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Szymanowski Reigns at The Royal Opera House

United Kingdom
Bow Street
King Roger, image by AKA © ROH, 2014
King Roger, image by AKA © ROH, 2014

For the first time King Roger by Karol Szymanowski will be showcased on the stage of The Royal Opera House in May 2015. The show is directed by the Director of Opera Kasper Holten, while the title role will be performed by Mariusz Kwiecień. 

One of  Szymanowski's only two operas, King Roger is said to be one of the most awaited events of this opera season in London. With interplay of several richly diverse musical styles in three short acts, the drama of King Roger’s journey of discovery reflects the broader struggles between democracy and fascism, intellect and desire. Szymanowski’s hypnotic and exotic score contains many moving and rapturous passages, including the majestic opening of the work, Queen Roxana’s Act II aria and Roger’s final soliloquy.

As the director Kasper Holten stresses, the craft of Szymanowski’s piece is owed to its ambiguity, as it gives an opportunity to be interpreted variously. The Danish director has so far staged more than 65 premieres, including Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni and L’Ormindo for the Royal Opera House and Idomeneo for Vienna State Opera.

An Italian conductor and the Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano will lead the orchestra. During his tenure he has conducted an extensive repertory, including works by Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, Richard Strauss, Ravel and others. At the Royal Opera House, he also conducts a new production of Guillaume Tell. King Roger however is the first cooperation of the conductor with the Director of Opera Kasper Holten.

Formally, King Roger combines the features of an opera, a musical drama and a mystery (oratory). It... Read more about: King Roger Op. 46 - Karol Szymanowski

Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecień sings Roger II, King of Sicily, a role he has previously performed at the Santa Fe Opera, and in Madrid and Paris. He made his Royal Opera debut in 2005 as Marcello (La bohème) and has since sung Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro) and Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa (Don Carlo). Recent appearances include Don Giovanni for The Royal Opera and on DVD, Sir Riccardo Forth (I puritani) and Count Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro) for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, the title role in Eugene Onegin in Vienna and Zurga (The Pearl Fishers) in Madrid.
Making her Royal Opera debut is American soprano Georgia Jarman who sings the role of Roxana. Her recent engagements include Rosina (The Barber of Seville) for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, Adina (The Elixir of Love) and Rosina for New York City Opera, Elisetta (The Secret Marriage) for Brooklyn Academy of Music, the four heroines (The Tales of Hoffmann) for Boston Lyric Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor for Atlanta Opera and Mimì (La bohème) for New Orleans Opera. Her roles in contemporary opera have included Madame Mao (Nixon in China) for Cincinnati Opera and Eurydice (Glass’s Orphée) for Portland Opera. She made her British debut in the 2011/12 Season singing the four heroines in English National Opera’s production of The Tales of Hoffmann and has since sung Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) for Grange Park Opera. 

Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu sings the role of Shepherd. Earlier this Season he sang Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) for The Royal Opera. He made his debut with the Company in 2007 as Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi) and returned in 2010 to sing Alfredo Germont (La traviata). Recent roles include Alfredo (La traviata) in Vienna, San Francisco, and for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor) for Los Angeles Opera.

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British tenor Kim Begley sings the role of Edrisi. He made his Royal Opera debut in 1983 as the Archangel Gabriel (Taverner). His most recent roles for The Royal Opera include Erik (The Flying Dutchman), Captain Vere (Billy Budd) and Drum Major (Wozzeck).Recent international appearances include Loge (The Rhinegold) for Paris Opéra and Herod (Salome) in Naples.

Irish bass Alan Ewing appears in the role of Archbishop. He made his Royal Opera debut in 1993 as Hans Schwartz (The Master-Singers of Nuremberg). He has since sung Second Man in Armour (The Magic Flute), Agravain (Gawain), Foka (The Enchantress in concert), Second Soldier (Salome), Zuniga (Carmen), Hotel Manager/Duke (Powder Her Face), Lord Fortune (Miss Fortune) and Lady Bracknell (The Importance of Being Earnest).

Polish mezzo-soprano Agnieszka Zwierko sings the role of Deaconess. She made her debut with the Royal Opera House as Ježibaba (Rusalka) in 2012 and will return later this Season as Mistress Quickly (Falstaff). Recent roles elsewhere include Kabanicha (Kát’a Kabanová) in Ostrava, Amneris (Aida) in Poznan and Ježibaba for Komische Oper Berlin.

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Danish designer Steffen Aarfing makes his Royal Opera debut, having previously collaborated with Kasper Holten on a range of operatic productions including La clemenza di Tito and La traviata in Stockholm, L’elisir d’amore in Reykjavk, Don Carlo, Le Grand Macabre, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Der Ring des Nibelungen in Copenhagen, Le nozze diFigaro for Theater an der Wien, Lohengrin for Deutsche Oper Berlin and the film Juan (based on Don Giovanni). Lighting design is by Jon Clark, video designs by Luke Halls and choreography by Cathy Marston, a former Associate Artist of the Royal Opera House.

The new production of The Royal Opera is a co-production with Dallas Opera, and is supported by the Monument Trust, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of the Polska Music Programme, Hamish and Sophie Forsyth, David Hancock, Michael Hartnall and the Connoisseurs’ Series.

The premiere of King Roger is scheduled for the 1st May 2015 at 7.30pm. Subsequent shows will be performed on the 6th, 12th and 19th May (at 7.30pm) and on the 9th and 16th May (at 7pm). The tickets prized from ₤5 to ₤100 are available on The Royal Opera House website.

Sources: press release,,, edit. AW, transl. Agata Dudek, 23/02/2015

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