On the 9th of September, the opera impressed an audience of prestigious guests including the President of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski and First Lady Anna Komorowska, as well as Prince Philip and Princess Mathilde.
Regarded by some as his opus magnum, King Roger was written at the time of the composer’s immense interest in Antiquity, the Orient and the culture of the Mediterranean. It was also inspired by his 1911 journey to Italy. The opera, set to a libretto by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, has been staged as an international production by prominent theatre director Krzysztof Warlikowski and in prominent festivals, such as the Edinburgh Fringe. The first production débuted in Warsaw in 1926, with the original cast including Szymanowski's sister, the soprano Stanisława Korwin-Szymanowska. A new production by David Poutney inaugurates the start of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council on July 1, 2011 at Warsaw's Grand Opera House. In September King Roger takes the stage at La Monnaie in Brussels.
According to musicologist Zofia Helman, King Roger is thematically between opera and musical drama, not belonging to any pure operatic genre as the work also comprises elements of an oratory and an enigmatic medieval performance. Elements of Strauss and Ravel are also apparent in the score.
During a service at Palermo Cathedral, King Roger, his wife Roxanne and advisor Edrisi learn that the Church is threatened by the founder of a new religion, a young and beautiful Shepherd. Summoned to the sanctuary, he is accused of heresy. Despite the crowd’s aggression, the royal couple are impressed by the gentleness and humility of the Shepherd, grant him life and summon him to the court. The Shepherd escapes the castle, with Roxanne fast on his heels. The King gives up the throne and goes searching for his Queen. He finds her with the Shepherd in the ruins of an ancient theatre in Syracuse and they all come together in a divine celebration of the Shepherd's true form. The three acts span Byzantine, Oriental and Greco-Roman periods, respectively.
The opera also found new audiences outside of Poland through 1999's EMI Classics recording, with Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
The flagship project dedicated to Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) forms a cornerstone of the Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. The composer is known for his early interest in the Orient and in Polish Górale (Highlander) music.
Conductor – Hartmut Haenchen
Chorus master – Anna Szostak
La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra
Camerata Silesia – Zespół Śpiewaków Miasta Katowice
Chór Polskiego Radia Kraków
Roger II – Andrzej Dobber
Roxana – Olga Pasichnyk
Edrisi – John Graham-Hall
Pasterz – Eric Cutler
Archiereios – Jarosław Kitała
Dyakonissa – Beata Morawska
La Monnaie-De Munt, Royal Opera House
Place de la Monnaie
Date: 9-10th of September, 2011 (8pm) / 9th of September concert- by invite only
Venue: La Monnaie- De Munt, Royal Opera House,
Organised by: La Monnaie, Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute