichnyk
Edrisi – John Graham Hall
Shepherd – Will Hartmann
Archbishop – Sorin Coliban
Deaconess – Lyubov Sokolova
Voice 1 – Justyna Dyla
Voice 2 – Mariusz Stefanski

Bregenz Musikhauptschule Children's Chorus
Camerata Silesia
Polish Radio Chorus, Kraków
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Mark Elder, conductor

David Pountney, stage director
Raimund Bauer, set design
Read more Marie-Jeanne Lecca, costume design
Fabrice Kebour, lighting design
Ron Howell, choreography

Recorded from the Bregenz Festival, 2009

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM Stereo 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Catalan
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 89 mins
No. of Discs: 1


SZYMANOWSKI King Roger Mark Elder, cond; Scott Hendricks ( King Roger ); Olga Pasichnyk ( Roxane ); John Graham-Hall ( Edrisi ); Will Hartmann ( Shepherd ); Vienna SO; Musikhauptschule Bregenz Children’s Ch; Camerata Silesia; Polish R Ch C MAJOR 702904 (Blu-ray: 89:00) Live: Bregenz 7/21–23/2009

For the first two acts, David Pountney’s new staging of King Roger —a co-production of the Bregenz Festival and the Gran Teatre del Liceu—makes a stunning visual effect. Apparently working on the assumption that the music itself is sufficiently lush and complex, Pountney goes for arresting simplicity. There’s no scenery; instead, the stage is a plain amphitheater garnished with gorgeous lighting effects, often surprising but never hyperactive; the blocking, especially of the chorus, produces striking abstract designs. Yes, there are some distracting touches. It’s easy to accept Roger’s shaved head, but Roxana’s, which makes her seem like a concentration-camp inmate, seems a detail demanding an explanation that never comes. The Shepherd’s act II appearance—red dress and provocative pose—is too over-the-top for this opera; King Roger may be an attempt by Szymanowski to navigate his homosexuality but it is surely not campy. And perhaps because he doesn’t trust the patience of his audience, Pountney adds a lot of jumping and writhing to moments that could well be treated more statically. Still, it’s a mesmerizing visual experience that draws us into Szymanowski’s strange world.

Things fall apart, though, for the last act, where Pountney’s choices counteract both music and text. Substituting violence for ecstasy, Pountney smears nearly everyone in blood, the apparent result of some rather messy and cruel animal sacrifices; instead of leading Roxana off, Dionysus slits her throat in a final sacrificial act; and following a Jim-Jonesian mass suicide, Roger sings his final hymn to the sun on a stage strewn with dead bodies—including Edrisi’s. The ambiguity of the ending has been replaced by sheer incoherence.

Still, despite the miscalculations, there are enough moments of visual genius to make this well worth watching—and the musical performance is well worth hearing as well. Scott Hendricks is a sonorous Roger, slightly stiff in his phrasing (especially toward the beginning), but convincing in his tormented growth into freedom and understanding; Will Hartmann is a strong foil, handling the long sensuous lines with superb self-confidence; and if Olga Pasichnyk has neither the strength nor always the agility for the extremely demanding part of Roxana, her characterization is sure and her quieter passages often quite lovely. Elder and the orchestra are clearly enjoying the chance to luxuriate in Szymanowski’s extravagances; if balances are sometimes askew, there’s never a loss of musical motion. The choral work is outstanding. As for the Blu-ray’s technical aspects: The sound is good, if not as immediate and timbrally well defined as that on this same company’s recent Ring and Turandot ; the video quality is first-rate.

Recommendation? If you don’t know this opera, your best starting point is the classic EMI audio-only performance featuring Hampson (glowing in the title role) and Rattle (in the words of Adrian Corleonis, “alive to every shimmering, shivering surge, every whisper, every intimation of Szymanowski’s exquisitely refracted orchestral palette,” Fanfare 23:3). This is, in a sense, a dream opera—and like Erwartung, Bluebeard’s Castle , and perhaps even Pelléas , it arguably works better in your imagination than it does in a concrete realization on stage. Still, once you’ve imagined it, you’ll want to share someone else’s vision—so anyone who’s been infected by King Roger will surely want this new version as a supplement.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
Read less

Works on This Recording

King Roger, Op. 46 by Karol Szymanowski
Performer:  Scott Hendricks (Baritone), Olga Pasichnyk (Soprano), Will Hartmann (Tenor),
Sorin Coliban (Bass), Liubov Sokolova (Mezzo Soprano), John Graham Hall (Tenor)
Conductor:  Mark Elder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra,  Camerata Silesia Singers,  Bregenz Musikhauptschule Children's Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918-1924; Poland 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title